The President of the 68th session of the General Assembly (PGA), John W. Ashe, met with representatives from civil societyon 10 September 2014 at UN Headquarters. The purpose of the meeting was to take stock of civil society’s views of progress on the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, as a complement to the PGA’sHigh-level Stocktaking Event, held on 11-12 September. The PGA’s stocktaking event will feed into the synthesis report being prepared by the UN Secretary-General.
At the request of the Office of the PGA, UN-NGLS ran a nomination process to identify civil society speakers for the event, representing six regions/groups: Africa, the Arab region, Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America, Latin America, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Following regional statements, the meeting was opened to interventions from the floor and questions submitted online.
A number of common perspectives emerged over the course of the event from civil society representatives, based on views of the post-2015 development process to date. Convergences from among the presentations are summarized below.
1. Adopt a human rights-based approach
All civil society representatives underscored that full recognition and protection of human rights must underpin the post-2015 development agenda. Speakers commented that the final outcome must incorporate a rights-based framework.
Civil society speakers emphasized that the outcome document of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) did not sufficiently ground a number of key recommendations in the context of human rights, particularly those relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the right to food, and the rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as small farmers, Indigenous peoples, and persons living with disabilities.
Many highlighted the connection between human rights, vulnerable groups, and natural resources. For example, it was explained that people living in rural areas, including Indigenous peoples, need their rights to lands, territories and resources to be respected, fulfilled and protected to enable decent livelihoods, food sovereignty, and equitable benefits from the sustainable use of natural resources. Accordingly, strong monitoring of land security is needed, and “land grabbing” must be prevented.
2. Strengthen goals on inequality and decent work
Many speakers welcomed Goal 10: “Reduce inequality within and among countries.” However, calls were made for the goal to include targets for redistribution of wealth within and between countries, and indicators for measuring wealth distribution.
One civil society representative emphasized the linkages between reducing inequalities and promoting the International Labour Organization Decent Work Agenda, highlighting that trade unions, public services and labour market institutions need to play a greater role in social and economic stabilization and in reducing inequality. Explicit reference should be made in the post-2015 development agenda to the International Labour Organization’s core labour standards.
3. Incorporate robust means of implementation
Many speakers emphasized the need for robust means of implementation within the post-2015 development framework. It is essential that developed countries meet their long-standing commitments on official development assistance (ODA). In addition, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development must be just and transformative.
Civil society representatives called for stronger action to: address tax evasion, with clear measures to ensure tax payments by corporations; build capacity through transfer of knowledge and technology, including information and communications technologies; and increase access to affordable, accessible, and sustainable energy.
It was further noted that developed countries must make clear commitments toward fulfilling their differentiated responsibilities for achieving sustainable development and effectively combating climate change.
4. Include a strong accountability mechanism
Civil society called for several measures to support strong accountability for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Key measures include the development of quantitative and qualitative indicators at regional and national levels, and the disaggregation of data. Disaggregated data is essential to monitor progress from a human rights perspective, particularly to ensure that marginalized groups are not left behind. One speaker expressed strong opposition to maintaining US$1.25/day as an indicator of extreme poverty, which she described as a “starvation indicator” and also called for measures of poverty beyond monetary targets.
Speakers recognized the importance of public-private partnerships, but many expressed caution and underscored the need for accountability mechanisms to accompany such partnerships. It was contended that while the private sector has a role to play, it cannot and should not replace governments in providing essential public goods and services.
Transparency, including through fulfilment of the right to access to information, was identified as critical for ensuring the best elaboration and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. In addition, one speaker called on Member States to strengthen the mandate, structure and organization of the High-level Political Forum, as an essential international tool for accountability in the implementation of the agenda.
5. Ensure meaningful civil society participation in sustainable development processes
Achievement of the SDGs, described by one civil society participant as a “collective dream,” will require collective action and the full inclusion and participation of civil society. Speakers called for the strengthening of civil society participation at the international, regional and national levels. A strong civil society voice in decision-making supports credibility and legitimacy, and civil society is an essential partner for the achievement of national priorities. Speakers commended efforts made thus far to ensure a participatory, inclusive formulation of the post-2015 development agenda, but emphasized that significant barriers still exist to participation from developing countries in particular, including resource constraints and difficulty accessing visas for travel to the United States.
The President of the General Assembly closed the meeting by expressing appreciation for the valuable contributions from civil society to the post-2015 development agenda, and called for the continued engagement of civil society as Member States proceed with the next phase of negotiations.
Regional statements (in speaking order)
Omoyemen Lucia Odigie-Emmanuel, with the Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research, read a statement for the Africa Region.
Zahra Langhi, with theLibyan Women’s Platform for Peace, delivered ajoint statement for the Arab Region from three organizations: Reseau Arabe pour l’Environnement et le Développement (RAED), Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) and Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).
Corina Mariela Ribera, with Acción Cimática and on behalf of the Women’s Major Group, delivered astatement for Latin America.
Interventions from the floor (in speaking order)
Prior to opening the session to the interactive component, Afaf Konja read two statements from the online comment form. The first was from the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the second from Beyond 2015.
The following interventions were read from the floor:
Jeffery Huffines, Chair of the UN DPI/NGO Conference, UN Representative for CIVICUS
Sofia Garcia Garcia, Advocacy Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean, Movimiento Mundial por la Infancia
Adjmal Duloo, Volunteer Groups and the International Forum for Volunteering
Lisinka Ulatoska, Coordinator, UN NGO Commons Cluster
Malyn Ando, Programme Manager for Information and Communications, Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism
Lobi RedHawk, Grey Panther
Naiara Costa, Advocacy Director, Beyond 2015
Helen Hamlin, International Federation on Aging
Several statements were prepared, but due to time constraints the representatives were not able to take the floor. Additional statements are as follows:
Sustainable World Initiative: Research, education, and policy guidance for a better global future
UN NGO Committee on Mental Health(New York) and the NGO Forum for Health (Geneva)
Institute for Conscious Global Change: Geographic information Systems Technology; An Essential Took for Sustainable Development as Means of Implementation
Latin America Regional Articulation towards Cairo+20, a member of the Women’s Major Group
The live webcast of the interactive meeting can be viewedhere.
For an overview of the six stage-setting events, read the UN-NGLS articlehere.
This article is available in French.