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TTF Brazil: Economic democracy and the multilateral policy

A stocktaking exercise on what has transpired in the realm of international relations, regarding civil society interaction with governments and multilateral organizations.

In the climatized atmosphere of the UN, a set of diverse personalities negotiate on the orientations for a possible institutional design geared towards poverty eradication and the reduction of inequalities managed by the appropriation system, expropriations and destruction that substantiate contemporary economic relations in the world. What has been called  Post-2015, that consists of two big negotiation processes, the Sustainable Development Objectives and the III International Conference for Development. Given that this has to serve as a base for delivering on the Means of Implementation for the agenda in the next fifteen years.

Multilateral negotiations are a thing of patience. Each  country, or group of countries, are focused on defending their direct interests. The Arab Group, for instance, doesn’t allow any debate on fossil fuels, “fossil fuels shouldn’t be included in the negotiations on Financing for Development”, in preparation of the  third international conference, that will be held in Addis Ababa in july. “Reducing public subsidies to companies for oil explorations can’t be an objective”, said categorically the egyptian ambassador on behalf of the group. On the other hand, the EU, defends not only the reduction of subsidies, but also the establishment of taxes on carbon and fossil fuels. In front of the evidence on the effects caused by combustion and evidence on the effects caused by the combustion and exhaustion if carbon, it would be expectable to reach a good agreement on this issue if we are to think about sustainable development and the reduction of the effects of climate change. In the meantime nothing is as simple as that.

In the zero draft of the FfD negotiations, paragraph 62, it is mentioned for the  for the first time the possibility of financial transactions. The report of, Expert Committee on Financing for Sustainable Development, where i had the opportunity of defending as TTF on behalf of Gestos and the TTF Brazil in a speech in march 2014, contained an indication for the work of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing, but didn’t address it clearly. In the discussions on the zero draft a couple of weeks ago, which was preceded by dialogue with civil society, in which i represented ABONG i defended TTF as a principle and as an tool, besides of pointing out the concept of ‘economic democracy’, there were some moments of tension when, first the american negotiator – John Hurley, of treasury – and after that the representative of the IMF were categoric on rebutting TTF as a ‘distorsionary’ (sic) of the financial markets. Except for civil society, no other country defended openly TTFs, a controversial point undoubtedly. The regulation of the financial system is also a tabou issue in the context of both negotiations (ODS e FpD), even if it has been called out by the co-facilitators from both processes, but many countries won’t budge on their privileges. This is an issue that manages to unite the Arab Group, the EU as well as the US and Japan, not to mention tax havens like Liechtenstein and Luxemburg. The fundamental point is: how can we talk about sustainability if we maintain vicious elements that feed inequalities, like tax havens, illicit financial flows and the benefits of the financial market?

It’s possible to speak about fiscal progressivity, as long as the discussion doesn’t delve too deep into implementation issues, given that the neoclassical and neoliberal mantras are still dominant in the minds of many negotiators, “taxes on wealth are contrary to investment”. Even if the negotiators can see the fallacy in the discourse that come from orthodox economists, pragmatism overrides proceedings and the debates end up being centered on the search of pragmatic solutions for inequities in general and gender inequities in particular particular. The mere fact of equating women and men’s salary for equal position an equal capacities could raise GDP by at least  15%. To invest in gender economy and long-term intelligent investment. That’s where lies one of the knots of the accelerated economic system, leaving it prisoner of short-term thinking and financial speculation. How can this contradiction be solved?

Negotiations continue in may and june, when government representatives seek to reach an agreement in order to sign it at the International Conference on Financing for development in Addis Ababa, between july 16 and 19. The exercise in political activism is being done at the same time that the negotiation take place, in the national and international realms.A broad coalition of international organizations follow closely the movements of countries and contribute with criticism and concrete suggestions for positive changes to the document, trying to contrary to the tendency of accommodating to the established forms, without alterations that don’t recognize the damages left throughout history and the necessity of changing practices, highlighting a definition of politics that affirm the direction that should be taken in order to regenerate the sustainable environmental and human development path.

In New York, during the week of interactive dialogues, taking advantage of the good institutional relations built with the brazilian mission at the UN, including with Ambassador Guilherme Patriota, we were able to put forward the preoccupations of brazilian civil society contained in the document resulting from the consultation carried out by Abong, with the help of FES in São Paulo in 2014, and the continued efforts by brazilian organizations that follow the international agenda. We received support on the subjects we carried, and a subject in particular was raised by Brazil in the negotiating session in April, on economic democracy. Given that FTTs and other demands are encountering severe resistance in the realm of intergovernmental negotiations, including with the backpedaling in the positions of the G77+China regarding this issue, opting for maintaining the ‘innovative sources of financing’, but not mentioning the specificity regarding which kind of mechanisms it would entail, satisfying also the Arab group that in that way is able to get the mention of carbon taxes out of the zero draft.

One of the challenges for organized civil society is to get to show the contradictions between discourse and action in the search for sustainable and inclusive development, with respect to human rights and gender equity.

The pressure exerted by the private sector in the establishment of tertiarization norms regarding the provision of services that are public by nature is enormous, and carried out with substantial human and financial resources. Besides its presence it the multilateral arena, it manages to guarantee its influence at the national level, with governments easily defending its positions, as if the abstract ‘private sector’ was the main source of financing for the Post-2015 agenda, in a moment of reflection on the non-reached Millennium Development Objectives all around the world. That is, there is an asymmetry of power and action, and its pretty big. It’s with much tenacity, consistency and a common sense that civil society will manage to go around the institutional blockage, and make the governmental representations to defend public interest instead of particularly limited interests of sectors and groups. Really difficult task, that proves to be even more complicated at the national level proves to be even more difficult in front of the political landscape if direct bargains of a Parliament that overwhelmingly defends the interests of entrepreneurs and religious groups. It is a critical moment. The return of backpedaling and conservancy is evident, and that’s the worst thing for a path of development essentially based in the three pillars of social, environmental and economic sustainability, in harmony, “in an holistic way”, as likes to repeatedly say Ambassador Macharia Kamau from Kenya, co-facilitator of the SDG process.

The result of the Conference will serve as base for the definition of the Means of Implementation that will be approved in september, during the General Assembly. The hope is that those documents can serve to influence the direction and decisions taken at the local level, and that, in the next years, different levels of political power are focused in contributing to make that the next objectives aren’t only a horizonts, but points of arrival.

Source: TTF Brasil