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PROGRAMS & THEMES

Currently, our programs’ scope of work are defined in terms of the following themes, which necessarily overlap while they have their own specific focus and objectives:

The private sector in its many forms is becoming an increasingly important actor in development – in economic growth and the provision of public goods and services, the crafting of national development strategies, and international development cooperation. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are on the rise: around 180 deals are concluded per year since 2006 averaging US$10B per PPP agreement in transportation, US$4B in social sectors, and US$2B in others. This trend is likely to continue in the ongoing aftermath of the global economic crisis that sees many governments strapped for cash and seeking alternative methods of meeting the increasing demands for investment in public sector development.

The cost to the public from these PPPs has often been huge. Governments and the public carry the overwhelming risk in PPP projects, while participating private firms have their returns guaranteed with no risk. Priority and preference are also given to big business and multinationals in these partnerships, instead of prioritising development of domestic micro, small and medium enterprises. PPPs especially in developing countries have had severe ramifications on issues of equity and access, especially for the poor and marginalised. With their lack of paying capacity, combined with governments’ default in ensuring safety nets, the poor ends up marginalised from basic social services that now increasingly ‘come with a price’. PPPs have likewise facilitated human rights abuses, including land grabs and displacement of indigenous peoples, rural and urban communities.

Ensuring people’s development in the face of PPPs has never been more crucial. In furtherance of this aim, and building on our experience in capacity development and policy advocacy, we will work with people’s organisations (POs) in defending public control over basic public services, and in advocating for human rights-based standards in regulating PPPs. We will undertake strategic and in-depth policy research to provide the backbone for critical analysis and policy alternatives on PPPs. We will engage official processes meaningfully, and forge cooperation with various development actors supportive of our goals for strengthened campaigns.

Some of our work on this program theme:

The planet is experiencing a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions. Extreme weather events – from the severe floods in Pakistan and Russia, to super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – have vividly shown how these can bring entire countries and communities to a virtual standstill. Volatile weather extremes have severely damaged the environment and with it the destruction of lives and livelihoods – especially of the poorest and most vulnerable.

While there is scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity, the reality is that climate change has been caused by the historical exploitation of the world’s resources and carbon by the wealthiest nations and individuals. Yet developing countries are said to bear some 75-80% of the costs of damages caused by the changing climate. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) already warns of ‘the irrevocable warming of the climate system’, and yet climate negotiations have brought the world nowhere near the important goals of stabilising the climate and addressing the increasing impacts of climate extremes. Even worst is the fact that the crisis is seen as an opportunity to prop up the very production and consumption system that has brought the world to social, economic, political and environmental crises.

Climate change expresses, on a world-scale, the fundamental contradiction between capitalist development and ecological sustainability, which has now critically undermined the foundation for human survival. While the last centuries have been heralded for great strides in technology, production and human progress, these advances have precipitated global ecological disasters. On one hand, a privileged global elite engages in reckless profit-driven production and grossly excessive consumption. On the other, the mass of humanity is mired in underdevelopment and poverty with merely survival and subsistence production, or even less.

Building climate resilient communities is the pro-active response to the increasing threats that climate change brings. And it is important to underscore that resilience is more than just adapting to the impacts of climate change. Resilience entails people and communities defending their lives and livelihoods, and meaningfully participating, reshaping and taking ownership of development policies and programs, among others. Building climate resilient communities encompasses disaster risk reduction and management, relief and rehabilitation, humanitarian response, but also includes people’s participation and engagement in challenging and transforming systems founded on the exploitation of people and planet. 

Some of our work on this program theme:

Trade and investment are important elements in job-creation, poverty eradication, and towards sustainable development. However, the international trade and investment regime dominated by Bretton Woods institutions — International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) — have skewed rules towards the benefit of large industrialised countries and their corporations, at the expense of peoples.

The WTO remains the most important mechanism to advance trade and investment liberalisation multilaterally. It has resulted to maldevelopment of developing country economies: the collapse of small to medium local enterprises, privatisation of services, resource grabs, job losses and insecurity, low wages, and chronic poverty. Due to such impacts, developing countries’ demands to include ‘development’ in the WTO agenda pressured developed countries to come up with the Doha Development Agenda in 2001. However, negotiations have remained dormant until 2013, due to disagreements and non-implementation of commitments. The decade-long deadlock in the Doha round led to the proliferation of bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements.

Instead of mechanisms to correct negative impacts of the WTO, bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) were utilised by large industrialised countries and their corporations to pursue agenda that had failed through multilateral means. This furthered unequal trade, with developing countries becoming venues for the aggressive implementation of the liberalisation agenda. Still, these FTAs did not deliver development for the poor. Those who belong to the (conservative) global poverty estimate of two dollars a day has doubled since the last three decades, and nearly reached half of the world’s population.

The rise of the 21st century trade agreements, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), threaten to expand the neo-liberal agenda. These agreements reach deeper ‘behind the borders’ as they aim to control how governments make economic decisions — related to regulation, competition policy and investor protection. They come at expense of people’s rights, especially through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that allows corporations to sue governments for enacting regulatory laws that endanger profits. Negotiations are done in secret, without democratic consultation for those most affected, and without rigorous impact-assessments on rights.

The international trade and investment regime needs to undergo fundamental changes if it is to benefit all, especially the marginalised groups in developing countries. International trade and investment rules and institutions need to respect human rights, and uphold the principles of democratic ownership, solidarity, and complementarity if they are to work towards creating economies that enable dignified lives, decent employment, living wages, provide opportunities for entrepreneurship democratically, and is not based on exploitation of people or natural resources or environmental destruction. This can only be achieved through peoples and their organisations’ awareness of the impacts of trade and investments on their rights, and their engagement with governments and trade and investment institutions at national, regional, and global levels, to promote their rights.

Some of our work on this program theme:

Sustainable human development requires the realisation of human rights and democracy. Struggles for freedom around the world have advanced human rights and democracy over the past centuries yet serious deprivations and abuses persist. Millions continue to suffer from hunger, illiteracy, poor health, homelessness, and unsafe environments. Many also continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution, injustice, and violence in conflict and war. Political and economic elites capture public institutions; governance is distorted and abused to advance narrow interests. And the current pattern of globalisation has enhanced the freedoms and privileges of the multinational corporations and the wealthy at the expense of those of the poor and marginalised.

IBON International believes that addressing the roots of poverty, inequality, exclusion, environmental destruction and injustice entails a process of social transformation – a process of building the people’s sovereignty, to self-organise, self-mobilise and serve as development actors in their own right. To build a constituency for promoting Rights-based Democracy/People-Powered Democracy, IBON International shall support and put forward new models of democratic governance and rights-based approach to sustainable development that maximise the participation of peoples organisations in decision-making. Together with allies and partners, IBON International shall advocate for the adoption of these models at various levels. 

Some of our work on this program theme:

Apart from these broadly defined areas of concern, IBON International also takes up more specific areas of work, which we treat as portfolio concerns.
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