26 April 2017

UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development 2017 was held with wide participation from civil society

UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD), was held between 24-25 April 2017 in Geneva, to follow up on and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UNECE region. The forum aimed to bring together UN representatives, member states, and all stakeholders such as civil society, academia and the private sector.

The first day of the meeting was the preparatory civil society consultation, which brought together more than 80 civil society representatives from EU, Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Western Balkans and Turkey, Northern America and Central Asia, with a wide representation from all sectors such as people with disabilities, children and youth, migrants and diaspora, workers and trade unions, farmers, small and medium enterprises, science and academia, environment and development NGOs and women. The CSO representatives discussed the current situation regarding the SDG implementation at national and subregional levels, and identified the gaps and challenges in realizing the Agenda 2030 by taking a close look at the thematic areas that will be discussed this year at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF).

On the 24th, International Planned Parenthood Federation and Women’s Major Group also organized a lunchtime roundtable between countries that have volunteered for the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) and civil society, to enhance meaningful dialogue on the development of VNR, discuss challenges and opportunities and the participation of the civil society as well as to share best practices and ideas on how to meaningfully engage civil society in implementation and reporting of the goals under review at this year’s HLPF. At the round table, Yeşim Erkan, from Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways presented civil society’s recommendations, among others: “a multi sectoral coordination mechanism on SDGs should be established/strengthened for the effective implementation, monitoring and review of the SDGs. It should be a holistic approach, involving different, relevant mechanisms and levels of the state”. She emphasized the integral role of independent civil society organizations in these mechanisms.

The second day of the forum, brought together key policy makers and non-governmental actors (United Nations system, other regional and international organizations, civil society, private sector, academia) and included two segments: the “policy segment” which took place after the opening speeches delivered by the UN representatives, and the “peer learning segment”. The policy segment, was dedicated to the second year of the SDGs in the region, and aimed at cross-sectoral exchange and discussion with an integrated perspective on the SDG agenda. The succeeding peer learning segment, consisted of three parallel roundtables on 1) National and Local Adaptation of SDGs, 2) Subregional Cooperation for SDG implementation and 3) Data and Monitoring. UNECE Civil Society Group delivered their combined statements during the round tables. At the Data and Monitoring round table, civil society representative Marianne Haslegrave from COMMAT asked about the ways in which “we can bring data collection and implementation of the 2030 Agenda together and involve other stakeholders, including civil society organizations and academia”.  Sylvia Beales from Stakeholder Group on Ageing raised a question about “the reason behind the overall lack of data for left behind groups, including older people and people with disabilities, at national and country levels” on behalf of civil society. You can access the statements here.

As an outcome of the preparatory civil society consultation on the 24th, the demands were drafted and delivered on the second day of the forum. The statement strongly addressed the rising issues of the region that would bring the realization of the Agenda to a halt, such as authoritarianism, racism and xenophobia, increasing corporate power, shrinking civil society space, attacks on the rights to freedom of association and assembly. The statement called the member states of the region to acknowledge the multidimensional aspects of inequality that people face and ensure women’s participation at local, national, regional and global levels; secure proper coverage of sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality; and guarantee that women’s rights are mainstreamed across all the SDGs. The statement also stressed that financing for development must be adequate and accountable to achieve the SDGs and the global indicators’ framework must be in line with human rights obligations. Also, as an outcome of the civil society consultation, the CSOs of the region asserted that they will be working on institutionalizing the CSO engagement mechanism and asked for the support of UNECE and its member states for this to happen. You can access the full statement that was presented on the second day of the forum by Nurgul Djanaeva from Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan (FWNGO) on behalf of civil society here.

The outcomes of the roundtables were reported back at the closing session, in which civil society could also made its closing intervention. The CSOs’ statement, delivered by Berfu Seker from Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, emphasized the CSOs demands from UN bodies to support and encourage inclusiveness, transparency and civil society participation at all levels. You can access the full statement here.

This article was written by Berfu Şeker, Advocacy Officer and Yeşim Erkan, Advocacy Coordinator from our member organisation Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) – New Ways, based in Turkey.

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