Saturday, April 18, 2015

Side Event: Aligning the Private Sector to the SDGs.

Monday 20th April Conference Room B, UN New York, 1:15-2:45

Organized by UNCTAD, AVIVA, Tellus Institute and Stakeholder Forum


UNCTAD, SDSN, AVIVA, Tellus Institute, and the UN Global Compact (TBC)

This session aims to review the role of the private sector in helping to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and Financing for Development.

The 8 and 9 April interactive dialogues on the Zero draft of the FfD 3rd Conference with the private sector and Civil Society showed huge differences in perceived role of the private sector. On the 8th the private sector felt there was not enough on the enabling environment for the private sector, while on the 9th with CSOs, there was a strong push back against the privatization of financing for development. We know public sources will not be sufficient and both the public and private sector will have to contribute to achieve the SDGs.

The private sector will play a role in the partnership to achieve the SDGs. What can they do to help fund the goals and targets? What accountability mechanisms should be put in place? What role could they play in multi-stakeholder partnerships?

If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to succeed, they must promote inclusive capitalism. In other words, capital markets that address Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) issues at every stage of intermediation. This involves ensuring that capital markets are comprised of intermediaries that embed long term sustainability thinking throughout their operations and within their culture. For policy makers to achieve this requires a holistic, long term and systemic view of the financial markets as well as a clear view on the promotion of good standards, transparency, and appropriate incentive structures within these financial intermediaries. It also requires the correction of market failures that allow unsustainable companies to externalize costs onto society, weakening the long term potential of the global economy.

Policy makers need to promote good investment standards, and ensure that there is a chain of transparency and accountability connecting all the various stages of financial intermediaries with the individuals that invest at one end of the supply chain with the companies that they ultimately capitalize at the other.

At the moment, the supply chain of capital has significant stages of intermediaries; the operations of most of them are poorly understood due to a lack of transparency and poor financial literacy among the end investors and regulators. Consequently, there is a lack of accountability

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is a UK minority government good for a progressive agenda and good for governance?

By Felix Dodds and Mark Jones 

(First published on Liberal Democrat Voice web site)

Most political commentators believe that the chances are that after the next election no party will have a majority. As we approach the election some people are suggesting that perhaps a new coalition government isn’t the best answer to promote progressive policies. The experiences of the Con-Lib Coalition, and to a lesser extent the Lab/Plaid coalition that ran Wales from 2007-2011 have shown that a left leaning party has to make too many compromises when in a coalition.

Some people are actively discussing that perhaps a new coalition government isn’t the best answer to promote progressive policies. The experience of the Con-Lib Coalition has shown that a left leaning party has to make too many compromises when in a coalition with a right of center party.

This has resulted in an increasing discussion on the left that perhaps a minority government, as in Scotland from 2007-2011, might be a better chance for a progressive agenda.  One positive outcome of this approach could be the re-establishment of a positive relationship between the general public and parliament. A minority government could strengthen parliament. Why do we say this? After having had a budget agreed, a minority government would have to create coalitions for every policy issue. This would enable real debate on issues and the possibility of creating a progressive agenda across political boundaries.

