High Level Political Forum 2018 Side Event
16 July 2018, 18.30: Conference Room 4, UN Building
(the first four bullet points are from the introduction by Astrup and Lomøy to the new Norad principles on civil society, June 2018i)
The Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision for the future. They emphasise the role of the state in terms of responsibility, national ownership, review and follow-up of the implementation process. The SDGs also call for the “intensive engagement” of civil society. The underlying principles of the SDGs of “leaving no one behind” and “realising human rights for all” are the backbone of Norad’s (Norway’s) civil society support.
A strong civil society is a key feature of any democratic social order and a goal in its own right. Civil society is key to ensuring public engagement in defining, implementing and monitoring strategies at all levels, for achieving sustainable development targets.
Civil society plays a key role in monitoring and holding authorities accountable, in challenging power structures, setting the agenda and developing policy, and bringing people together around a common agenda to exert influence for a democratic society. Not least, civil society plays an important role in delivering services to marginalised groups and individuals, who are subject to discrimination or live in fragile or humanitarian settings. This work is demanding and takes time.
At the same time, the space for civil society to organise and foster civic engagement is shrinking, with governments, business actors and extremist groups being the main offenders. Across the world, this includes an intensification of attacks against the freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. In their most recent annual reports Civicus and Human Rights Watch point to increasingly divided societies around the world, and restricted space in more than 100 countries – a list that includes a number of new additions.
Peaceful civil society organisations promoting democracy, human rights and sustainable development operate in an increasingly restrictive environment across the globe, varying from legal restrictions and physical violence to subtler forms of intimidationii. Civil society is under pressure.
Standing up to governments and companies harming the environment – our environment – sometimes takes courage. It can be dangerous. Too many pay the ultimate prize. Last year, 197 environmental defenders were killed. iii
Without a vibrant civil society, brave citizens that come together for a better world, we will fail to reach the SDGs.
Human rights are integral to SDG implementation – that was made clear in 2015. The protection of human rights defendersiv and civil societyv is an important priority to Norway. This year also marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Resolution of Human Rights Defenders.
We need arenas outside the government, the market and the family that are created by individual and collective actions, organizations, and institutions to advance shared interests. This is what civil society offers. It helps build trust and open, inclusive and resilient societies, connecting people, ideas and activities.
For this purpose, the Norwegian delegation is broad, and includes both a representative from civil society working for sustainable development, a youth organization, a trade union representative and other stakeholders.
We have not included them in the Norwegian delegation to be nice: In Norway, more than 80% of the population are members of a non-governmental organization. Over half of the population participate in voluntary work annually. They are an important part of Norwegian society. Such organisations played a vital role in the political and social development over the last few hundred years.vi It is unlikely that Norway would have had one of the world’s most developed and open democracies without civil society.
Norway is characterised by a well-developed Nordic model: organisations that both receive funding from the government, but also cooperate with and frequently criticise our government. A vibrant democracy needs impulses from its citizens.
More needs to be done to recognise the links between environmental protection, human rights and social rights. Challenges facing indigenous populations is a good example of this
Governments, private sector and multilateral organisations can work better with civil society to ensure the voice of marginalised groups are heard; civil society needs to be strengthened and this can only be achieved when stakeholders work together – government, business, civil society and other actors that can help reach the SDGs.
The side event is organized by Together 2030, a member of the Steering Group of the Major Groups and other Stakeholder Coordination Mechanism. Climate change and other global challenges demand societies to become more and more flexible to withstand crises, reinventing themselves in resilient, integrated, sustainable, multi-dimensional and inclusive ways. The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development recognizes the importance of this approach, but more is needed in order to identify concrete, collective and funded action that move societies to be more sustainable, inclusive and resilient.
One critical element of a resilient community is the open participation of civil society. This event builds on a new report from Together 2030 on Civil Society SDG coalitions and the challenges that they face in in promoting the participatory implementation of the SDGs at national level. The survey identified that capacity, the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships and the role of government in creating a participatory environment were critical. These themes are reinforced in the 2018 Together 2030 Perceptions Survey on Stakeholder Participation in the 2030 Agenda Follow Up and Review, which will be launched at the HLPF. As the 2030 Agenda makes clear, the SDGs are interlinked, and the participation of civil society in issues such as those covered in SDG 15 is as critical as on SDG 6 or 17.
The event will explore the pressure placed on civil society by government, corporations and other actors, including the opposition to the integration of a human rights agenda into the implementation of the SDGs. We will be hearing from a range of stakeholders and how their agenda can support, or hinder, the inclusion of the voice of civil society in national discussions.
Moderator – Philipp Schönrock, Director, Cepei
The Government and Donor: Mr Jens Frølich Holte, State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Enablers or disrupters:
Pietro Bertazzi, Head of Sustainable Development, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
Youth delegate representative, supported by World Vision International
Stakeholders under pressure: Joan Carling, Secretary-General, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Enabling environments for stakeholder engagement: Isidoro Santana, Minister, Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development, Dominican Republic
Ideas for improving the implementation and monitoring process: Jean Patrice Ngoyi, Executive Director, Justice, Development and Peace Commission of Nigeria and Together 2030 Core Group member
III. Key Questions
1. How can governments work in a more collaborative way with civil society to increase participation of people in SDG implementation, follow up and review?
2. Is the civil society perception that they are not being meaningfully included in SDG implementation, follow up and review right?
3. What can civil society learn from the first 3 years of implementing the SDGs about how to work in a multi-stakeholder environment?
4. What can the international community do to reduce the pressure on human rights defenders who work on SDG implementation?
5. What are the evidence gaps for a multi-stakeholder approach and how should we look to fill them?
6. What are the mechanisms we need for understanding other stakeholders? Are we speaking the same language, and how do the SDGs provide a frameworks for multi-stakeholder engagement for development?
To reach the SDGs, broad collaboration is needed. None of us can do this alone.
Government co-sponsors: Norway, Ecuador (tbc)
Civil Society Partners: Together 2030, CEPEI, Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment, JDPC, Leonard Cheshire Disability, PhilSEN, Save Matabeleland Coalition, Sightsavers, World Vision International.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Organization name: Together 2030 (proposal submitted on Together 2030’s behalf by CEPEI)
Type of organization: Accredited NGO
Complete name of the contact person: Philipp Schönrock