Sustainable Development will only be achieved if governments across the world dramatically step up the public funding needed to address the world's challenges.

We need to eradicate poverty, address climate change, ensure decent work, as well as quality education, reduce inequalities and build peaceful, inclusive societies for all. These challenges are not small: and Government response cannot be small.

The global and regional financial Institutions are responsible for economic, financial, trade and monetary decisions that pave the road for private business while neglecting the social impact their choices produce. A stronger multilateral governance under the UN system is the alternative to protect the interest of all.

A zero-carbon, zero-poverty world is within our reach, but requires collective and inclusive efforts. Yet, the legitimate role of trade unions and workers to defend their rights, protect their interests and contribute to fairer societies is under attack worldwide. Trade unionists are targeted by intimidation, violence and even murder.

Sustainable Development will only be achieved if governments across the world dramatically step up the public funding needed to address the world's challenges.

If governments are serious about addressing poverty and inequalities, wages and decent work must be at the center of the 2030 Agenda. The shrinking wage share as part of GDP worldwide is a reality that needs to be redressed. A race to the bottom on tax and wages will not deliver a sustainable future. Gender-responsive public services, universally accessible free public education, health and social services, including for migrants and refugees, are essential to create sustainable economic and social development and combat poverty and inequalities.

We see the paradox of a 2030 Agenda that pushes for the national implementation of SDGs, while the FfD process does not enable the policy and f iscal space. Policy coherence, regulations, transparency and public investment - through strong governance inspired by a democratic participatory process should be the priority. To serve the purpose of the 2030 Agenda, the contradiction between the need for right-based social inclusion and the current profit-oriented economic model needs to be solved and reality of soft human rights and hard trade law should be addressed.

In terms of implementing SDGs we call for addressing systemic issues and the reform of the corporate tax system, including through the creation of an intergovernmental body within the UN, to fight tax evasion, abolish tax havens and re-establish progressive taxation systems, and consider the adoption of flat tax for corporates as a transition measure.


PSI is a partner of the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and together with other civil society organizations and networks has produced the annual Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles in its realization.

An estimated USD 90 trillion investment is needed in infrastructure by 2030 to implement the SDGs. We are deeply concerned about the increasing privatisation of public services, including through public-private partnerships. These are by no means a fast track to SDG realisation but instead undermine quality, equity as well as human rights, and very often incur additional costs in the long run. PPPs are inadequate and unsuccessful for essential and critical services - they privatise profits and socialise risks. We suggest convening a process at the global level, through ECOSOC, to take stock and evaluate whether PPPs are fit for purpose.

The push for greater private sector involvement in the implementation of SDG 6, flies in the face of growing evidence that the privatization of water and sanitation has been detrimental, especially to the most marginalized and vulnerable and that corporations tend to use monopoly power to generate excessive profits without investing in infrastructure.

While developing solutions for the financing and implementation of SDG 6, decision-makers must acknowledge the hundreds of experiences of remunicipalization within the last 15 years that provide evidence not only of private sector failures, but also of solutions for better public services. In terms of energy, we have already seen too many Independent Power Producers use their legally-binding Power Purchase Agreements to drain tax-payers’ money for their shareholders. The IPP-PPA model proves to be a disgrace for too many communities.

In turn, the financialization of housing is directly opposed to the idea that housing is a human right linked to personal dignity, security and the ability to thrive in communities and it played a major part in the 2008 financial crisis.

Given the repeated references to ‘evidence-based’ policy throughout the SDG process, nobody can ignore the evidence coming out of communities that have resolutely rejected privatization. Rather than promoting failed PPPs, the SDG process should look at public-public partnerships that are flourishing around the world.

Furthermore, governments should support the regulatory and policy frameworks required to enable the private sector to contribute to the fulfilment of human rights and nationally defined Agenda 2030 objectives, in line with the public interest – especially where public resources are mobilised. Other important steps are needed: governments must ensure business transparency and accountability for investments and create the necessary regulatory frameworks for companies to fulfil their ‘due diligence’ responsibilities, as prescribed by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

On the solutions side, workers and trade unions highlighted the key role of social dialogue as a driver and governance instrument for sustainable development. Social dialogue creates local ownership of the transition or societies need, builds societal consensus and inclusion, eases policy implementation, cements in agreed-upon measures and strengthened democratic processes It has been at the core of development success-stories, both historically and in the present-day. Its role should be recognised and valued at the HLPF.

Labour and environmental clauses in public procurement as well as public contract transparency and disclosure are key to sustainable urban development. To secure the necessary public funding cities need coordinated policies to fight tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption. Protecting public spaces and commons from privatization and gentrification have a direct and positive effect on democracy and equity.

It is essential to firmly locate the SDGs - and the efforts to support their achievement by IFIs and UN agencies - within the human rights framework, reaffirming the centrality of the State as duty-bearer of human rights. Guidance and financing from the IFIs must ensure the policy space required for governments to enact regulation, enforcement, and fiscal measures to advance their democratically-owned and rights-based development agendas.

NGO’s at HLPF stated: “We observe with concern many layers of disconnect between what is discussed at these meetings and what is going on in the world outside. This includes the apparent lack of relevance between the discussions of member states here in the ECOSOC chamber and in bilateral summits across the globe; between military spending and budgetary allocation for sustainable development; between the obvious need for universal social protection floors and the policy dictates of the IMF. Private finance can only complement, not replace, national and international public resources. Further, we urge the IMF to stop pushing 'fiscal consolidation' on countries, as austerity policies and regressive taxation seriously impede countries’ ability to finance the implementation of the SDGs.”

