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A feminist challenge to hypocritical government policies

We face at the global level converging crises on finance, climate, food and energy that have tremendous impacts on people’s life, especially on women. Old structural problems such as income distribution, poverty, lack of access to education and social services are now combined with emerging issues such as climate change, speculation on food and the financialization of the economy and nature.

We in DAWN call this the “fierce new world” – a world with uncertainty of advancing on achieving women’s rights and social justice as a consequence of the weakness of multilateralism, the growing concentration of economic power and the lack of commitment of governments to implement comprehensive and well funded social and economic policies.

In this fierce new world, the global governance based on the principle of one country-one vote at the United Nations (UN) is progressively being eroded by the de facto authority of the OECD/G20, World Bank and IMF. Meetings like the World Economic Forum in Davos aim to reinforce this illegitimate governance and provide a space for corporate elites to lobby governments in order to continue “business as usual”. This week in Davos the role of corporations in partnering with governments to deliver social goals was promoted.  As Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM Netherlands, said “Governments cannot solve world problems such as climate change, resource scarcity and food shortages on their own, so companies must step in”.

The same governments that are actively promoting “partnerships” with corporations in Davos are simultaneously backing a “consultative” process with the UN to build a “Post 2015 development agenda”.  But what kind of development agenda will emerge if states rely on corporations to fulfill their obligations yet refuse to reform the global economic and financial architecture?

There is overwhelming evidence that the financial crisis was caused by the volatility of capitals flows and speculative bubbles that continues to impact women in the labor market, where they have assumed the costs in terms of unemployment, wages and job insecurity. Furthermore financial speculation on food has led to a rise in prices that destabilize household budgets, especially female-headed single parent ones, severely threatening women’s – livelihoods and right to food.

The Post 2015 development agenda must address such social and economic impacts of an unregulated global economic system by creating rights-based pro-development economic and financial reforms.

For instance, while the EU is promoting human rights and women’s empowerment and pushing commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) at the UN, it also advocates for free trade agreements, criminalizes migration and refuses to cut farm subsidies that negatively affect the global South. In addition, according to Global Financial Integrity, for every dollar sent by Western countries to Africa in ODA, 10 dollars come back as illicit capital flows to Western countries.

Civil society must confront these contradictory positions that the same governments take in different global policy arenas.  We must also call for a multilateral mechanism that would subject donor governments, investors and transnational corporations to human rights norms and standards.  At the same time state capacity to deliver on commitments to respect, protect and fulfill human rights needs to be strengthened.

Nicole Bidegain Ponte is a member of the Executive Committee of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era -DAWN.

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May 2017
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