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Focused on civil society´s engagement in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement
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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)

Civil Society Summit in Belgrade unites CSO leaders in fight for civic freedoms and democratic participation

9. April 2019 - 15:03

At the Civil Society Summit held in Belgrade, Serbia, around 150 leaders and representatives of civil society organisation (CSOs) gathered to unite in the fight for democratic participation and civic freedoms.

The day-long event opened with the welcome remarks of Serbia’s Office of Civil Society Cooperation Director Zarko Stepanovic, who explained that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) process must include partnership of public administration, citizens, and CSOs to promote real development.

This was followed by a backgrounder on the summit, presented by CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Co-Chair Justin Kilcullen, CIVICUS Chair Anabel Cruz, and Civic Initiatives Programme Director Bojana Selakovic.

“We are gathered here to call on development actors to address issue of closing civic space, attack on civil society workers and human rights defenders (HRDs), and attack on the democratisation of development” said Kilcullen. “We are here to put a stop on the attacks against HRDs, and measures of States of constrain civic spaces. 111 countries are suffering serious civic space restrictions,” Cruz added.

United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Coordination Fabrizio Hochschild delivered his keynote address, which acknowledged the difficulties faced by civil society, as well as their role: “There is retreat in multilateral commitments and rise of geopolitical conflict. Inclusive, whole-of-society approach is disregarded, civic space is curtailed, stigmatisation and public harassment are on the rise. CSOs are feeling the effect of these first hand… the work and energy of civil society is more important than ever. And despite all the challenges it faces, civil society remains strong and vital.”

A panel featuring prominent civic leaders then discussed the harms of closing civic spaces and attacks on human rights defenders in different contexts. Speakers included Just Associates Advisor Marusia Lopez Cruz, IBON International Director Emeritus Antonio Tujan Jr., ActionAid CEO Adriano Campolina, and Climate Action Network Deputy Executive Director Sarah Strack. CIVICUS Secretary-General Lysa John facilitated the session.

CPDE Co-Chair Richard Ssewakiryanga and InterAction Director Carolyn Aeby introduced the Belgrade Call to Action, a declaration that asks United Nations Member States to act to reverse the closing and shrinking space for civil society, to stop the attacks on human rights defenders and the undermining of democratic participation, and to renew the prospects for an inclusive Agenda 2030, and the full realisation of the SDGs.

Case studies on shrinking civic spaces – and how the civil society fought back – were shared by Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)’s Anas El Hasnaoui, and Nigeria Network of NGOs Director Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi.

For his part, El Hasnaoui talked about his organisation’s work on civic space and the state of CSO enabling environment in the Middle East and North Africa region, while Oyebisi discussed how Nigerian NGOs resisted an NGO regulation law in 2017 which would regulate CSO operations and curtail people’s freedom for association, expression and political participation.

Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation Coordinator and CPDE Co-chair Beverly Longid facilitated the case studies session. In her synthesis, Longid said that there are different manifestations of shrinking space, which include legal and regulatory restrictions, diminishing and closing spaces for participation, criminalisation of defenders and activists, continuing harassments, intimidations, and extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders and CSO workers. There has also been a wave of legal vilification of NGOs through NGO regulation and human security laws, like the one in Nigeria. Longid ended her synthesis by challenging CSOs to continue the fight of those who came before us by maximising the little space that CSOs have, pushing for collective rights, and doing good in policy and advocacy work from a perspective of strength.

Attendees also paused for a solemn remembrance of CSO leaders, rights defenders, environmentalists, and journalists who were killed because of their fight for people’s rights and social justice, and participated in workshops on promoting and engaging the Belgrade Call to Action.

The event ended with closing remarks by CIVICUS Board Member Julia Sanchez, Global Call to Action against Poverty Program Chair Beckie Malay, and Pacific Islands Association of NGOs Executive Director and CPDE Pacific regional representative Emele Duituturaga. Duituturaga reminded fellow CSO leaders and workers on the need to come together to defend the values of human rights, social justice, and solidarity that are now under attack globally. CSOs need to build resistance from bottom up and rise together to deliver the promise of development.

Civil society leaders endorsed the Call and committed to move the work forward.

The Civil Society Summit 2019 was organised by the CPDE, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Balkan Civil Society Development Network, Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD), and Civic Initiatives (Gradjanske Inicijative). The Summit was part of the CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week 2019 on April 8 to 11.

Check out #CivilSocietySummit2019 #CSOPartnership #StandTogether on Twitter and Facebook.

Sign the Belgrade Call to Action.

The Belgrade Call to Action

8. April 2019 - 8:32