By Vladimir Cuk and Rodrigo Messias
Vladimir Cuk is the Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), a network of 15 global and regional organisations of persons with disabilities and their families – bringing together over 1000 organizations. Vladimir is responsible for coordinating the IDA Secretariat and IDA advocacy towards the UN System, in particular the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has received seven awards in recognition for his academic achievements, has published a book, and delivered hundreds of presentations and workshops across the globe. Twitter: @VladimirCuk2 @IDA_CRPD_Forum
Rodrigo Messias is a Policy Officer at the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) since June 2013, where he oversees the engagement of the Network and its member subnational governments in the UN processes on sustainable development. In this position, he acts as organizing partner of the Local Authorities Major Group and Co-Chair of the HLPF Major Group and other Stakeholders’ Coordination Mechanism. Previously, he was International Officer at the São Paulo State Secretariat for the Environment (2011-2014). He holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of São Paulo – USP and is currently a master’s student on territorial planning and environmental management at the Department of Geography in the University of Barcelona (UB). Twitter: @nrg4SD
The first year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was welcomed by a wealth of opportunities for civil society and stakeholder engagement, creating space for stakeholders to participate and contribute substantively to the sustainable development agenda and its follow up processes. This was especially observed during the 2016 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
During this years’ HLPF, a total of 116 interventions were delivered by Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS). The collective presence of the MGoS was further witnessed with members taking the floor 65 times, in addition to 7 interventions during the general debate, nine during the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), and 35 representatives acting as lead moderators and discussants. Moreover, the MGoS submitted 11 thematic papers and participated in 37 side events, including hosting a 1 –day business forum, attended by 300 private sector representatives, and also a 3-hour dedicated formal session, in which 12 MGoS and 7 Member States took the floor.
These contributions were delivered in an organized and collective manner, in large part due to the Major Groups and other Stakeholders Coordination Mechanism, which has acted as the central platform and guide for MGoS’s participation in the High-level Political Forum.
Likewise, these opportunities within the UN thus constitute a very effective path to pressure Member States in regards to the urgency in engaging stakeholders on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
As the HLPF is the space for reporting of efforts at all levels, the strong presence of stakeholders will contribute to hold governments accountable for their national efforts.
The Road to Participation
During the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, there was widespread recognition that successfully implementing sustainable development would require the active participation of non-state actors. Reflecting this sentiment, the Summit’s outcome document “Agenda 21” formalized nine sectors of society as the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development. Two decades later, during the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, commonly known as the Rio+20, Member States emphasized the role of the existing Major Groups, while also recognizing the need to invite the participation of additional stakeholders in UN processes related to sustainable development.
Together, the ‘Major Groups’ defined in Agenda 21 and the newer ‘other Stakeholders’ now encompass women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, farmers, local communities, volunteer groups, philanthropic foundations, migrants and families, older persons, persons with disabilities, among others. These representative groups came together to establish an inclusive framework to organize the participation of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) through a coordination mechanism, in close collaboration with DESA/DSD.
With such a disparate and large cross-section of non-state stakeholders, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations between 2013 and 2015, provided excellent opportunities for the MGoS to consolidate their involvement and begin defining a vision for future collaborations.
As the main SDG implementation review and monitoring mechanism, the HLPF is a unique opportunity for the MGoS to collectively contribute and report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The resolution “Format and organizational aspects of the high-level political forum on sustainable development” (A/Res/67/290) confirmed the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda as an inclusive and participatory, by formally granting the right of MGoS to: (1) To attend all official meetings of the forum; (2) To have access to all official information and documents; (3) To intervene in official meetings; (4) To submit documents and present written and oral contributions; (5) To make recommendations and; (6) To organize side events and round tables, in cooperation with Member States and the Secretariat. The same document encouraged MGoS to establish and maintain effective coordination mechanisms for participation in the HLPF to ensure effective, broad and balanced participation by region and by type of organization. (A/res/67/290 paragraph 16)
The Current Coordination Mechanism
In light of the above opportunities, the MGoS have refined and solidified their collaboration through a coordination mechanism, regulated by a Terms of Reference, which lays out the format, procedures and obligations of how MGoS may effectively contribute to the HLPF. The coordination mechanism is co-chaired by two elected representatives, one from the Major Groups and another from the other Stakeholders, on a rotational basis. The Coordination Mechanism is self-managed, independent and open to all representatives of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders, while also maintaining a more centralized Steering Group to facilitate its concrete operation and to broaden participation.
On the UN side, the coordination of the inputs and contributions of the MGoS to intergovernmental processes on sustainable development is led by UNDESA/Division for Sustainable Development (DSD). Therefore, UNDESA/DSD act as the Secretariat of this framework, supporting and facilitating communication between the MGoS Coordination Mechanism, the President of ECOSOC and the President of the General Assembly.
Additionally, the Coordination Mechanism is expected to organize workshops and other activities to improve modalities of participation and share best-practices on the work towards achieving the SDGs. Furthermore, it foresees the establishment of thematic working groups or task forces to further discuss specific topics and issues that are considered relevant to the 2030 Agenda. For example, currently members have highlighted the need to address reporting methods and mechanisms of the distinct efforts being undertaken. Hence, this likely will be the main topic of a dedicated workshop to be organized tentatively in April 2017.
Ultimately, the strength of the coordination mechanism to effectively contribute to the HLPF, and largely to the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda, lies in the inclusivity and diversity of its members.
As an open and evolving mechanism, it provides not only a solid platform for engagement at the HLPF, but an opportunity to learn and exchange with like-minded stakeholders from all parts of the world. To mention one exemplary action, the coordination mechanism is also considering a survey to take note and compile experiences of the MGoS.
It is in this spirit, as the Co-Chairs of the MGoS coordination mechanism, that we sincerely encourage you to actively participate and to make full use of the coordination mechanism in communicating your messages relating to sustainable development.