Since the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 - known as the Earth Summit, it was recognized that achieving sustainable development would require the active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people. Agenda 21, adopted at the Earth Summit, drew upon this sentiment and formalized nine sectors of society as the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development. These are officially called "Major Groups" and include the following sectors:
- Children and Youth
- Indigenous Peoples
- Non-Governmental Organizations
- Local Authorities
- Workers and Trade Unions
- Business and Industry
- Scientific and Technological Community
- Persons with disabilities
- International Facilitating Committee (IFC): established by NGOs and other stakeholder from civil society in the lead-up to UNCED to provide non-political organizational support, including organizing the Global Forum. It dissolved after Rio.
- International Non-Governmental Organizations Forum (INGOF): also established by NGOs, creating an international "space" to develop common political positions (not including industry). It dissolved in 1995.
- CSD-1: A facilitation mechanism was needed to assist NGOs and Major Groups in maximising their participation. NGO working groups from Rio - which had already formed again -, convened to discuss how NGOs might best organize themselves. The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) facilitated a series of follow-up regional telephone conferences and a meeting for NGOs attending the Down to Earth conference in Copenhagen (December 1993)
- CSD-2: The results of these discussions were brought to CSD-2 in 1994, where NGOs and Major Groups' representatives established the NGO Steering Committee to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. The CSD NGO Steering Committee (a multi-Major Groups structure) had a Southern and Northern Co-Chairs and two representatives from each of the identified regional caucuses, issue-based caucuses and Major Groups sectors.
- 1996: rejuvenated interest in the intergovernmental sustainability process leading up to Rio +5; increased number of Major Groups participating in the Preparatory Committee of the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly (Earth Summit +5) in September 1997
- UN General Assembly (GA) decides to include stakeholder dialogue as part of preparations for the 1997 Earth Summit + 5, inspired by the UN Habitat Conference in Istanbul 1996, and by various stakeholders active at CSD.
- CSD Secretariat convenes a meeting with Major Groups in Geneva, and agreement is reached to proceed with stakeholder dialogue sessions at CSD-5, which served as the preparatory meeting for Earth Summit + 5 review.
- Earth Summit + 5: stipulated that the CSD should conduct a high-level policy debate aimed at consensus-building on sustainable development. As an integral part of that effort, the CSD should strengthen its interaction with representatives of Major Groups, including through greater and better use of focused dialogue sessions, and round tables.
- CSD-6 through CSD-10: To support the coordination and preparation for the multi-stakeholder dialogue segments, the CSD Secretariat broadens its interfacing beyond the CSD NGO Steering Committee and opens to a greater multi-sectorial coordinating mechanism (the early stages of the Organizing Partners) to respond to the new mandate and the focus of each multi-stakeholder dialogue segments. The content of the multi-stakeholder dialogues was determined in consultation with the CSD Bureau and the Steering Committee/organizing partners, facilitated by the CSD Secretariat. The Organizing Partners engaged in consultations with each Major Group sector to draft a 'dialogue starter paper' (a position paper) and determine who would speak for the sector during the dialogue. The dialogue papers were released as part of the official documentation in languages without editing the content.
- CSD-8 Preparation: In the meantime, the CSD NGO Steering Committee experiences internal challenges linked to fundraising and accounting for the finances and election procedures, representativity and participation leading to its disintegration in June 2001.
- Preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD): In 2001 SDIN - the Sustainable Development Issues Network is created, with the aim to support a broader NGO alliance of issue networks, caucuses and groups. In the lead up to WSSD, SDIN overcame the stalemate in the Steering Committee, and provided financial assistance and facilitation to those groups travelling to the Preparatory Committee's meetings and Johannesburg, in addition to training on the WSSD process (the core group included ANPED, TWN, ELCI, the Danish 92 Group and the Heinrich Böll Foundation). SDIN was entrusted by the CSD Secretariat to organise the multi-stakeholder dialogues at the WSSD and coordinate the daily NGO driven morning information meeting open to all Major Groups.
- WSSD gave CSD a renewed mandate in 2003 which resulted in CSD-11 adopting a new multi-year work programme and devising enhanced modes of engagement of Major Groups.
- CSD-11 to CSD-19: the Organizing Partners system is the operating mechanism that allows the Secretariat and Member States to consult Major Groups in a timely fashion, throughout the preparatory phase as well as during the CSD sessions, and to organize multi-stakeholder participation in a harmonious, inclusive, targeted and coordinated fashion.
- Rio+20 inherits the Organizing Partners structure from CSD-19, which incidentally overlaps with the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meetings for the 2012 Conference. Given the great surge in public attention to sustainable development, additional Organizing Partners are invited by the Bureau to join the coordination architecture for the Rio+20 Conference, thus boosting international participation and outreach to record levels. Major Groups interface directly with the Bureau during every informal meeting of the preparatory process, organize side events and press conferences, and hold meetings with the UN Secretary-General and other world leaders in the margins of the Conference.
