UN Summit on Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World
8 days of advocacy and activism for a gender just future within the SDG process. WECF recently attended the UN summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (High Level Political Forum, HLPF) in New York and reports back on their experiences.
WECF’s delegation at HLPF
WECF’s delegation attending the HLPF existed of Sascha Gabizon, our Executive Director and Regional Operating Partner for the Women’s Major Group; Hanna Gunnarsson, our junior gender expert and communications assistant who recently coordinated our youth delegation to the Environment and Health conference in Ostrava. Also there was our #women2030 partner Alla Kuvatova from NGO New Panorama, who is currently carrying out a shadow report on Tajikistan’s Voluntary National Review (VNR).
The HLPF is the central platform for follow-up and review of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The conference is open to Members States, civil society organisations (through the major groups) and other relevant stakeholders. During the conference, countries who have volunteered also present their voluntary national reviews (on the implementation of the SDGs in their countries). Each year the HLPF conference focus on different SDGs. This year the conference looked specifically at: Goal 1: on poverty; Goal 2: on agriculture; Goal 3. On health; Goal 5: on gender equality; Goal 9: on infrastructure; Goal 14: on oceans; Goal 17: global partnership. The theme for this year’s conference was: "eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world."
Alla Kuvatova delivering an intervention on SDGs and technology. Read the full intervention here. Photo: IISD-ENB / Kiara Worth
Four days into the Summit, a few member states broke the silence on the Ministerial Declaration. The issues raised were on foreign occupation and gender equality. What was feared as a result was that we would leave the summit without an outcome document, which in turn would have had the possibility to weaken the HLPF process. Through meetings with country delegations and a twitter storm; Women's Major Group (official UN observer network representing civil society groups working for women's human rights and gender equality) made it clear: we wanted an outcome document, and we did not want to see gender equality language in the declaration being traded off for means of implementation.
Networking with country delegations & UN personnel
WECF and Women's Major Group meeting with the Netherland's Trade & Aid Ambassador Joeren Verheul. Photo: IISD-ENB / Kiara Worth
Besides advocating for the Ministerial Declaration, WECF also met with country delegations to discuss the future of gender equality within the HLPF and SDGs process. Many supported our cause and showed support by wearing our scarves on the UN campuses.
In addition, Sascha coordinated and led a face-to-face meeting for all civil society groups from the European Region with the new Executive Secretary of UNECE, Olga Algayova. She is responsible for the SDG process in the wider European region. The 1.5 hours meeting took place on Wednesday 12 of July at the UN and in the meeting Sascha informed Olga about WECF’s policy advocacy activities and the link to the Environmental Health and global Chemical Convention processes.
Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs)
During the HLPF, member states also showcase how far they have come in implementing the SDGs nationally by presenting their VNRs. Other member states and civil society are then given the opportunity to ask questions to the presenting country. This year 43 countries presented their VNRs. Their voluntary nature means that not all countries are reporting, and the quality of reporting varies. Our partner Alla Kuvatova prepared the civil society questions to the government of Tajikistan on their VNR. She referred to key priorities of the Ostrava Declaration including access to water and sanitation in particular also for vulnerable groups and school girls, the problems of HIV AIDS increases and ending forced and early child marriage. While calling for measures aimed at overcoming social inequalities, she asked the Tajik Government if they intended to ensure participation of marginalised groups in their implementation of the SDGs. She also asked them about measures they are taking to reduce the rate of growth of HIV; “the proportion of women among newly registered HIV infections in 2015, compared with 2010, increased from 20.4% to 40.4%.”
Due to lack of time, civil society was never given the chance to pose their questions to the Government of Tajikistan and as such Alla’s questions were never answered. They were however delivered to the Government before the session. The Agenda 2030 acknowledged that civil society is a vital mechanism for achieving the SDGs. Civil society from a few other countries were also prohibited from posing their questions to their decision-makers (due to lack of time and intimidation). We need to ensure that civil society from VNR presenting countries are given the chance to ask their questions. Or else we risk that the wording of the Agenda 2030 turns civil society participation into tokenism.
Campaign about diversity: True Wonder Women resist structural barriers that fosters inequalities. In order: Gia Gaspard Taylor, Alla Kuvatova, Hanna Gunnarsson
Women's Major Groups (WMG) communications team, led by our Hanna, had a strong voice on social media, making more than 13 million impressions in just 10 days. On social media, WMG demanded the international society to not side-line gender equality when implementing the SDGs nationally. A tribute launch of WMG's Women's Human Right Defenders exhibit left the audience heartfelt and in tears. Last year was the most deadly year for WHRDs worldwide, and the importance of language on women's human rights in the SDGs has never been more urgent. “The Women's Major Group appears to be the most 'powerful' non-UN Twitter account at the moment and worth following. They are campaigning for gender equality, women's human rights and means of implementation.” Said Stephen King on Linkedin
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