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Activists call for bold action from governments on climate, inequality and freedom of expression, as development goals falter

18. Juli 2019 - 14:07

Activists gathered in New York kick off global call for people to #StandTogetherNow and demand that their governments step up action to achieve social, economic and environmental justice.

Activists from across the world today declared the Sustainable Development Goals – agreed by the international community in 2015 – under threat, due to inaction on climate change, rising inequality and increasing repression of peaceful civic activism continue to rise.

Meeting alongside the High Level Political Forum at the United Nations in New York, a broad alliance of civil society organisations came together to demand greater ambition from governments as they plan for key UN Summits in September.

Dozens of organisations have issued a new declaration,“Stand Together Now for a Just, Peaceful and Sustainable World, stating: “We are standing alongside many others around the world in calling out a state of emergency. Humanity cannot afford to wait, people are demanding transformative change, and we are not willing to accept the current lack of action and ambition from many governments.

The joint call to action comes from a vast range of organisations, including those working on fighting inequality, humanitarian assistance, human rights and climate change, such as Action for Sustainable Development, ACT Alliance, ActionAid, Amnesty International, CAN, CIVICUS, CPDE, GCAP, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Restless Development.

Inequality is rising, with the 26 richest billionaires now owning as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population. The climate emergency is worsening, with the United Nations saying we could have just 11 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe. A global crackdown on human rights means that only 43 UN member states are currently meeting their commitments to uphold the fundamental civic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

At the same time, the majority of countries that have signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are not making the progress needed to avert a global break down.

“The drive to reach the SDGs is careening off course,” said Emmanuel Ametepey, from Youth Advocates Ghana. “Just four years ago all UN member states signed-up to a radical new agenda by 2030,” he said. “Ten years might sound like enough time, but we are already falling badly behind.”

“More people across the world are suffering as a result of the increases in extreme weather events, rising inequality and crackdowns by government on human rights., Young people are bearing the brunt of it all,” said Catherine Njuguna, ACT Alliance youth ambassador.

Speaking outside the UN, Farah Kabir, Director of ActionAid Bangladesh said: “People are increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of change. Since 2015 we have seen many countries presenting their progress reports at the UN, but we know change is not being felt on the ground. Inequality is growing and many organisations and people are being oppressed across the globe.” “We are announcing a state of emergency for people as well as the planet,” she added.

Global Co-Chair of Global Call to Action against Poverty, Beckie Malay said: “Many national coalitions of civil society actively engage with the UN’s High Level Political Forum, they provide real evidence and clear recommendations but in many cases they don’t see these proposals reflected in government action plans.” “Unfortunately since 2015 it seems that there is regression on the key areas of inequality, rights and climate. We cannot stand by and let this happen, that is why we are standing together in countries around the world over the coming months to demand real action.”

Coordinator of Action for Sustainable Development, Oli Henman said: “We have been working together over recent years to ensure that national organisations can be heard by the UN during the Voluntary National Reviews, however we see real challenges in many countries including reducing engagement opportunities, limited consultation and in a number of cases increasing attacks against civil society organisations.”

Over the coming months organisations will be stepping up their joint actions and will stand together in a joint Global Week of Action from 20-27 September, with key mobilisations planned in over 30 countries.

Read the joint declaration in full statement and sign up to show your support.

Photo: Climate march in Montevideo (Uruguay), March 2019 – ©Inés Pousadela

Notes to editors:

Photo available (rights free) of coalition members in front of United Nations during the July 2019 High Level Political Forum, 15 July 2019


For further information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, ActionAid

[kate.donovan] at

+1 718 362 0606


Oli Henman, Action for Sustainable Development

[oli.henman] at

+44 7803 169074

Stand Together Now for a Just, Peaceful & Sustainable World

15. Juli 2019 - 10:58

Sign this statement.

In 2015 world leaders signed historic agreements – the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the broader 2030 Agenda to push for a more just and sustainable world by 2030. These inter-linked agendas promised to transform the world, to end poverty, to reduce inequality, ensure peace and combat climate change; to set us on a path towards a just transition and a holistic approach to the systems which underpin our economy, society, and environment. So far, delivery has failed to live up to this bold ambition.

Around the world, people are suffering from the overlapping impacts of inequalities, loss of rights, gender injustice, conflict, militarisation, environmental degradation and climate change. The economic, financial and political systems are concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few, favouring a limited number of individuals, countries and businesses. Nature is our life support system – when it is degraded, polluted and overused then there are big impacts for our food security, water supply, air quality and for our economy. Climate change impacts food security, water to irrigate crops and disruption from extreme weather events. Without tackling climate change and loss of biodiversity by protecting and restoring our natural world, we will fail to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

That is why we are standing alongside many others around the world in calling out a state of emergency. Humanity cannot afford to wait, people are demanding transformative change, and we are not willing to accept the current lack of action and ambition from many governments.

