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HLPF 2018: Where’s people’s development in the “transformation to sustainable and resilient societies”?: Page 2 of 3

Posted on 18 July 2018

environment. Alma Sinumlag of Cordillera Women’s Education, Action Research Center (CWEARC) raised, for instance: "How can we step forward toward sustainable and resilient communities when millions in our region have been fleeing their villages due to militarisation that pave way for plunder of natural resources?” The challenge of pushing for development that is owned by peoples at the grassroots is also a crucial concern that cropped up.

These are the questions and concerns that are usually left unaddressed by state representatives and panellists from international institutions. They expectedly focus their inputs mostly on how they are implementing the SDGs in terms of policy and programs, and on what kinds of technological, financial and institutional solutions would be wise for countries to adopt. With some exceptions, many government representatives take for granted that it is desirable to have greater private sector roles within economies and within “development.” CSOs from both global North and South have in many instances pointed the need to move beyond this unsustainable economic model that is premised on relentless economic growth.

Voices that tackled how dominant economic paradigms carry over into the SDGs were heard in CSO-held events. The CSO Financing for Development (FfD) group held a side-event on “structural barriers” to SDG 17, which faced head-on how the global economy “fails us in recession and fails us when it works.” In this side-event we intervened to point out that multilateral development banks, particularly the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank, are active in forwarding more private sector solutions, where the same structural assumptions are forwarded within “promoting” the SDGs. 

Part of this current dominant narrative is the “maximizing finance for development” approach of the World Bank, where public finance will only be used when all means for private sector investments are exhausted. Another part would be so-called “blended finance” arrangements, where official development assistance (ODA) – supposedly for public benefit is used to encourage more private investment. These especially gloss over the fact that a large number of countries from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are off the mark from the supposed global ODA commitment of 0.7% of country GNI, which was mentioned during the HLPF. Meanwhile, Southern and BRICS governments seem to passively accept the narrative that promotes the big international private sector even further.

On 13 th July, the last day of the HLPF thematic week, a side-event on the private sector was organised by Brot für die Welt, Misereor, among other concerned groups. In this, civil society raised their concerns regarding privatisation, public-private partnerships in the delivery of social infrastructure such as water and transport.

Many important questions remained as the week ended. How could grassroots organisations forward development that addresses their concrete needs, given the challenges of HLPF participation, and even the worsening state of enabling environments for civil society around the world? During the CSO FfD group side-event, an important way forward was indicated: for CSOs and grassroots organisations to strengthen their organising, not necessarily within the official HLPF platform. For us, this would mean to raise people’s

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