Arab NGO Network for Development
Monthly Newsletter

August   2015

Diminishing Civil Society and Boosting Private Sector: Challenges of the Sustainable Development Agenda

 

 

Zaid Abdel Samad - ANND Executive Director

 

The outcome reached by the international track of sustainable development objectives amounts to a dangerous twist in the concept of development, especially in terms of determining the roles of stakeholders in the development process. For example, it proposes giving the business sector the key role, being a contributor to job-generating growth. This comes before the adoption of “business-binding human rights standards.”

 

It also reflects a new concept for “international partnership for development,” which has been based on the following: (1) promoting fair trade to help developing nations improve their economic performance and revenues; (2) reconsidering foreign debts, which are consuming large public budget revenues; (3) increasing development aid in quantity and quality (the aid effectiveness track was launched in 2003); (4) speeding up technology transfer to help developing nations overcome the challenges of improving development tools; and (5) addressing the issue of medicines for dangerous illnesses, which is part of commitments by rich nations towards developing ones.

 

In the sustainable development goals document, the above concept has shifted towards partnerships in which the business sector plays the main role, while minimizing the goals of fair trade and debt relief and neglecting the regulation and control of capital movement. The track of “aid effectiveness” has become a track of “development effectiveness” where the governments of developing countries are subjected to accountability rather than donor nations being held accountable for their commitments.

 

The approaches of donor nations operating in the Arab region, as expressed in priorities adopted in these nations’ strategies, reflect weariness, or almost despair with the role of civil society. Donor nations believe that civil society failed to achieve qualitative changes after the Arab Spring; hence, they channeled support to entrepreneurship initiatives to help individuals and the business sector carry out development projects and programs. The partnership between the public and private sectors is being promoted to facilitate free trade and open markets.

 

This is the essence of new approaches promoted at the time being by mainstream thinking. Donors’ priorities in the region are limited to humanitarian intervention to help refugees and victims of wars and conflicts and to dealing with security concerns in countries torn by wars and conflicts and European neighboring nations targeted by large numbers of refugees. A high percentage of development aid is earmarked to the business sector to boost trade, while the remaining is spent on some development services and needs. Aid is being decreased for support and advocacy groups.

 

The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) believes that the civil and popular movement has been continuous since 2010, in spite of all challenges it faces. This movement is also the only option to restore balance to society in the face of ancien régime, traditional, conservative and religious forces, which set out to hinder progress in the democratic construction of the civil and modern state. Reversing support for the forces of democratic, social and economic change will inevitably lead to their weakening and limit their capabilities to build a promising future full of justice and respect for human rights.

 

As part of these efforts, ANND participated in the Arab track of sustainable development goals by following up the Arab Economic and Social Summit organized by the League of Arab States every two years. Most of the summit’s proceedings are dedicated to dialogue on development challenges and the role of partner parties. Despite the summit’s exclusion of civil society from direct involvement, every time the summit was held ANND organized parallel forums, which issued proposals and recommendations it wanted the summit to adopt. These forums were organized by ANND in partnership with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

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