27 March, 2019

CSOs and the 2019 Senior-Level Meeting: Reflections on the Role of Civil Society in Promoting Effective Development Co-operation

By Marita Gonzalez, Justin Kilcullen, Beverly Longid, Monica Novillo, and Richard Ssewakiryang
Co-Chairs of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness

Across the world, poverty and inequality are rising, inflicting unspeakable suffering on billions. We need new, more sustainable approaches to development, the kind that trickles down to the poorest of the poor, and promotes people’s rights, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection.

Responding to this need, various stakeholders have come together to draft the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and adopt the 2030 Agenda. They envisioned a world where there is zero poverty and hunger, access to education, health, clean water, affordable clean energy, and decent work, a world that is home to sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production. They pledged to leave no one behind: not the women and children, not the indigenous people, not the persons with disabilities.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation and the 2019 Senior-Level Meeting

Eleven years before 2030, so much work is left to be done. As determined by the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), there is a need to shift gears, and accelerate the efforts of all development actors to attain the SDGs. More resources must be mobilised, more partners must be involved.

The HLPF convenes again this July 9 to 18 in New York, to discuss how to facilitate this “shifting of gears”, and ensure the attainment of the SDGs on time. Meanwhile, on July 13 to 14, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation will host the 2019 Senior-Level Meeting (SLM), following up on the 2016 High-Level Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, which sought to align the GPEDC’s work and commitments with the HLPF.

The 2019 Global Partnership SLM will make a significant contribution to this year’s HLPF by showing evidence that effective partnerships and co-operation in all forms and places are a driver for achieving all the SDGs. For example, under SDG 17, Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development effective partnerships are seen as being key to strengthened domestic resource mobilisation, implementation of official development assistance (ODA) commitments from developed countries, debt sustainability for developing countries, and adoption of investment promotion regimes for least developed countries; transfer of technology, innovation, and knowledge to developing countries; capacity building; promotion of a better trading system; and enhancement of policies for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

SDG 17 also notably targets multi-stakeholder partnerships “that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.” It goes on to encourage and promote “public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.”

The GPEDC and Civil Society

As representatives of civil society and in our particular capacities as Co-Chairs of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), we look forward to participating in the 2019 Global Partnership SLM, and meeting fellow CSO representatives.

The SLM, we believe, is an important platform for knowledge exchange and critical reflection regarding the world’s progress on the SDGs, as well as better ways to promote effective development co-operation.

Through the SLM, the Global Partnership acknowledges civil society’s historical role in advocating alternative approaches to development, and the principles that underpin the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It gives CSOs a voice in the conversation on effective development co-operation, placing them in the same space as policymakers and duty-bearers, multilateral and bilateral organisations, non-state actors, private sector, the media, and all other actors that hold a stake in development. Moreover, SLM offers an intergovernmental structure to include civil society in the decision-making.

The SLM is also an opportune moment for monitoring progress in regards to the effective development co-operation (EDC) commitments of the aforementioned actors, in relation to the SDGs. 2019 marks the second year of GPEDC’s implementation of its work programme, which has witnessed true effort to promote development effectiveness.

The Role of Civil Society

Ahead of the SLM, we hope that our fellow representatives of CSOs are more committed than ever to the principles of effective development co-operation. Stronger participation from our ranks is more critical than ever, with growing threats to the attainment of sustainable development.

At CPDE, we lament the emergence of two harmful trends in effective development co-operation: the corporate capture of development, and shrinking and closing civic spaces. By the first, we mean the growing role of big business – multinational and transnational corporations and international financing institutions (MNCs, TNCs, and IFIs) in the conceptualisation and implementation of development initiatives. Most often, these corporate-led initiatives pursue profit at the expense of communities’ interests, as well as the planet’s.

The second, meanwhile, refers to attacks on members of the civil society which come in overt and covert forms, all intended to discourage the people from asserting their rights. Repressive measures range from burdensome transparency and accountability requirements, to cases of harassment, arrests, and murder.

Actively confronting these trends, by consolidating our membership and calling the attention of duty-bearers responsible for regulating the private sector and protecting civic spaces, is one way by which CSOs can show their commitment to effective development co-operation. In the face of repression and the excesses of the private sector, CPDE rallied its constituencies and held governments to account for their particular commitments to human rights, which form part of the sustainable development agenda.

Moreover, CSOs advance their own effectiveness by strengthening their training programme for CSO effectiveness. At CPDE, an open platform that unites CSOs from around the world on issues of EDC, we have regularly conducted and supported capacity-building efforts for our members, designed to help them conduct better policy research, advocacy campaigns, communications, and program management around development effectiveness.

Finally, CSOs can strengthen commitments through the direct implementation of initiatives that contribute to behavioural change. For our platform, last year marked a breakthrough as we supported 44 country actions, each of which, we hope, made a unique contribution to the domestication of the development effectiveness framework, as articulated in the Istanbul Principles: human rights and social justice; gender equality and equity; people’s empowerment, democratic ownership and participation; environmental sustainability; transparency and accountability; equitable partnerships and solidarity; knowledge-sharing, and positive sustainable change.

An Invitation

By harnessing the power of the civil society, better prospects emerge for advancing people’s development needs. We then invite fellow members of the civil society to take advantage of the 2019 Global Partnership Senior-Level Meeting as a venue for advancing our causes, and urge other development actors to heed our voice.

May we always be able to find time and create similar spaces for meaningful partnerships and conversations, for the people and the planet.

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