“Leaving no one behind” is a principle theme of the Agenda 2030 adopted by the 193 UN Member-States, believing that it is imperative in order to provide for an inclusive development process. In fact, it is very unlikely that the 17 SDG’s mentioned in the agenda would be achieved without a collective participation of the global community. This year’s High Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) witnessed a record number of participants. It is a unique UN event because it not only provides for the convening of Member-States but it allows for non-state actors such as youth, farmers, indigenous peoples, trade unions, women, persons with disabilities, and non-government organizations to participate in the discussion as well (in fact 2400 representatives of these non-member constituencies registered this year to participate in the HLPF), all leading to the adoption of a final Ministerial Declaration by the Member-States. However, a handful of countries have spoken out saying that they will not pass the Declaration if it includes strong language on climate change, gender Issues and foreign occupation. Needless to say, if the Declaration does not pass, then the HLPF will conclude as only a partially successful diplomatic event.
Civil Society At Work
In order to participate in the HLPF, the registered non-member participants are organized in the Major Group and Other Stakeholders System (MGoS). MGoS includes the 9 major groups which were listed in the original UN Resolution: Women, Children and Youth, Business and Industry, Scientific and Technological Community, Workers and Trade Unions, local governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, Indigenous People, and Farmers, as well as an open-ended number of additional Stakeholder Groups, which at this time includes local communities, volunteer groups, philanthropies, academic institutions, migrants, older persons, and persons with disabilities, and more are pending. A very important outcome of the Rio+20 Conference was the document called “The Future We Want,” which outlined the role that these Major Groups and Stakeholder Groups can play equally in the Sustainable Development Agenda to create a better future.
Members of MGoS have created a coordination mechanism to facilitate their participation and collaboration during the HLPF. To facilitate this process, the UN agency organizing this process, UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs Division of Sustainable Development (UN DESA/DSD) created a website called the “Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform”, on which everything about the SDGs that you can imagine is made available publicly, from general descriptions of every part of the process, to position papers, statements, calendars of events and contact information for all the major players, all in the spirit of being inclusive by enabling civil society, all other stakeholders and theoretically even the public to participate in the event. Thus, a record number of 2,458 participants have registered for the HLPF this year, compared to 2015’s number of 700. The Director of Communications for the Coordination Mechanism of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders at the HLPF said, “We are committed to working with governments accountable for SDG implementation, recognizing the urgency of this work and the interlinkages of the goals.”
During the HLPF, civil society and all the other stakeholders will be participating under the guidance of DESA/DSD in hundreds of events along-side Member-States discussing and working on the theories and details of how to implement the SDGs, all of which will lead to the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration by the Member-States which is scheduled to be announced on Wednesday, July 19, at the final session of the HLPF. The main issue however, is that despite all of these efforts, a handful of countries have spoken out and said that it is unlikely that they will sign the Declaration because of issues with the language being used. For example, the United States does not accept the language on climate change, while Israel does not accept references to foreign occupation, and Australia and Canada are protesting language on gender issues. In order for the event to have a successful conclusion, civil society and the other stakeholders must deal with perhaps the most challenging task of all - changing the minds of the lead delegates of these Member-States, and convincing other Member-States to help.
How can you help?
It is not impossible to push for the adoption of the Declaration and change the minds of the countries who are holding off on issues of gender equality, climate change, and foreign occupation. Possibly through our efforts thus far, His Excellency Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, President of ECOSOC, has decided to present the 2017 HLPF Ministerial Declaration to the countries, with its original content. Although it is unclear at this stage whether or not all the countries will sign it, this move shows that he is at least confident that the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration will be successful in the end.
It is unlikely that the US and Israel will change their position on these matters, thus civil society should focus on a greater effort to defend the language on gender and inequality in the current Declaration. The best way to do so is by joining the various campaigns that have been set up by groups including the Women’s Major Group and the NGO Major Group. To find out more information on joining the “Letter Campaign” click here.
Your voices can and should be hear!