We are at a critical turning point – in September 2019, heads of state will meet again to review progress and we demand that they set out a more ambitious roadmap for practical action. This moment has the potential to foster irreversible momentum for greater accountability, enhanced ambition and clear action in the following 10 years to deliver on the promise of a just transition.

In order to deliver this momentum, we are working together across movements and across borders, to push for wider change, amplifying voices of local communities, and sharing the demands for transformational change coming from people from all across the globe.

To ensure that we move towards a just, peaceful and sustainable world by 2030… we stand together with rising movements, such as those led by women and young people for our rights to voice, equality, climate and environmental justice.

Voice: We call on governments to guarantee the right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly; and to ensure inclusion and participation for all; so that people and community organisations can engage freely in all levels of decision-making processes without fear of violence or intimidation. We also call on governments to commit to the universal moratorium or reduction of military budgets in order to fund climate and environmental protection and the fight against poverty, hunger and inequality.

Equality: We call on governments to address the multiple dimensions of inequality, deliver on their promise to ‘Leave No One Behind’; and to tackle the root causes of inequality through tax justice and social protection and an end to discrimination against women and girls and the most marginalized communities in every country. We call on all governments, but in particular provider countries, to champion these goals by overhauling their approaches to financing, consistent with both our ambition and agreed development effectiveness principles — to ensure democratic country ownership, a focus on results, inclusivity and mutual accountability.

Environmental & climate justice: We demand that countries honor their commitments by presenting concrete and ambitious plans to protect humanity and human rights; halting biodiversity loss and implementing concrete conservation measures; protection of people and communities at the frontlines of climate change, to build their resilience, support adaptation and address loss and damage; and move towards a just transition to renewables and concerted action to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and to eliminate them altogether by 2050 at the latest; so that we ensure that we limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C degrees.

We are working together for a joint Week of Action on 20-27 September, join us!

Sign this statement.


Action for Sustainable Development
ACT Alliance
Amnesty International
Restless Development


Header image: Climate march in Montevideo (Uruguay), March 2019 – ©Inés Pousadela

Join us at the High Level Political Forum in New York

24. Juni 2019 - 10:44

The 2019 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) will be taking place on 9 – 18 July. This year, SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17 are under review; and 47 countries will submit their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). We are now four years into the 2030 Agenda but we know that governments reporting at the VNRs have provided very mixed pictures of progress. We are also aware that civil society involvement has also been patchy so far. Action for Sustainable Development will be organizing several events to strengthen these areas well as promoting a review of HLPF and its engagement mechanisms.

Here’s an agenda of the most relevant A4SD events of the week:

Thursday, 11 July

10am – 1pm – UN Conference Room 5

SDG learning workshop: ‘Participatory and inclusive tools to build capacities in leaving no one behind’.

Organised in partnership with CIVICUS, International Civil Society Center, ATD Fourth World and others. Register here.

1:15pm – 2:45pm – UN Conference Room 1

Joint side event: ‘Renewing the Ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Civil Society Perspectives on Principles for a Successful HLPF Review’.

Organised in partnership with Together2030, Forus and TAP Network. Register here.


Friday, 12 July

1 pm – 3 pm – Ford Foundation

Side event: ‘Power to the People: Civic space for climate justice, equality and decent work for all’.

Organised in partnership with Action Aid, CIVICUS, ICNL and others.


Saturday, 13 July

9 am – 3 pm – Church Center

Civil Society Weekend Workshop: ‘Standing Together for Transformative Change’.

Join us to hear from key national coalition partners, to reflect on civil society engagement in the first four years of the HLPF and how we can work together to improve accountability in follow up and review processes. Register here.


Wednesday, 17 July

14:00-16:00 – Ford Foundation

Side event: ‘Building Inclusive Voluntary National Reviews: Promoting civil society participation in the SDGs’

Organised in partnership with Forus, TAP Network, the Asia CSO Partnership for Sustainable Development and others. Register here.


Header image: UNDP/Freya Morales (CC-BY-NC-SA)

6 principles to guide upcoming HLPF reviews

29. Mai 2019 - 14:03

This paper outlines the shared principles for the review of the High-level Political Forum of Action for Sustainable Development, Forus, the TAP Network and Together 2030. These networks and initiatives have thousands of members from civil society organisations, from across the world. We have come together because we believe this review to be critical to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and cannot miss this opportunity to improve global-level follow up and review mechanisms, recognising the impact of the United Nations’ High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on regional and national implementation.