- 2012 – 2014: Four main work streams are launched by the Rio+20 Conference, designed to reconvene Member States with the active participation of Major Groups and other stakeholders around ad hoc processes to elaborate the forward agenda and feed directly into post-2015 planning. Member States negotiate the format and organizational arrangements for a new high-level political forum on sustainable development (known as the HLPF), designed to replace the CSD and build upon its strengths and modalities of broad and inclusive stakeholder engagement. Rio+20 also launches an open working group of governments to develop a set of SDGs, which endeavours to adapt the Major Groups format of participation to an informal deliberative process within the UN, and set a new standard for transparency and inclusiveness. The General Assembly establishes an intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing that includes multi-stakeholder dialogues, open briefings and regional outreach meetings. A series of multi-stakeholder workshops is organized to deliver options for the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.
- The post-Rio+20 era has been led by an evolving cast of long-standing Organizing Partners as well as leaders from other civil society stakeholders who have not traditionally engaged with the sustainable development process. However, the advantages of these more flexible arrangements have also necessitated a fresh look at issues of governance and inclusion within the Major Groups structure. The post-Rio+20 period can also be characterised by a growing inter-sectoral collaboration between Major Groups and other stakeholders that has yielded some tangible partnerships and new forms of cooperation.
|Sector||Organizing Partners||Focal Point||Country|
|Women||International Women’s Health Coalition||Ms. Rachel Jacobson||USA|
|Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia||Ms. Emilia Reyes||Mexico|
|WEDO Women's Environment and Development Organization||Ms. Lean Deleon||USA|
|Children and Youth||Restless Development||Ms. Rachel Lister||UK|
|European Youth Forum||Mr. Lloyd Russell-Moyle||UK|
|Pacific Youth Council||Ms. Tahere Siisiialafia||Samoa|
|Children and Youth International||Mr. Aashish Khullar||India|
|Indigenous Peoples||Tebtebba - Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education||Ms. Joan Carling||Philippines|
|International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)||Mr. Roberto Borrero||Taino|
|Non-governmental Organizations||Baha'i International Community||Mr. Daniel Perell||United States|
|Soroptimist International||Ms. Alice Oluoko-Odingo||Kenya|
|Local Authorities||nrg4SD - Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development||Ms. Susanna Rivero Baughman||Brussels|
|ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability||Mr. Yunus Arikan||Germany|
|United Cities and Local Governments||Ms. Natalène Poisson||Spain|
|Workers and Trade Unions||International Trade Union Confederation||Ms. Paola Simonetti||Belgium|
|Education International||Ms. Antonia Wulff||Belgium|
|Business and Industry||International Chamber of Commerce||Ms. Louise Kantrow||United States|
|International Road Transport Union (IRU)||Mr. Igor Runov||United States|
|International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)||Mr. John Drexhage||Canada|
|Scientific and Technological Community||International Council for Science||Dr. Lucilla Spini||France|
|World Federation of Engineering Organisations||Mr. Reginald Vachon||Canada|
|International Social Science Council||Ms. Heide Hackmann||France|
|Farmers||World Farmers Organisation||Ms. Luisa Volpe||Italy|
|Canadian Federation of Agriculture||Mr. Drew Black||Canada|
|IFOAM - Organics International||Mr. Gabor Figeczky||Germany|
|Persons with Disabilities||International Disability Alliance||Mr. Vladimir Cuk||United States|
|Volunteers||Volunteer Groups Alliance (VGA) c/o VSO Ireland||Mr. James O'Brien||Ireland|
|Volunteer Groups Alliance (VGA) c/o France Volontaires||Ms. Coline Peyre||Ireland|
- expert knowledge and competency in areas related to sustainable development
- demonstration over time of their competence and commitment to work in collaboration with the UN Secretariat
- recognized and well respected in their communities and by other organizations in the same sector, and have contacts reaching into different branches of their respective sectors
- global or regional geographical scope and membership
- representative structures and appropriate mechanisms of accountability to members
- solid understanding of intergovernmental decision-making processes, and in particular of intergovernmental sustainable development processes
- knowledge of respective regional players and regional groupings
- commitment to remain engaged over time
- organizational means, time and responsibility to perform the required tasks unpaid, including participation in official meetings in New York
- a membership that exercises effective control over its policies and actions through the exercise of voting rights or other appropriate democratic and transparent decision-making processes
- preferably in consultative status with ECOSOC
- Consultation with networks to prepare written inputs in the form of discussion papers and priorities for action papers addressing themes of specific intergovernmental processes related to sustainable development
- Organize, manage and disseminate data and information on MGoS and UN processes and activities related to sustainable development
- Consultation with networks to identify participants able to serve on their sector's delegation
- Provide and develop logistical and process understanding so that Major Groups and Other Stakeholder constituencies will be able to maximise their presence at the UN in accordance with the official engagement practices and procedures
- Provide guidance and find expertise to develop policy positions representing the best from the MGoS constituencies relevant to the agenda points of the specific processes
- Coordinate and facilitate the participation of representatives of their respective sector and constituency throughout intergovernmental meetings and sessions, working in collaboration with other MGoS representatives
- Have proper and valued knowledge of the UN in general and the sustainable development processes in particular to provide the MGoS constituency with background information and/or capacity building