NEW YORK (May 7, 2013)— by Eleanor Blomstrom

May is a busy month for the Post-Rio+20 and the Post-2015 processes. Among the upcoming meetings and events are the launch of the draft report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) on May 7, the posting of the draft resolution for the high level political forum (hlpf) expected this week, the 3rd meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) May 22-24, and the release of the final report of the  High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda on May 31. The Expert Committee on a Sustainable Development Financing Strategy is being formed, with recently selected co-facilitators. Many other meetings and consultations are also being held around the world and online during, and long past May (e.g. thematic, regional and national consultations). And each of these events presents an opportunity for civil society engagement.

There is still some question about how coherent the processes of Post-Rio+20 and Post-2015 will be. By any number of accounts, the processes will be coherent, but how to achieve the coherence is a work in progress, with some danger of remaining on 2 tracks – post-2015 and post-Rio+20, which could be seen as – siloed – poverty and sustainability tracks. The UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform states, “There is broad agreement that the two processes should be closely linked and should ultimately converge in one global development agenda beyond 2015 with sustainable development at its core.” It further acknowledges the process is led by Member States, with participation from stakeholders, facilitation of a global conversation and support in various inputs by the UN, and overall leadership by the Secretary General and the One Secretariat.  While few Member States or civil society organizations will advocate actively for a two track world, some may be working behind the scenes and through complementary processes to maintain 2 tracks.

The idea of a global framework that builds on different inputs – the OWG process for SDGs, in its dedication to integrating the 3 dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, social and economic); the lessons learned and unfinished business of the MDGs; the consultations at global, regional, national and local level, led by the UN and by civil society organizations; the technical and practical inputs from experts and practitioners at all levels; and the experience of those most marginalized – is compelling. And in a world of scarce resources, deepening poverty and inequalities, and interlinked crises, the coherence can feel like an absolute necessity.

Concern that 2 tracks will remain are in part due to the historical separation in addressing poverty and sustainable development, where the 2 were sometimes seen as incompatible. Or if not incompatible, at least not directly relevant – much less interlinked – to one another. But as recent events, civil society action and political rhetoric reveal, that perception may be changing.

Civil Society is taking a proactive role in the coherence of the 2 agendas, recognizing that working together and understanding common goals will bring more power to the voices of the marginalized, the rights holders, the people on the ground. Civil society also recognizes the pragmatic issues of development and funding priorities. And, not least, the urgent matters for ensuring civil society participation, which is being threatened in a number of ways.

To officially begin a conversation (at least among international organizations active in around UN Headquarters), some civil society members held a meeting in April 16, as the first of an expected series of meetings. The “Major Groups and Post 2015 constituency consultation on post Rio+20/Post 2015sought to engage different constituencies in the landscape of post-2015/post-Rio+20, especially focusing on upcoming actions and coordinated advocacy.Since the Open Working Group may consider the High Level Panel report in its work, and the high level political forum will likely have a role in the SDGs, the constituencies will benefit from working together on specific opportunities for coordination around the OWG and the hlpf, including in the participation modalities of civil society (post-Rio+20), as well as the HLP (post-2015).

Across the post to post landscape, civil society will continue to engage. CS has over and over again demanded a rights-based framework for post-2015, and working together can lead and promote discussion on what that framing would look like – including specific suggestions to implement it – as inputs to the intergovernmental process.

As a major player in the intergovernmental process, the Open Working Group is off to a fairly good start. The 2nd session (April 17-19) focused on poverty eradication and conceptualizing the SDGs and has a co-chair’s summary and reporting from IISD. The format of the 3-day meeting made space for a mix of statements and panel presentation and discussion, which led to interaction among the delegates and found some common areas of potential agreement – for example, the idea of multi-dimensional poverty that goes far beyond income poverty. Also, numerous MS recognized inequalities between and within countries, which is a step forward. The recognition is definitely welcome to those working closely on gender equality and women’s rights. A stronger recognition and commitment to addressing the underlying, institutionalized inequalities that are the backbone of current economic, trade and consumption and production structures is needed. Major Groups were able to raise their flags to contribute to the discussions, and the Women’s Major Group (WMG) contributed in both sessions.

The OWG process is ongoing until the report due to the General Assembly by September 2014 (with at least one interim report expected in September 2013). Through February, the OWG will be in discussion mode, before turning attention to negotiating the content of the proposed goals. Now is the time to engage with the OWG – at UN missions and in capital – to ensure that the broader sustainable development framework integrating the environmental, social and economic dimensions from a rights-based and equality-focus is not lost in the details of goals.

Recent blogs are looking at the issues of the OWG and the larger context of Post-2015. A CAFOD blog has called the OWG, the “new kid on the block” – an interesting assessment to those of us who have been following the OWG from its conception. But, in terms of the MDGs and traditional development agenda, it is the new kid on the block. The blog also notes some concerns about the OWG in keeping a big picture view, linking back to Post-2015 and developing clear modalities for stakeholder participation, which are important – especially when considering the SDGs proposed by the OWG may be a critical component of the Post-2015 framework

Another blog is optimistic about the OWG, noting that governments are investing in it, via reasonably high level participation, and states, “this is the major place to be engaged [if interested in sustainable development] as the outcome from 2015 will have a huge impact on funding sustainable development and priorities of governments, the UN, the Bretton Woods Institutions and stakeholders over the period 2015-2030.” It is critical to recognize the impact that the Post-Rio+20 and Post-2015 outcomes will have on funding and development priorities.

Also, Assistant Secretary General Amina Mohammed, the lead in the UN One Secretariat for post-2015, is planning to meet with the co-facilitators of all the groups in the post-2015 process. This is another positive step toward a coherent framework and the necessary structural transformations toward an equitable, sustainable world.

Finally, as these processes continue and find their coherence, WEDO and our allies will pursue and create spaces to ensure that women’s rights, gender equality and sustainable development remain front and center in the intergovernmental process and policy-making for the complex landscape. The language in discussions inside and outside the UN, and on paper, is important to ensure a rights-based agenda. But, more important is to ensure that the rhetoric has an impact on the lives of women – ensuring meaningful and inclusive processes and implementation.


Third meeting; 22-24 May 2013: i) Food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture, desertification, land degradation and drought; ii) water and sanitation.
Fourth meeting; 17-19 June 2013: i) Employment and decent work for all, social protection, youth, education and culture; ii) Health, Population dynamics
Fifth meeting; 25-27 November, 2013: i) Sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial system and external debt sustainability); ii) infrastructure development (1.5 days); ii) Energy (1.5 days)
Sixth session; 9-13 December, 2013: Means of implementation; Global partnership for achieving sustainable development (2 days); Needs of countries in special situations, African countries, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as well as the specific challenges facing the middle-income countries (2 days); Human rights, the right to development, global governance (1 day)
Seventh meeting; 6-10 January, 2014: Sustainable cities and human settlements, sustainable transport (2 days); Sustainable consumption and production (including chemicals and waste) (1.5 days); Climate change and disaster risk reduction (1.5 days)
Eighth session; 3-7 February, 2014: Oceans and seas, forests, biodiversity (2 days); Promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment (1.5 days); Conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance (1.5 day)

The sessions past June may change, as the members of the OWG indicated flexibility is necessary.

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