The HLPF must continue to have ‘a central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes of the 2030 Agenda at the global level’. Whilst much work has been done for HLPF to deliver on its mandate, we believe that the review is an opportunity to elevate its effectiveness, scale up to match the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the transformative agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We outline six principles to guide the upcoming review:

  1. The ambition of the HLPF must be increased: The review of the HLPF must ‘benefit from lessons learned’ rather than to reduce ambition. This includes:
    1. Agreement that the HLPF should remain an open and transparent forum
    2. Basing the review on strengthening existing resolutions – 67/290 and 70/299 – from the lessons learned over the first four years of implementation; building on the principles within these resolutions of a coherent process for follow up and review
    3. Basing the review on the principles and structure of the Open Working Group, which was a successful and collaborative member-state led multi-stakeholder process
  2. The presentation of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) must be given more time: VNRs are at the heart of the HLPF and play a critical role in fostering SDG implementation in the countries that undertake them. They are an opportunity for national assessments of progress and for effective stakeholder engagement, and they result in detailed and reflective reports on national progress, with the intention that they identify lessons. However, the current approach to the presentations lets them down: three ministerial days, with 15 minute presentations and little opportunity for constructive dialogue is insufficient.In order to make VNRs better there must be:
    1. Better presentations, including: more time, more learning, more openness, more involvement of civil society. There are a number of ideas about how to achieve this, either with each VNR having a corresponding side event for more dialogue to devoting the full 8 days of HLPF to VNR presentations – all ideas must be explored in order to make this critical part of the HLPF more effective
    2. Link up with regional forums, and other relevant bodies (including those related to environment and human rights) should be strengthened in VNR presentations
    3. There must be greater clarity on VNR alignment with UN guidelines – Member States should be encouraged to follow this guidance
    4. Member States should be encouraged to include non-government stakeholders in presentations and to present their VNRs at national level ahead of the HLPF
  3. Ensure that there is a focus on leaving no one behind: In line with the 2030 Agenda, there is a responsibility for countries – governments and all stakeholders – to ensure no one is left behind in progress towards achieving the SDGs, and that the furthest behind are reached first. The HLPF should ensure that the voice of marginalised people are heard, through:
    1. Increasing opportunities for the voice of those left behind in the HLPF, including representative groups through civil society support
    2. Ensuring engagement of left behind groups in development and presentation of VNRs
    3. Safeguarding a space for left behind groups in goal-specific discussions
    4. Providing resources to facilitate travel for marginalised people to attend the HLPF
  4. Better alignment and integration of the 2030 Agenda with other frameworks, particularly environmental and human rights: Sustainable development recognises and aligns with environmental, climate, human rights and other sectors. It is therefore important that the HLPF provides more space for the input from the relevant sector mechanisms and agencies. This needs to be in both the HLPF as a whole and within VNRs. This should include:
    1. Better link up with key international processes and agreements – United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Universal Periodis Reviews (UPRs), etc.
    2. Better synergies with the Financing For Development process
    3. Meaningful Involvement of all relevant UN bodies with HLPF (IMF, WTO, UNIDO, etc.) to promote greater policy coherence in implementation of the 2030 Agenda
  5. More opportunities for meaningful follow up, learning and review: In order to see greater focus on the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, and provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations for follow-up’ (as inparagraph 82 of the 2030 Agenda), a rethink on the current focus on specific goals – the HLPF needs to be organised in a way for clear presentation of progress and identification of shared challenges, and add value beyond repetition of the Expert Group Meetings – it might be that they are integrated into VNR presentations (see below).This should include:
    1. The facilitation of Regional Commissions to play a stronger role in identifying regional challenges and feeding them into the HLPF
    2. More use of the ‘VNR labs’ to allow governments and various stakeholders to discuss issues and challenges, and jointly problem-solve in less public forums
    3. SDG 16 needs reviewing annually, similar to SDG 17, given its cross-cutting nature underpinning the whole 2030 Agenda
  6. Major groups and other stakeholders must be able to participate meaningfully in the HLPF: Paragraph 89 of the 2030 Agenda, paragraph 14 of resolution 67/290 and paragraph 11 of resolution 70/299 all note the importance of the participation of major groups and other stakeholders in the HLPF. This participation must be meaningful, but the major groups and other stakeholders also need to review their engagement with the HLPF to ensure the mechanisms for participation are effective, legitimate and representative. This should include:
    1. More transparent processes for linking civil society, private sector, academia, local authorities and others from national level to the HLPF
    2. Investment in the capacity of major groups and other stakeholders to effectively represent and organise participation. This is at the heart of meaningful engagement
    3. Greater opportunity for interaction between Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) from national level with governments in VNRs
    4. A dedicated platform for civil society colleagues to publish and showcase SDG “Spotlight Reports” through the HLPF, or through an online platform – these need to be included in the official deliberations of the HLPF, or as official inputs at the very least
    5. More opportunity and profile for reporting from MGoS on their SDG implementation
    6. Greater opportunity for engagement at the HLPF online, especially for those unable to travel to New York

Header image: UNIC/Vibhuti Sharma (CC-BY-NC-SA)