The two authors of this article are members of two different parties the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. We are proposing in this article that a minority government is in fact good for progressive policies.  We would like to suggest where there might be a common set of policies where progressives across parties on the left and even some supporters on the centre right might work together on. We would like to start that debate before the election is called and would like to suggest ten areas which to start a national discussion. These ten are:
  1. Economy: To introduce a New Deal approach to renew infrastructure create jobs and deal with the deficit. Regulation on the financial sector
  2. Defence: Cancel Trident and move towards a nuclear free Britain.
  3. Health: To expand community health services and preventative health actions
  4. Education: Respective parliaments to review the possibility to take away tuition fees completely
  5. Local Government: to instigate policies towards transitional towns – that balance environment-social and economic needs
  6. Business and Industry: Set up a Royal Commission to look at the emerging disruptive industries and their impact on jobs and wellbeing in the UK
  7. Justice: To introduce PR and make it mandatory to vote in all elections and move to a  fully Federal Britain
  8. Environment: Set up a Sustainable Development Goals Commission made up of government and stakeholders to develop a UK strategy for achieving the UN targets to be agreed in September 2015.
  9. Climate Change: To achieve the CO2 reductions needed 
  10. Overseas Development: To make it a legal requirement to deliver 0.7% ODA
These policies will do a number of critical things for our democracy it will enable the agreement for a fairer voting system and require it to be the responsibility of every citizen to participate in the democratic process. With citizenship should come responsibilities!
On the economy we embrace the approach by the great Liberal Economist John Maynard Keynes and echoed by economists such as Paul Krugman (Nobel Prize winner).This is to enable people to work with dignity and help build an infrastructure for the 21st century and do it in an environmentally friendly way. Austerity has just brought unemployment, an increase in inequality and lost output. The problems of the 2008 crash have still not been regulated fully and a new Minority government should break up the banks separating retailing and casino sides. Directors should be held accountable for the decisions they take and no bank or company should be too big to fail. 
Above all a parliament with no majority government will free debate on how Britain is governed, operates and perceives itself. Moving to a fully federal system, with the Commons becoming an English Parliament and the Lords an upper house with representatives of the constituent nations resolving disputes and shaping policy in non-devolved areas, will ease the tensions emerging over 2 speed devolution and resolve the problems inherent in the failed devolution model.
Central to resolving the deficit issue is a re thinking of what Britain is and how it functions in the 21st century. Moving to a federal system should help kill off the 19th century “Britannia rules the waves” mentality which still infects Westminster government. Spending billions on a weapon system that cannot be used and vanity projects such as HS2 are no longer affordable. By scrapping them and spending money on infrastructure projects which will produce long term revenue savings are vital. A substantial social housing programme will produce huge savings in the housing benefit bill as families currently paying extortionate rents to private landlords can move to more appropriate housing.
There should be sufficient resources available, to all the respective parliaments, to discuss the abolition of tuition fees seriously and to decide if this is the best use of scarce financial resources.
Acknowledge the emerging concensus across all three parliaments of the need for a more community focused health service which is able to treat patients rather than illnesses.
On defence there is no need for the UK to retain Trident but should use the funds saved to build a relevant defence for the 21st century and one help fund the elimination of Tuition Fees so the country is investing in the next generation and not putting them in debt.
If we thought that the world was changing too quick we have seen nothing yet. The emerging technologies so many fields will have an impact on jobs and wellbeing in the next 15 years with:
  • Emerging Biotechnologies: synthetic biology, bioinformatics, tissue engineering
  • Emerging Nanotechnologies: Nanomaterials, nanodevices and nanosensors, nanotechnology for energy
  • Emerging Neuroscience Technologies: Naurostimulation, brain-computer interface
  • Emerging Digital Technologies: Artificial intelligence, robotics  
The world is changing even faster than it has in the last ten years what we need a Royal Commission to be set up to help the country plan for these changes and to inform politicians and the public what is coming.

The next parliament will either move this country in the right direction or fail a generation to prepare them for the challenges ahead. We believe the best way to achieve the right changes is through a minority government where all policies will require a majority of parliamentarians to assent to them. 

It could be the rebirth of the UK as a great parliamentary democracy.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Habitat III

In 1996 I had the pleasure of attending and participating in the Habitat II called the City Summit. It was held in Istanbul and to some extent developed further the human settlement chapter of Agenda 21. What was particular important for stakeholders was the approach taken by the conference towards engaging them. It was the first and ONLY UN conference where stakeholders were given both in the preparatory process and the conference itself a seat at the table and were allowed to enter text into the negotiations. If. Member state picked up the suggestion it became part of the negotiations. In addition in Istanbul the UN again for the first time brought out the stakeholder amendments to the text as an official information document for member states and distributed it.

The other major innovation was that the conference had two committees one for negotiations and one for stakeholder implementation where each stakeholder had half a day to present their thOughts in an interaction with member states and other stakeholders. This became the basis of what the UN GA then proposed for the Rio+5 and ultimately the stakeholder dialogues that were held at the UN Commission on Sustainable Devlopment from 1998 to 2001. A fascinating experiment where 12 hours of negotiations at the beginning of the CSD were given to a dialogue between 3 or 4 stakeholders and member states on 4 different issues. It still represents the best model on how member states and stakeholders can engage before formal negotiations start.

This brings me to Habitat III - Towards A New Urban Agenda - why is this important?

The proportion of urban population to total population stood at 16% in the 19th century; in 1996 it stood at 46%. Currently it is more than 50% of the worlds population lives in cities and large twins and this figure will rise to 66% by 2050.

This has a huge impact on the consumption of resources, something like 70% of climate change is caused by the urban areas, they are also a huge use of water, energy and food. The urban nexus is a critical area of work to ensure that we can live sustainably in the future. Urban centres depend on rural areas for a range of goods anpd services such as the nexus areas. The conference will need to address the urban rural linkages if it is going to be successful. Urban-rural linkages can also cover range of complementary functions and flows of people, capital, goods, employment, information and technology between rural and urban areas.

