Major Groups Recommendations for Multi-Stakeholder Engagement with the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development GoalsAs part of the Rio+20 Conference follow up, governments stated that they would establish the 30 member inter-governmental Open Wo
Major Groups Recommendations for Multi-Stakeholder Engagement with the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

As part of the Rio+20 Conference follow up, governments stated that they would establish the 30 member inter-governmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by September 2012. Member States will nominate representatives from the five United Nations regional groups, with the aim of achieving fair, equitable, and balanced geographic representation. In addition, paragraph 248 of The Future We Want, instructs the United Nations “to establish an inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process on sustainable development goals that is open to all stakeholders”.

Thus, in order to adhere to the requirements of The Future We Want and maximize its effectiveness, the OWG needs to ensure that it has recognized, effective and ongoing engagement of stakeholders.
Therefore, we, the nine Major Groups established in 1992 for the Rio process on sustainable development, offer recommendations on how to ensure that the deliberations of the OWG will draw on broad multi-stakeholder input and expertise thus ensuring that the SDG processes and decisions are “inclusive and transparent”.

This paper builds on the central role the Major Groups played in Rio+20 processes and is being submitted to DESA in the spirit of our continued engagement in this area. This paper will also be sent to the President of the UN General Assembly and to the Permanent Representative of the Brazilian Mission to the UN for information.

As decisions on the modalities and governance of decision-making processes (such as the OWG) will begin in earnest in October 2012, this note offers recommendations on how multi-stakeholder engagement can ensure that
the SDG processes and decisions are “inclusive and transparent” as Rio+20 called for.

Finally, we offer these recommendations in recognition that civil society and other stakeholders’ ”Major Groups” will need to be involved in designing, implementing and evaluating sustainability, and therefore have a stake
in developing the SDGs. This requires the full and fair facilitation and representation of multi-stakeholder input to the OWG and other relevant processes for the post-2015 development agenda.
Nine Major Groups on 12:00 am, 22 Feb, 2013
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2:58 pm, 23 Apr, 2013
Comments on the Major Groups Recommendations for Multi-Stakeholders Engagement with the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
On the first recommendation: We recommend that a multi-stakeholder advisory group on sustainable development goals be established to work with the intergovernmental Open Working Group on developing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Participation of civil society is about diversity and a group of organisations and/or individuals can not represent this diversity. An enabling environment that allows the engagement of civil society needs to be inclusive and open to all civil society organisations. Real participation happens when all the organisations have equal access, not only to the information, but also to be heard and to the resources in place to allow participation.
Participation is not about being consulted or being represented by a group that will “draw on the best and widest possible, advice, experience, expertise and input”. As citizens, we are all already represented at the Open Working Group by our governments we don’t need a mechanism to be represented but to contribute to the process.
One of the ways for civil society to have an impact is through wide mobilization. Mechanisms that give access to just a few are demobilizing for the rest and risk to get lost among many other inputs from many other groups of experts that are so common at the United Nations.
On recommendation two:
We recommend that the composition of the multi-stakeholder advisory group should be based on the Agenda 21 nine Major Groups.
The mayor groups were agreed upon 20 years ago. Since then the world has changed and civil society has changed, maybe we should think who is excluded if we based the proposal on a structure that was conceived 20 years ago.
On recommendation three:
• Access all documents and drafts under negotiation by the OWG in a timely manner.
This proposal is a step backwards in regard to the Commission for Sustainable Development where all organisations member of the Mayor Groups had access to the documents.
The next proposals: “comments on draft proposals, draft agendas, regular meetings, expert advisory seats at sub-groups…” are certainly ambitious and reflect the conditions necessary for genuine participation in the process. But they are restricted to a small group, the members of the advisory group. We are in front of the dilemma: more access for a few or less access for all.
If we were to agree on more access for a few then priority should be given to the persons and the organisations and movements of the people most affected by poverty, social exclusion and the degradation of the environment and not to those who have more resources, more capacity to lobby, more “knowledge” as it is usually defined.
There are several reasons why we should give this priority:
• People most affected by poverty, social exclusion and the degradation of the environment have a unique knowledge that comes from first hand experience of the problems we are trying to address, they know what in needed in their communities, they know why they haven’t been reached by policies and programs, they are survivors, they are actors, they have mechanisms to cope in the most difficult situations… Their knowledge and capacity needs to be recognize and use. This kind of knowledge is not present in the UN system and this is the added value that civil society can bring to the table.
• People more affected by poverty and environmental degradation are excluded, marginalized, shamed and humiliated and participation is key to break this cycle. This is a good example of a situation in which a top down approach is interesting. The UN system could provide a good example allowing the participation of the most marginalized in the production of knowledge that shapes the policies and practices of sustainable development.
• The participation of this people is difficult and requires several conditions (we have produced a paper on these conditions that can be consulted here http://www.atd-fourthworld.org/Guidelines-for-the-Merging-of.html?var_recherche=merging%20of%20knowledge) and to create these conditions we need experts, maybe here is where we could have a multi stakeholders advisory group that is able to be at the service of people most affected by poverty, social exclusion and environmental degradation to allow them to have a meaningful participation in the process.
On the process of agreeing Major Groups Recommendations for Multi-Stakeholders Engagement with the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
Member States are now negotiating the High Level Political Forum and want to finish their discussions by the end of May. I am very aware of how much time is pressing, but we cannot present a proposal without wide consultation. If we want this process to be open, transparent and inclusive, if we ask Member States to be open, transparent and inclusive, we have to open the discussion widely now because time is pressing.
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