15 May 2018
ECOSOC Gathering Highlights Best Practices in Participation for SDGs
Photo by Children and Young People Living for Peace, Nigeria
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The Preparatory Meeting of the 2018 ECOSOC Special Meeting on the theme ‘Towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation’ showcased national best practices towards SDG target 16.7.

Efforts by ECOSOC have promoted inclusion and participation in intergovernmental processes.

The 2018 ECOSOC Special Meeting will be held on 23 May.

May 2018: In preparation for the 2018 Special Meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), participants gathered in Prague, Czech Republic, to highlight long-term, systematic measures to ensure equal participation by all to achieve sustainable development. According to an informal summary released in May, the preparatory meeting reviewed national approaches for advancing participation to achieve the SDGs, as well as the roles of the UN and ECOSOC.

Convened by ECOSOC President Marie Chatardova and hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic from 26-27 March 2018, the preparatory meeting was also organized with the Government of Colombia. The meeting precedes and supports ECOSOC’s Special Meeting on the theme ‘Towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation,’ to be held in May 2018. SDG target 16.7 calls for responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

During a high-level panel on ‘Achieving the 2030 Agenda through Participation of All,’ representatives from the Czech Republic and Colombia highlighted how each country has built trusted, accountable institutions. High-level speakers also noted that retreats from multilateralism threaten global progress on sustainable development.

The meeting called attention to the inclusive process leading up to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. In moving from global to local, speakers said maintaining a high degree of stakeholder participation will be critical to delivering sustainable development outcomes that meet local needs. However, participants stressed the challenge presented by social norms, particularly in areas where some groups’ participation in decision-making is limited. There was also a focus on communicating the SDGs to young people, marginalized groups, and others with potentially reduced “civic literacy,” who may be less politically engaged. Some discussions noted that the ECOSOC Youth Forum and other fora promote inclusion at the intergovernmental level, while the bulk of the agenda showcased best practices at the national level on participatory and inclusive governance.

Armenia, Morocco, Thailand and Uganda are integrating the SDGs into their national development plans.

Speakers from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, India, Tunisia and Zambia offered examples of initiatives that promote resilient and inclusive societies. Topics included e-consultation, participatory budgeting, education and gender equality, as well as the broader inclusion of civil society in the decision-making process. It was also noted that Armenia, Morocco, Thailand and Uganda are integrating the SDGs into their national development plans, as has already been done in Colombia and Ethiopia. Across the countries, strengthened public engagement aimed to increase awareness of the SDGs.

A trip to the Czech City of Kolin showcased the use of mobile apps and online platforms for citizens to engage, and a curriculum for local leaders on matching community needs to resources. Linking the lessons learned from the city to the country presentations, common themes emerged on the need to foster information sharing as well as a culture of participation. Trust and scale are key enabling factors, participants said, along with incentives to participate in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

The ECOSOC President’s informal summary of the meeting also notes an interest in stronger cooperation at the global level. Examples of global efforts to increase and enhance participatory governance include the UN Environment Programme’s e-portal, which allows major groups and other stakeholders (MGoS) to contribute to resolutions. The examples reveal which institutional requirements shape local, national and international progress towards meaningful stakeholder participation in the achievement of resilient and inclusive societies.

According to the summary, the presentation of these national- and global-level initiatives at the July 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will expand the knowledge base on SDG implementation.

To inform the Preparatory Meeting, the Governments of the Czech Republic and Colombia convened four informal breakfasts from November 2017 to March 2018, each engaging a different stakeholder group from civil society: NGOs, local government representatives, the private sector and academia.

The ECOSOC Special Meeting will convene on 23 May. [ECOSOC Preparatory Meeting agenda and speakers] [ECOSOC Preparatory Meeting concept note] [Informal Summary of the President] [Special Meeting concept note]

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