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Enhance cooperation amongst CSOs to realize the SDGs (article based on the SDG Watch Workshop on building SDG CSO Networks – March 20th, Brussels)

With the 2030 Agenda and the SDG and its universal approach, cooperation amongst CSOs has become more important than ever. As the agenda combines environmental, social, economic and other topics on a new scale, and urges for political change on local, national and international level, CSOs must find new ways for partnership and exchange. This brings about both chances of creative and holistic policy approaches as well as struggles to find common priorities and advocacy strategies. As an intergovernmental agenda, the main responsibility of implementing the SDGs lies with the governments.

Moreover, political change needs public legitimation. In order to successfully put pressure on governments to implement the SDGs, it is crucial to make the SDG relevant to the public. In that context, IFP attended the SDG Watch workshop for national partners on March 20th in Brussels.

The workshop went through 3 different sessions to address these challenges:
- Building SDG Networks
- Lobbying for the SDGs on the national level
- Mobilizing the Public.

Deirdre de Burca represented IFP as the co-facilitator of a session on “Building SDG CSO Networks”, along with Carlos Garcia Paret from Futuro en Común, Spain. An aim of the session was to use what was learned from the group discussions to create a handbook on how to build a cross-sectoral CSO alliance.

Deirdre especially presented some lessons learnt from the European cross-sectoral CSO alliance “SDG Watch Europe”. First, she highlighted the values and principles of the alliances. Creating a members’ charter to which CSOs joining the alliance must sign up can be one concrete action. Secondly, joint strategizing, speaking with one voice, recognition by the target institutions as an important interlocutor and raising awareness of each other’s work is necessary. Nonetheless, funding, momentum, lack of permanent secretariat, coordination and consultation can be difficult challenges to tackle.

Then, Carlos Garcia Paret presented Futuro en Común in Spain (Find HERE his presentation). Futuro en Común is a Spanish inter-sectoral coalition, 40 organisations and platforms from various sectors. The organization is involved in policy dialogue, tough at the beginning but now have clear positions. Its achievements include:
a. Shared sense of what is a “transformational agenda”
b. Develop position documents
c. Dialogue with government /national political context
d. Awareness and empowerment of CSO and citizens
e. Enlargement of the network and dialogue with other networks
f. Localizing SDGs
g. Articulation at EU level

Endly, Elaine Nevin (ECO UNESCO Ireland) presented Coalition 2030 in Ireland (presentation). Coalition 2030 represents over 100 organisations, that raise awareness, engage people across the country in making the 2030 Agenda a reality, supporting government in implementing 2030 agenda. One of the clear advocacy demand of Coalition 2030 is the National Action Plan ,an inclusive SDG Monitoring Forum, increased Financing for Development to support delivery of SDGs.

A summary of issues/topics emerging from group discussion included the challenges, mostly relying upon volunteer work and time of members as well as creating connection between different CSOs and the lack of formal structure and funding. The different benefits raised were about mutual learning; overcoming challenges together; pooling of expertise; sharing information and being an independent voice. Finally, an obvious outcome was that the success of coalitions also depends on national contexts (e.g. supporting or challenging role of NGOs). 

Deirdre (IFP) and Pedro (ONGD, the Portuguese platform & IFP member) will collaborate to produce a handbook on creating a cross-sectoral CSO alliance over the coming months.