Tomorrow April 14th the second Habitat Prepcom will begin in Nairobi this is a vital meeting to help address one of the SDGs in more depth. The Habitat conference will be in October  2016 and will be the first major UN conference post agreeing the SDGs. Start engaging now in the Habitat process to help make the SDGs real at the local level.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What should we do with MOI and Financing for Development?

I thought I would share some suggestions on how to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals Means of Implementation (SDG MOIs) and Financing for Development (FfD) processes could support each other.

As we all know April will be critical as the second prepcom for Financing for Development and the April Post 2015 negotiations will deal with MOI and Global partnership for Development and there will be an attempt to create more complementary text.

In previous blogs I have been very critical of the sustainable development elements – or lack of them - in the FfD process and the now zero text. I’m not going to say more in this blog posting than this has been a HUGE missed opportunity. Other than some great input from AVIVA and SDSN little of what should be reflected in the text is there. This is because the sustainable development finance world has NOT engaged with FfD and some would say was not welcome.

What I wanted to address today was what could be done to ensure a better complementarity between the two negotiating processes.

The zero draft of the FfD does contain some of the ideas that are in SDG17 but not by any means all of them, and as far as the MOIs under the different SDGs there are no corresponding paragraph in the FfD Addis Ababa Action Agenda text.

What would help enormously, and make it much clearer, is if ALL the SDG MOI text could be included in the FfD zero draft text. My suggestion is that then they would be bracketed. They would be what I would call ‘reference text’ and would be taken out at the final stage. Such a structure would do two very important things.

The first is it would ensure that member states negotiating in the FfD process would always have as a guidance the SDG OWG text and should they decide to deviate they would do so clearly knowing that. The second is that the text would HAVE to address all the SDG MOIs which at present it clearly does not.

There may be some an argument that this can be done through some generic text. But unless the reference text is there to guide negotiators then it is more likely that they will miss out some of the MOIs from the SDG OWG and that would be a mistake.

The worry some of us have is that the FfD process is in danger of producing something that does not support the Post 2015 process but something operating in a parallel universe. If this was a Dr Who episode that would be fine – but this is the real world and we need a successful FfD process and a successful Post 2015 process to support and complement each other.

Dr Who Parallel Universe 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why the Economist is Wrong on the SDGs

Sometimes i do wonder about the press. They got it wrong on Rio+20 - except a few notable exceptions such as Richard Black at the BBC and afterwards John Vidal at the Guardian but most thought it was a failure - well clearly that has turned out to be a wrong assessment.

That brings me to the yesterdays Economist article on the SDGs.

Who ever wrote the article clearly did not research what has been happening on the SDGs, why we have got to the position we have nor what the real implications

A few things that might have helped them - if they had researched it and they might have liked to consider when writing the article or future articles

The author doesn't seem to know that this is NOT a development agenda it is a sustainable development agenda It is not for developing countries it is for ALL countries
  1. It is not about developing countries it is about EVERY country
  2. Unlike the MDGs which were dropped in at the last moment this process has gone through a 4 year global consultations starting in July 2011 which has included Rio+20, 120 National Consultations, 11 thematic consultations, a SG Panel chaired by three sitting PMs or President including the UK and 13 SDG Open Working Group Meetings
  3. The reason it is covering so many issues is in part due to the lack of implementation of previous agreements over the last twenty years
  4. The agreement has a delicate balance in it for key issues on governance and SRHRs which would be lost if it was reopened
  5. The push for wanting less was rejected by the UK parliament Environment Audit Committee in December after taking evidence from a wide range of stakeholders and government Ministries – who ever wrote the article should read that report.
  6. The very few countries that are pushing for less goals are ones that do not want the sustainable buit of the SDGs because they don’t want to be held accountable for sustainable consumption and production issues and inequality issues and I could go on – this is the UK Canada, Australia and USA – so be careful what you are asking for.

Happy to be an adviser to the ECONOMIST so they don't make such basic mistakes and have an informed article.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An interesting week so far: SDG, targets and Indicators

The worry that some people had over indicators being used to re-open the targets and goals seems to have been allayed.The approach will be as we have highlighted here in previous posts. The Statistical Commission will establish the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) will now be set up and will develop the framework for the Indicators and agree the indicators. This will be a technical  input to the agreed targets. The survey conducted of around half the member states which i mentioned in a  previous blog was quiet rightly shelved. I am continually pleased by the way that the UN Statistical Division is doing their work. Finally the outcome in march 2016 of the Statistical Commission will still have to go to UN ECOSOC and finally to the UN General Assembly in December 2016.

