18 December 2014
Mobilizing for Impact in 2015: Inspiring Action for People and Planet
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To achieve good outcomes from key processes culminating in 2015, we must mobilize both political will and public engagement at all levels.

2015 is Time for Global Action to end poverty, transform all lives and protect the planet.

You may have heard that non-violent transformative change comes from “the pressure of argument and the argument of pressure.” In other words, when people make their leaders understand both the changes they want to see, and that there are consequences in not taking the demanded action, change is realized. To achieve good outcomes from key processes culminating in 2015 – from the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, linking to Financing for Development (FfD), and thinking further ahead to the climate change negotiations – we must mobilize both political will and public engagement at all levels.

Three elements are critical to such mobilization and strategic influencing: advocacy (policy analysis and evidence gathering); strategic communications (informing all stakeholders – public and leaders – about the sort of change you want to see); and finally the mobilization itself (inspiring people to demand change and undertake lobbying). In linking up the three strands, we maximize the chances of bringing about meaningful change for people and planet.

Action/2015 is a civil society initiative, accompanied by the UN to ensure a connection with the intergovernmental level, because 2015 will be a year of historic opportunity to take action for people and the planet. The complementary UN mobilization effort “2015: Time for Global Action” is inspired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who recently stated in his Synthesis Report (Road to Dignity by 2030) that “the stars are aligned for the world to take historic action to transform lives and protect the planet.”

But the transformative decisions necessary to seize this historic opportunity will not be taken without action at the national and regional levels. Negotiators in New York must arrive to the table with people’s aspirations in mind; heads of state and government must respond to these aspirations by giving the right instructions to their negotiators and showing up in September 2015 to adopt a decision that will make these aspirations real. Lobbying here at the UN should be buttressed by demands for inclusion at all levels, backed by evidence and a loud call for transformative action.

The UN-led “global conversation” including the MY World options survey has elicited people’s aspirations and channeled over 7 million voices into the intergovernmental negotiations (see www.worldwewant2015.org). However, citizens constructively applying direct pressure for change – perhaps using the survey results as key evidence for their demands – is a step further. People have demonstrated not only the need to express their aspirations but also their determination to work with their leaders, both to ensure strong outcomes from intergovernmental negotiations, and to be involved in making sure that the promises are effectively carried out.

Only by involving people in shaping and delivering such a complex and integrated agenda will it be truly universal and sustainable. These are the stakes for mobilizing action and advocacy. This is because mobilizing for transformative and sustainable action builds ownership in the outcome. Once it is adopted, the same citizenry is part and parcel of implementing the agreement and monitoring its impacts. So this is about mobilizing both leaders and the public, to make this agenda work.

Here is another way to look at it: people are not only advocates for change but also agents of change. If this is a people-centered agenda, and you’ve involved people in shaping it, they are agents themselves, actually delivering projects, changing their individual behaviors, speaking up for their communities and constituencies, reaching out to local authorities and parliamentarians. Promises made at the global level can become tangible and impactful actions on the ground, as long people are empowered and included as agents of change.

We can learn an important lesson from the history of civil society/popular mobilization around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A sole focus on global mobilization to influence a global political process is not sufficient; to ensure an adequate and lasting outcome, national and regional levels must be reached as well. The civil society driven Action/2015 global mobilization effort reflects the need to move toward a more decentralized, movement campaigning model.

Mindful of the necessity of uplifting and connecting ongoing campaigns on rights, equality, poverty and climate change, the vision of the Action/2015 effort is a thousand flowers blooming separately, but pointing in the same direction for change for people and planet. Or to take another image, civil society has determined that what is needed is a flotilla, not a command and control battleship. In every country and on various issues, the approach will be different. There is a place for national, regional and thematic campaigns. We just need to link everything together and aggregate the collective effort to illustrate global impact and relevance. Action/2015 will be officially launched globally between the 1st and 15th of January.

With 2015 as a year of historic opportunity, taking decisions that affect people and planet, everyone has a responsibility to play their part, to take an interest in what is happening and demand an outcome that corresponds to their aspirations. Member States, in turn, have a responsibility to deliver on that vision.

Opinions in this piece reflect the personal views of the author.

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