post201516 January 2015: In advance of the launch of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), in cooperation with a Stakeholder Steering Committee, held a preparatory forum for major groups and other civil society stakeholders.

Opening the forum on 16 January 2015, in New York, US, Lotta Tahtinen, DSD and Susan Alzner, NGLS, noted that the organizers had called for nominations for the Stakeholder Steering Committee, which led to the establishment of a 16-member committee that was gender balanced, geographically balanced and included a variety of expertise. Neva Frecheville, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), stressed the need to build the post-2015 development agenda on collaborative and constructive engagement, and to respond to a global agenda and broader challenges that characterize the post-2015 process.

Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya and Co-Facilitator for post-2015 negotiations, said the “political and operational space” between governments and civil society should be “very little if at all.” He noted that Member States, as a totality, are very enthusiastic about the engagement of civil society, especially “representative civil society.” He clarified that the post-2015 development agenda is not about poverty eradication only, but is more comprehensive, being a global agenda that includes global diversity, global environment, social aspects and the economics of development. He asked stakeholders to be “engaged, flexible and strategic.”

Ioannis Vrailas, EU, said the ultimate objective of the post-2015 development agenda is to leave no one behind. He expressed strong support for the participation of civil society, academia, private sector and other stakeholders in the post-2015 process. Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Interagency Affairs, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), noted the need for an agenda that can be understood and embraced, and that places vulnerable groups at the core. He called on stakeholders to advocate for the agenda and its implementation at the national and local levels.

Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council, said that after agreement on targets and indicators, it is necessary to discuss how human rights will be upheld in all aspects of implementation of the agenda, particularly for indigenous peoples. Irene Kagoya, Akina Mama Wa Afrika, said issue areas covered in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) received less attention, and emphasized the need for discussion on gender equality and women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and social protection.

Moderating the session on the UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report on the post-2015 development agenda, Alanieta Vakatale, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (PIANGO) and Beyond 2015 Regional Coordinator for the Pacific, urged “people planet and participation at the core of post-2015.” Mahjoub El Haiba, Interministerial Delegate for Human Rights, Morocco, mentioned the deep involvement of the government of Morocco in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) process, and said the government had, inter alia, improved governance and introduced child protection in the Constitution.

Alejandro Barrios, People’s Coalition of Food Sovereignty, cited the need to translate economic growth into shared prosperity. He added that the Synthesis Report lacks clear calls for participation of all women and has no reference to sexual rights. He said the foundation of environmental justice should be the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). Maryanne Diamond, International Disability Alliance, called for universal and common indicators shared across countries for common communication, and to ensure that peoples with disabilities are not left behind. Sandra Vermuyten, Public Services International, called for the use of the phrase “decent work” rather than “decent jobs,” and for accommodation of all excluded groups in the agenda.

Simona Mirela Miculescu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN, followed the presentations as a discussant, saying that the Synthesis Report does not convey the needed sense of urgency. She also said a common understanding of partnerships is needed, including how they are defined, encouraged, and made more effective. Ashwani Vasishth, Centre for Environment and Development, Sri Lanka, called for truly participatory approaches for the post-2015 and for deployment of technologies in all sectors.

Michael Douglas Grant, Canada, asked participants to be strategic so as to help negotiators reflect stakeholders’ views, and welcomed the Synthesis Report’s six essential elements, which he said capture key components of the agenda and “keep us closer to the Rio mandate.”

Norine Kennedy, US Council for International Business, highlighted three key areas that should have been better emphasized in the Synthesis Report: the need to consider governance, economic growth, empowerment and partnership first; productive partnerships; and the need for metrics and indicators aligned with what already exists in companies. Peter Wilson, UK, welcomed the six essential elements of the Synthesis Report, and stressed the importance of justice, means of implementation, leaving no one behind and partnerships. Bárbara del Castillo Niño, Transparencia Mexicana, said the role of business and the private sector is left out of the Synthesis Report, and stressed the need for businesses to work together with governments and citizens, rather than “going their own way.”

In an interactive discussion, participants: asked if disability should be referenced as target or indicator; welcomed reference to free prior and informed consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples; and called for strengthening national statistics commissions and for reviewing migratory flows. A participant said the six essential elements undermine goals negotiated during the OWG process and neglect the importance of gender justice.

In a panel discussion on ‘Means of implementation (MOI) and the global partnership for development,’ Arjun Karki, LDC Watch, stressed the need for: an increased ODA target; the quality and quantity of aid; and a global partnership based on historical responsibility and CBDR. Elenita Daño, ETC Group: Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, called for an increasing share of technological development to take place in, and for, developing countries.

Amit Narang, India, said the MOI debate should not be viewed in binary terms of “demanding and resisting countries,” but more constructively. With the expansion of the development agenda to cover all three dimensions of sustainable development and to be universal, he said, MOI must also expand. Ultimately, this agenda will test multilateralism and collaboration, he emphasized, and the need to pool common resources and create a development-friendly system. Guilherme De Aguiar Patriota, Brazil, called for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD 3) to not be a “pledging conference,” but to build a common vision about what international development will be supported by the UN system. He stressed the potential conflicts of interest when partnering with the private sector.

Daniel Platz, DESA’s Financing for Development Office (FfDO), called for all actors that can help implement the agenda to be included in it, particularly civil society and NGOs. Nancy Nyambura Wagi Maina, VSO Jitolee, said development cannot be sustained if it relies solely on technical and financial means, and stressed the importance of community-level volunteers in implementation.

In a panel discussion on ‘Follow-up and review,’ Martin Sajdik (Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), spoke in a personal capacity to say that both “monitoring” and “accountability” are important terms for this discussion, and stressed that the national level will be the most important for an all-encompassing review process. Ib Petersen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the UN, said that follow-up and review would not be a “control mechanism,” but important for sharing of experiences and lessons learned.

Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru to the UN, emphasized the need for: incentivizing voluntary participation of Member States; involvement of regional commissions; and crafting a people-centered process. Olivier Marc Zehnder, Switzerland, said that as we are facing challenges that are global in nature, there must also be a global review process. He said incentives for countries to participate will be crucial, as well as for the review to be coordinated with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR).

Kate Donald, Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), asked “Who’s afraid of accountability?” She said that though the SDGs will be voluntary political pledges, they should have robust, people-centered review mechanisms. She suggested that accountability might include reporting, monitoring by authorities, complaint mechanisms, data analysis, budget analysis, hearings, or a wide range of options. By allowing for better feedback loops and participation of citizens, she said review mechanisms will make the process more inclusive: “Anything less than full and meaningful inclusion makes it a lofty, but empty, agenda.” Emad Adly, Arab Network for Environment & Development, said that only with a strong review mechanism can you create a strong mechanism for implementation. He called for a participatory and partnership process that provides space for different stakeholders.

Dimitry Maksimychev, Russian Federation, said the agenda should avoid turning the monitoring and reporting mechanism into “something that will politicize the process and may ruin the understanding and common sense of direction of the global community.” Reinhard Krapp, Germany, said that “accountability” has nothing to do with conditionality, particularly because the SDGs are universal. He said monitoring and review should not be considered negatively, but positively.

Speakers then responded to questions about: how to measure and monetize change; a joint accountability platform; and the importance of cities and urban planning.

A final summary of the day’s proceedings was given by Shantal Munro-Knight and Maruxa Cardama, Representatives of the Stakeholder Steering Committee. Tim Mawe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, gave concluding remarks that praised the wide variety of inputs across the course of the discussion, and encouraged civil society to be “relentless in [their] engagement.” [Major Groups Website and Steering Committee Information] [Meeting Programme] [Official Summary] [DESA Press Release]