Goals and Targets - Dead Parrot?

I have to say that while I was watching the session yesterday on the Goals and Targets and listening to the UK speaking it kind of reminded me of the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch with the UK playing the owner (no the document has less goals) and  nearly everyone else playing the buyer (we agreed that there was 17 goals and 169 targets already) then please watch:

Today we heard a range of views on what to do about the 19 targets that were suggested for review.

To remind readers they fall into two groups.

The first is where there are x or ys - my advise had been that they should have just dealt with them first...but they decided to deal with the 19 as a whole. The second group is a set of redrafts that were done by the UN to align certain targets with existing targets agreed in other fora.

Some of the worries that have been expressed by G77 is that this technical proofing is opening the door for substantive changes. But before commenting on this the main criticisms have been:
1. Why didn't the UN system do this before the SDGs were agreed?
2. Why wasn't the criteria for technical proofing agreed at the January or February sessions?
3. Why these 19 and not others?

As the discussion continued it was clear from a number of developed countries: Iceland, Australia, UK and the US in particular that any review should be more broad than the 19 suggested. The US seemed to identify 32 targets it wanted to address. Iceland seemed to want to reopen some of the more controversial targets

Instead of using today to deal with the x and ys it may be that we get nothing out of this session and the discussion will be kicked down the road and also contribute to a reduction of trust in the process.

Switzerland had made an interesting suggestion which would have required all countries to agree to open a target if a target was to be reopened and if not it would stay as it is at the moment. As the meeting moved to the end of the morning session the chances for a review becoming more and more unlikely.

I would again suggest focus on the x and ys. This now will not be finished this time but starting now would be important.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Communitas Colaition side event UN HQ Committee Room B Thursday 26th 115-245

The Communitas Coalition and its core partners ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, Tellus Institute, UN-­‐Habitat and the Network   of   Regional   Governments   for   Sustainable   Development   nrg4SD   are   delighted   to   convene   this   discussion   in collaboration  with  the  Group  of  Member  States  Friends  of  Sustainable  Cities,  the  World  Urban  Campaign,  the  Urban  SDG Campaign and the Ford Foundation. Our panel of urbanisation practitioners and governments will outline the challenges and the opportunities that lie behind measuring progress on SDG11. They will also present their ongoing experience on indicators and monitoring frameworks for urban sustainability and balanced territorial development at all geographical scales. Last but not  least,  they  will  discuss  specific  proposals  for  indicators  for  the  SDG  on  Cities  and  Human  Settlements  -­‐  particularly  on human planning and management (11.3), green and public space (11.7) and rural urban-­‐linkages (11.a) and how geospatial technology can help with these targets.

13:15    Welcome and Introduction
Moderator: Ms. Maruxa Cardama, Executive Coordinator & Co-­‐Founder, Communitas Coalition

13:20    What  are  the  critical  elements  to  be  measured  across  SDG11  targets?  What  are  the  challenges  and  the opportunities?

Dr. Eugenie L. Birch -­‐ Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research | Chair, World Urban Campaign |Chair, Graduate Group in City & Regional Planning and Co-­‐Director, Penn Institute for Urban Research, University of Pennsylvania
Mr. Raf Tuts -­‐ Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch and Acting Coordinator, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch, United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-­‐Habitat
Mr. Zak Bleicher Liaison Officer, New York Office, International Fund for Agriculture Development, IFAD Ms. Francesca Perucci  – Chief, Statistical Services Branch, UN DESA Statistics Division

13:50 What lessons can be learnt from current indicators and monitoring mechanisms applied by governments? How are governments preparing for measuring and monitoring SDG11? How can geospatial technology help crafting targets and monitoring their progress particularly targets 11.3 on planning and management, 11.7 on public and green space and 11.a on rural urban linkages?

Ms. Mireia Cañellas Grifoll -­‐ Head, Sustainability Unit, Territory & Sustainability Department, Government of Catalonia Representative of the European Commission -­‐
Ms. Seema Parkah First Secretary, Mission of the Republic of Singapore to the United Nations On behalf Co-­‐ Chair,
Group of Friends for Sustainable Cities

Ms. Marcela Ordoñez -­‐ Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations 14:20     Q&A Session