ECOSOC Meeting Highlights Ways to Strengthen Participation, Resilience
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An ECOSOC Special Meeting reviewed issues of collective action and participation in facilitating more inclusive governance and SDG implementation.

Panels discussed technology developments and resilience to environmental and economic shocks.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted five areas that demand greater attention.

23 May 2018: A special meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) demonstrated that, without local participation in political and economic decision-making, marginalized groups risk being left behind as countries seek to make progress towards sustainable development, recover from natural disasters, and increase resilience to future economic, social and environmental shocks.

The special meeting, which focused on the theme, ‘towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all,’ reviewed global trends, innovative national approaches and how to strengthen cross-sector collaboration. ECOSOC President Marie Chatardova opened the day-long meeting by stressing the importance of both whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to SDG implementation. Through four panel sessions, national, local and sectoral examples showed how the SDGs can be translated from global to local level, through capacity-building and participation initiatives.

A panel on global trends highlighted economic growth, but also increasing risks due to rising inequality and climate change. Speakers cited existing agreements like the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as recognizing that governments have already agreed to reduce climate risk. With tens of millions of people being displaced or pushed back into poverty by environmental events each year, they said, participation is key to setting disaster response and recovery plans, in order to ensure that vulnerable populations are prepared, not disproportionately affected, and able to access or mobilize resources to rebuild.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed recalled the preparatory event for the Special Meeting, which took place in Prague, Czech Republic, from 26-27 March 2018. The preparatory discussions had highlighted the importance of participatory governance, to ensure that goals are achieved collectively and leave no one behind. Such collective goal-setting and realization is built on a foundation of constructive engagement between not only government entities from global to local, but also civil society actors, businesses and academia. Mohammed highlighted five areas for improvement in inclusive decision-making: 1) fostering an enabling environment for participation; 2) including women; 3) recognizing youth contributions; 4) recognizing the benefits of climate action; and 5) following through on open, transparent reviews of SDG implementation.

Pro-poor and gender-sensitive policy frameworks require sound data, which Mohieldin called “the new oil.”

Another panel recognized advances in information and communications technology (ICT) – the subject of SDG target 9.c – as enabling the development of inclusive and people-centered societies. Panelists highlighted that e-governance and open data can strengthen citizen participation while enabling pro-poor and gender-sensitive policy frameworks. Such frameworks are built on sound data, which Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group, noted as being of incredible value, calling it “the new oil.” However, disaggregated data collection and analysis is only possible when governments give space to and enable participation by variety of stakeholders.

Closing remarks by Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), stressed that no single sector or government entity is able to implement the 2030 Agenda on its own. Going beyond partnerships, regular consultation is needed across agencies and organizations that may already be formally partnered, to ensure that collaboration yields new learnings and approaches that deliver outcomes for all.

The President’s summary of the meeting will comprise an input to the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Among the side events during the Special Meeting, a discussion hosted by the World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA) and the governments of the Czech Republic, Georgia and Timor-Leste examined national experiences in fostering inclusive policies through the lens of implementing SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). [Meeting webpage] [UN press release] [Deputy Secretary-General remarks] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on preparatory meeting] [Side event concept note]


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