Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017: Reclaiming policies for the public

After the successful launch of the pilot report 2016, this 2017 edition focuses on privatization, partnerships, corporate capture and their impact on sustainability and inequality. The articles and textboxes cover all sectors of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs (and beyond), and reflect the rich geographic and cultural diversity of their authors. But what all contributions have in common is their plea to reclaim public policy space and use it to take bold measures to realize human rights, increase public finance, to regulate or reject PPPs, and to strengthen participatory and democratic governance structures at all levels. These are indispensable prerequisites to achieve the SDGs and to turn the vision of the transformation of our world, as proclaimed in the title of the 2030 Agenda, into reality.

In the 2030 Agenda governments committed to a revitalized Global Partnership between States and declared
that public finance has to play a vital role in achieving the SDGs. But in recent decades, the combination
of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, business-friendly fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion
has led to a massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services.
The same corporate strategies and fiscal and regulatory policies that led to this weakening have enabled an
unprecedented accumulation of individual wealth and increasing market concentration. The proponents
of privatization and public-private partnerships (PPPs) use these trends to present the private sector as the
most efficient way to provide the necessary means for implementing the SDGs. But many studies and experiences by affected communities have shown that privatization and PPPs involve disproportionate risks and costs for the public sector and can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services and jeopardize the fulfillment of human rights. Therefore, it is high time to counter these trends, reclaim public policy space and take bold measures to strengthen public finance, rethink PPPs and weaken the grip of corporate power on people’s lives.