Statement in Round Table C: Matt Simonds (ITUC) on behalf of CSO Group including WWG on FfD

The contribution of international private finance and of corporate activities at large to sustainable development should not be taken as a given. It depends on ensuring that activities undertaken full respect and are conducive to achieve the human rights of all people and the planet, and thus conform to high standards of sustainable development, including ensuring sustainable development principles, development effectiveness principles, and human rights frameworks, and on demonstrating concrete positive development results.

CSOs have pushed for the adoption and implementation of stringent safeguards and accountability mechanisms to meet social, labour, environmental and fiscal standards (some references to these were included in P48 of the AAAA). In addition, CSOs are calling for decisions on international standards and guidelines for blended finance and PPPs to take place within global, democratic and inclusive intergovernmental settings – where all countries have an equal seat at the table – and with the meaningful participation of civil society.

The AAAA left unaddressed the agenda of regulatory and policy frameworks for all governments to apply the following sustainable development principles and human rights frameworks to all private financing and activities, and instead delegated the responsibility to purely voluntary frameworks such as the UN Global Compact and UN Principles for Responsible Investment that have little practical implications in shifting businesses and investor behaviour beyond awareness raising about sustainability and human rights issues. It failed to even acknowledge the important process on a binding instrument that is unfolding under the HRC via the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights..

We have four recommendations which relate directly to the Addis Outcome:

With respect to paras 37 and 38

  • The UN system should urgently start a process of harmonising guidelines and safeguards for all private sector businesses and investors in a Code of Conduct for MNEs and Sustainable Capital Markets to be followed up by mandatory reporting requirements for their alignment with sustainable development and human rights.
  • UN Member States should constructively engage in negotiations on a legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations as mandated by the Human Rights Council-approved resolution A/HRC/26/L.22, as a necessary complement to existing voluntary guidelines.
  • UN Member States should consider incorporating the relevant provisions of AAAA into bilateral and multilateral investment treaties, ensuring their sustainability, in particular in the areas of extractive industries, infrastructure, land and agriculture. In this context, all three pillars of sustainable development should be accounted for.
  • UN Member States should explicitly ensure that women’s rights and the specific gendered impacts correlating with corporate sector in development involvement, including the protection of women human rights defenders, are at the core of accountability processes and instruments.

With respect to para 48

  • Guidelines and standards for PPPs and blended finance, extending to Development Finance Institutions, should support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the AAAA. Existing guidelines, and the ones under development, should be re-evaluated in line of these two, and UN Members States should commit to discuss them as part of the Financing for Development follow up process. Guidelines and standards should give scrutiny to for-profit operators undertaking delivery of traditionally publicly controlled “development projects”. Purpose and mandate should be reviewed against the overall development policy in a particular context to ensure it is compatible with the principle of ownership, with a foremost focus on delivering and demonstrating development results and while maintaining upward and especially downward accountability systems that guarantee the right of all stakeholders. Since “efficiency gains are less likely in the social sector such as hospitals and schools where access and equity are major concerns”[1], the promotion of PPPs in public health, education and water are to be avoided altogether.

 

[1] February 2016 paper by UN-DESA, “Public-Private Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Fit for purpose?”

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