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Harper government and UN discuss private sector funding for the SDGs

Karunananthan speaks at the UN last week on unregulated private sector participation in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The United Nations is calling on the Harper government to increase its foreign aid spending to help finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unfortunately, there are strong indications that they are also discussing – and supporting – “private sector” funding for the SDGs.

The Globe and Mail reports, “The issue of development financing will be at the centre of a conference this summer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the international community will try to determine how to finance the United Nations’ new sustainable-development goals. The new objectives, which range from ending poverty to combatting climate change, will replace the UN millennium development goals when they expire at the end of this year.”

The article highlights, “Helen Clark, administrator of the UN’s development program, said in an interview that Canada and other wealthy countries will be expected to lay out a timetable for increasing spending on international assistance. …[But acknowledges that] financing the new targets will require trillions of dollars, well beyond what can be provided through traditional, government-led assistance.”

It then adds, “[Ms. Clark says] bridging that gap will force the international community to look beyond official aid… During a visit to Ottawa this week, Ms. Clark said she discussed the importance of [Canada] reaching the 0.7-per-cent target and spoke with Canadian officials about how government assistance can help mobilize additional funds, including from the private sector. …A spokesman for International Development Minister Christian Paradis [appears to agree and points] to an initiative announced in this year’s federal budget as a means to encourage the private sector to consider development-focused investments.”

The Blue Planet Project opposes private sector funding for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan and War on Want trade campaigner Mark Dearn recently wrote in the Guardian newspaper that, “In its 2014 world investment report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates the SDGs will require between $3.3 trillion and $4.5 trillion a year to implement. Proponents of privatisation have used this funding gap to promote the case for greater private sector participation, particularly in the global south. But before the United Nations creates a new channel for foreign investments in public services it needs to take a closer look at the history of the private sector ‘leaving behind’ the most marginalised and vulnerable.”

They then argue, “Without an economic incentive to serve poor communities, the private sector will not ensure universal enjoyment of the human right to water and sanitation. A Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) study shows that private sector investment results in very few new connections in parts of the world where the need is greatest, such as sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. …With the rise of investment treaties giving primacy to ‘corporate rights’ … greater private sector participation in water and sanitation projects through the SDGs will only exacerbate the water and sanitation crisis around the globe.”

The Blue Planet Project and its global allies have also been campaigning to ensure an explicit recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in the SDGs. The Globe and Mail now reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed concern that shifting to an expected 17 global development goals after 2015 could detract from [his focus on maternal and child health in low-income countries].”

The SDGs are expected to be adopted at a special summit of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this September.

For numerous campaign blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals, please click here.