ISDS: "The Most Toxic Acronym"

Public opposition to ISDS, led by unions and Civil Society, has made the term political poison. In the words of EU trade chief, Celia Malmstrom, ISDS had become “the most toxic acronym in Europe”.



submitted to the EU's public consultaiton on ISDS


of submissions

were against these corproate priviliges



has been transfered from public budgets to private corporations as a result of ISDS

The ISDS system has become an icon of the shameless extent to which governments have pandered to corporate interests by giving foreign corporations rights that citizens and local businesses do not have.

As public sector unions, we have a direct interest in the ISDS debate as the punishing fines issued by these private tribunals bleed tax payer money away from quality public services to boost corporate profits.

The European Commision is now attempting to rebrand ISDS, and has created a number of new proposals including the Investment Court System (ICS) and the Multilateral Investment Court (MIC)

A recent PSI study shows that neither of these systems are judicially independent nor would they protect governments from having to pay compensation to corporations for making lawful, non-discriminatory laws to protect workers, health or the environment. Worryingly collective bargaining agreements amongst social partners could also become the target of law suits.

Unlike these enforcable investment and trade rules, large corporate interests have blocked attempts by unions and civil society to create binding human rights standards. Corporations consistently undermine global labour standards, environmental standards, tax enforcement and anti-corruption measures – yet demand strong enforceable sanctions when their own interests are at stake.

We reject any attempt to entrench the rights of corporations above the laws which workers and local businesses are held to.

Working with affiliates and civil society, we have already built a strong public opposition to ISDS.

Now we must ensure that re-packaged proposals are not allowed to sneak in to future trade agreements.


We are a leading member of the Stop ISDS Coalition, lobbying governements and political leaders to end the promotion of corporate rights over human rights.

Sign the Stop ISDS Petition

No Trade in Public Services

Public services are designed to ensure fundamental social and economic necessities are provided to the public affordably, universally and on the basis of need. They exist because markets will not produce these outcomes.

Trade agreements, by contrast, deliberately promote commercialisation and define goods and services in terms of their ability to be exploited for profit by global corporations and international service providers.

Treating public services as commodities undermines their social purpose.

This is a deliberate attempt to privilege the profits of the richest in the world over those who have the greatest need.

Proponents of the TISA, along with the TTIP, TPP, GATS and RCEP and others, often argue that public services are protected by the so called “government services exemption”, a title which might lead the casual observer to conclude that government services are exempted from market liberalisation.

Yet these clauses often stipulate that services cannot be supplied “on a commercial basis” nor “in competition with one or more service suppliers”.

When does a patient co-charge for a health service or medicine constitute a service supplied on a commercial basis? It is not clear weather a public water, energy or transport authority charging fees that recover costs to supply services to business and consumers is exempt.

Almost all government education, transport and most health services are arguably in competition with at least one private provider and many have some degree of "commercial basis" and therefore be subject to the clauses and policy restrictions of a trade agreement.

Shifting Government Policy

"It is remarkable how much people got informed, participated and discussed the Trade In Services Agreement"

In 2015, a Union led campaign in Uruguay succeeded in leading the government to withdraw from the Trade in Services Agreement negotiations.

PSI has drawn on their experience to create a union-campaigning toolkit on Trade in Services. Check it out here.

Shaping UN trade policy

Corporate interests are currently trying to use the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to promote ISDS provisions. PSI is working with Civil Society and organising affiliates to resist this corporate powr grab.

Download our template letter to send to your government.

Winners and Losers

Even the most ardent supporters of trade agreements admit that there are winners and losers.

Estimates of benefits are often overstated but even where trade does facilitate rises in national wealth this wealth is not evenly distributed.

The winners are usually the large powerful countries who are able to assert their power, multinational corporations who are best placed to exploit new access to markets and wealthy consumers who can afford expensive foreign imports.

The losers tend to be workers who face job losses and downwards pressure on wages, users of public services and local small business who cannot compete with multinational corporations.

In this environment, the pressure to lower wages to maintain competitiveness has become a dogma. Countries respond by undermining workers’ rights, often breaching core labour standards and fundamental human rights.

These truths can be hidden because the negative effects are not always obviously linked to the trade deals; they creep in over time. By contrast the political pressure for immediate market access is intense as large corporate interests invest heavily in influencing the political process and promote the claimed benefits.


Corporations have their own global private court system – called ISDS – which they use to bully governments. But many victims of corporate human rights abuses don’t have any way of winning justice. This is unfair. We need to end these corporate courts now Instead, we need a tough global system that can punish multinationals for their crimes. Sign the petition and join the movement:

Rights for people, rules for corporations!


Is there a democratic country in the world that would knowingly accept its government agreeing laws that so fundamentally shift power and wealth, bind future governments, bypass its domestic courts and restricts its own ability to provide for its citizens - entirely in secret?

The answer is clearly no. Which is perhaps why these trade agreements are negotiated in secret.

We are not opposed to trade.

However, after decades of globalisation, the benefits are spiraling upwards and power rests with wealthy elites who use it to influence governments and institutions.

They are shaping global trade rules to serve their interests, not the public interests.

We need to break the stranglehold which market orthodoxy holds over mainstream politics and advance new policies on trade and development which serve workers and our communities.