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Landgrabbing by private sector: A possible outcome of UN's "finance for development agenda" at Addis Ababa meet

By Our Representative
World’s top civil society organizations (CSOs), in a joint submission to the UN-sponsored International Conference on Financing for Development, taking place at Addis Ababa from July 13 to 16, has taken strong exception to the effort of governments to provide “central role” to private finance in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). They drafted their submission at Addis Ababa on July 11-12.
Pointing out that in some sectors – for instance, the privatization and commercialization of education, health and other essential services – “substantial evidence” shows the negative impact of private finance on “inequality and marginalization”, the CSOs favoured “inclusive and sustainable industrial development” as critical for developing countries in order to support economic diversification.”
From India, Paul Divakar, general secretary of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, is said to have played substantial role in drafting the CSO document, ensuring insertion of the need for “special measures” to “address caste and analogous systems of inherited status that perpetuate exclusion and inequalities in the access to economic resources and the benefits of growth."
Particularly objecting to “unquestioned confidence” on the private sector, the draft says, “Evidence shows that deregulation and privatization agenda contradicts and undermines the possibility to respect, protect and fulfill human rights.” Insisting on the need for “periodic human rights impact assessments of private sector investments and activities”, it says, “Only this will safeguard public interest.”
“While private finance and business activities have increased in scope and volume, foreign investments often leave behind the poorest people and poorest countries”, the draft says, adding, “The few investments that do reach low-income countries tend to be concentrated in extractive industries or are agricultural investments that lead to adverse activities such as landgrabbing.”
Referring to public private partnership projects, CSOs say, “There is a lack of proof that PPPs are actually delivering positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.” They add, there is a need to hold “inclusive, open and transparent discussion” on PPPs, so that they are “based on internationally agreed commitments and principles, such as the labor standards enshrined in ILO Conventions and the ILO Declaration on Multinational Enterprises.”
Insisting that “essential public services that implicate states’ duties to guarantee the human rights to water and sanitation, education, and health should be excluded from private sector partnerships”, CSOs say, “Where promoted, PPPs should be conditional on feasibility and auditing criteria and should include safeguards to ensure transparency.”
Taking objection to the inter-governmental Addis Agenda effort to insist on the importance of private sector for gender equity, CSOs objects to the “strong tendency towards the instrumentalization of women” by stating that “women’s empowerment, and women and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital to significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.”
They emphasize, “Financial inclusion or women’s entrepreneurship should not displace attention from structural barriers for women´s economic rights and full and equal access to and control over economic resources that are not present in the Addis Agenda, i.e. the unequal distribution of unpaid care work, the lack of access to care services, the persistent gender discrimination in the labor market”, and so on.
As for business enterprises, CSOs want, they should “align their business models with the aim of achieving progressive economic, social, environmental impacts to ensure sustainable development”, adding, “In this context, we stress that corporate accountability begins with private companies contributing their fair share in taxes to public resource mobilization, providing decent work and living wages.”

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