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What are the challenges for Civil Society Organizations in relation to the HLPF?

The IFP presents the views of some of its members regarding the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, organized in New York by the United Nations.

ABONG – Brazil

There is no doubt that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have broadened the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals. It is also important to note that SDGs seek to involve all UN member countries, a good novelty comparing to other processes. But, looking at real politics, we know that this is not happening. Looking at the voluntary report of the Brazilian government, for example, there is a lot of proselytism, without political will, without funding, since the austerity measures that were adopted by the government, prevent any implementation of the Goals. What they say is not what they do.

Being at the HLPF of the UN means to understand the contradictions between the discourse for that public and the concrete reality of governments and countries. In this sense, monitoring this agenda may pose some risks to Civil Society Organizations (CSO) that monitors and focuses on the process: to be a prisoner of an agenda that will not be effectively transformative; countries see SDGs more as a menu of offers where each one takes what is in their most immediate political interest; and again reproduce the hierarchy between developed and developing (middle and poor income); weakening the strength of those who are in the territory struggling for their rights, like people’s from the forest, indigenous people, women, LGBTQI, migrants, etc. How to build something that will fulfill the gap between this global agenda and those who are in the territories? This question was not answered yet.

To conclude, this agenda is important, but from the point of view of those who are fighting for rights in the world (and not a few), the recent experience at the HLPF raises many doubts about the political will of those in power. Just to remind us, what the side events showed to us is the radicalization of the neo-liberal system, reduction of the frame of rights and austerity plans been applied everywhere followed by the conservative political approach. So, we must be cautious in dive into this agenda.”

NNGO – Nigeria

Civil society must stop playing the role of beggars, it is critically important that as a sector we collectively demonstrate our value and economic impact to the attainment of the SDGs. Rather than the ‘noise’ we seem to be known for we now have to step up our engagement with government and the private sector on how jointly we can attain the SDGs. The time to start organising more strategically is now.

JANIC – Japan

1) The review mechanism of the HLPF should be more elaborated, as most of VNR presentations are ‘self-admiration’ of their activities on SDGs. Reviews should be done based on what has been achieved and what’s not. If this trend continues, genuine achievement of SDGs will not be achieved.

2) It is good that some countries made a VNR presentation in a close partnership with civil society, especially Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia and Thailand. As a member of IFP. we would like to know how these partnerships go well and lessons learnt. Japanese government made a good presentation. However, there was hardly no mention about civil society in Foreign Minister’s speech or a video that was shown on the screen. Compared to above countries, civil society engagement in Japan is still weak, which is our challenge such as our weak presence and voice in Japanese society.

3) Among many side events during the HLPF, Japanese civil society also organized two side events (1-SDGs implementation in Korea/Japan, 2-African development). We would like to be more engaged with IFP on organizing side events and its promotion, as well as reflection.

Asian Development Alliance – ADA

The most anticipated event of the year, the High Level Political Forum convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council was concluded on 19th July, 2017 in New York by adopting its Ministerial Declaration. This year also witnessed more than 2400 CSO representatives from across the globe which reiterate the fact of greater demand to engage with UN sustainable development goals and their continued role as one of the important drivers of change along with other pillars of development. One of the important highlight of HLPF was VNR presentations from 43 (Iran which was supposed to present its VNR was absent) countries.

Most of the presentations emphasized the equal participation of civil society along with government and private sector as important agents of changes during SDGs implementing, however, the actual reporting has hardly found the mention of role of civil society.

Secondly, the reports have been very generic and despite mention of SDGs inclusion in the national plan, they lack the discussions on implementation mechanism in their respective countries. The inability to link the SDG efforts with its global ambitions is was apparent due to budget constraints. Another critical aspect is linking the SDGs with the local level planning. The lack of awareness on the SDGs at the local level needs to be tackled with institutionalizing and humanizing them.

As mentioned earlier, the government in most of the countries made a generic reporting with occasional to greater mention of issues of poverty , inequality and gender mainstreaming and budgeting, however, we feel there is a need to integrate SDG 16 in every years presentation despite its formal reporting in 2019 since it commits to the provision of ‘access to justice for all’ as well as to promoting ‘peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development’ and building ‘effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’ in the current era of shrinking spaces for the civil society.

Another important aspect of the HLPF and the UN processes is the lack of formal space to feature civil society reports on the UN website. The UN on the one side calls for greater role of civil society but limits their role by not providing formal spaces. The UN also needs to urge all the government to include the civil society in the monitoring and review processes of the SDGs implementation at country level.

Its in this regard, the role of IFP become all the more important considering its vast membership bases in 64 countries in the world. IFP in partnership with A4SD may take an important lead in voicing out the opinions of civil societies and produce a joint statement in the next years HLPF and so on by illustrating the issues of shrinking space for the civil society and institutionalizing SDG 16, apart from organizing various national level training and capacity building workshops through out the year with their national and regional partners.