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2018 APFSD Side Event: ADA-APSD-A4SD: CSO Engagement in VNR Process an…

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Writer secretariat Date Created18-04-07 04:03 count291 Reply0

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Draft Report: APFSD SIDE EVENT
CSOs Participation in the VNR Process and Follow-up Mechanisms
(30 March 2018)

The Asia Development Alliance (ADA) along with its partners, the Asian CSO Partnership for Sustainable Development (APSD) and the Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD) organized the side event entitled CSOs engagement in the VNR process and the follow up mechanism on 30th March during the APFSD, 2018 to share the experiences of government-CSO engagement and the role of United Nations to encourage multi-stakeholder partnership and ensure that the transformative promise of the SDGs to “Leave No One Behind’ is delivered.
The side event focussed on challenges and opportunities related to CSO-government engagement based on previous CSO lessons learned during VNR reporting and other follow-up mechanisms in 2016 and 2017. The event also was an opportunity for CSOs from countries in Asia with upcoming VNRs in 2018 to learn from their experiences.
The event was moderated by Mr. Anselmo Lee, Founding Advisor, Asia Development Alliance (ADA).
Beckie Malay, from the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), shared the CSO’s participation in the voluntary national reporting (2016). She narrated that in the Philippines CSOs, mainly through Social Watch Philippines have been doing shadow reports since 2000 (the MDG era) to monitor the government’s compliance in its international human development commitments. When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, the Philippine government volunteered to report in the HLPF in 2016 and its report mainly consisted of narrating the MDG achievements and the preparations for the SDGs in terms of data. There was not much to report on the SDGs then, as there was a change in government. The new government was elected in May, and was inaugurated on June 30thand the Philippine Development Plan was still to be drafted and framed expressly in the SDGs.
With regard to official engagement spaces, the government had put up the Philippine Council on Sustainable Development since 1992, but this got defunct for some time. Considering that it would take some transition before the government could actually draft an SDG-sensitive/framed plan, Social Watch did a Spotlight Report which highlighted the need to adopt a plan with clear policies and programmes that will reduce poverty and inequality, adopt to climate change and reduce disaster risks. This was presented before the government several days before the HLPF, with the government also presenting its draft VNR, which was not presented early enough to allow consultations and comments from multi-stakeholders. Presently, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) acts as coordinating body for SDG concerns, and CSOs participation is coursed through the Monitoring Committee on the International Human Development Commitments.
At the regional level (Asia), Beckie acts as the Organizing Partner of the NGO Major Group of the UN. She announced that there is a draft NGO major group position paper drafted collectively by more than 50 NGO representatives, that is up for comments, due by 5 April.
Ms Malay also mentioned a review of the VNRs and the CSO reports and processes that was undertaken by the A4SD, Together 2030, World Wildlife Fund, CIVICUS, and several other global CSOs,.
The report concluded:
• There is a need to accelerate action at the national level.
• Emphasize on the linkages between the goals.
• Invest in data disaggregation on Leave No One Behind (LNB)
• Improve the localization of agenda
• SDGs are national, not regional,
• Develop improve multi stakeholder partnership
• Provide an honest assessment including good practices from different countries.

Mr. Anselmo Lee observed that Philippines, China and Korea, shared the outcome of the implementation in the first cycle of VNR in 2016. He also stressed on linking UPR-VNR process which would be linking development and human rights.

Mr. Uchita De Zoysa, Managing Director, Global Sustainability Solutions, Sri Lanka shared the country level process of enabling and inclusive transformation. He mentioned that Sri Lanka had a high government momentum in 2015, once they signed 2030 agenda which was the first in Asia-pacific region. The government also came up with action plans. He shared the government decided to prepare for the voluntary national review in 2018 to plan and implement the national process and thus buying enough time to present the report. He further mentioned that Sri Lanka had planned 169 targets, they had all the readiness to accept and approve the same. He also highlighted some weaknesses in the institutional mechanism globally and also at the national levels:
• The fragmentation of planning and implementation in the UN system.
• Lack of policy Coherence
• Lack of institutional coherence (they have 55 ministries in Sri Lanka)
• Lack of monitoring, evaluation, follow up and reporting mechanism
• Lack of Sustainable Development budgeting and financing architecture.

He asserted that VNR is the reflection of what we have done, historical evaluation of national transformation, and the future direction and sub-contracting the report should not be done. He also mentioned the multi-stakeholder platform through inclusive process. He mentioned that Sri Lanka is leading the example of establishing a partnership platform for all the stakeholders.

He concluded
1. Establish an independent Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism
2. Conduct the Voluntary People’s Review in Sri Lanka in 2018

It’s all about an inclusive transformation, not about integrating and mainstreaming SDGs into a fragmented system and reporting to cover up.

Ms. Hitomi Rankine from UN-ESCAP presented on the Stakeholder engagement for the VNR and beyond. She stressed the need to capture the voices of the people (as government in many countries wanted to hear). She also emphasized the importance of creating a space and engaging and thinking through about the significance of transformative approach
She asserted that engagement of non-government actors in the 2030 Agenda is not business as usual and there is a need to have
• Policy coherence, balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental
• Effective institutions Transparency & accountability (Goal 16)
• “Leave no one behind”; Inclusion; partnership, participation (Goal 17)


Ms. Leanne Hartill from International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) led the importance on engagement and participation and giving the opportunity for all stakeholders to have a say in decisions that impacted their lives. She affirmed that engagement means involving the people/communities in decision making and problem solving

1. Next stage: what is good and authentic engagement: they are working with the UN ESCAP to develop a planning and assessment tool for engagement practice.  Recognition of people having the right to be involved in decision making processes
2. Participation is a human right
3. The purpose of engagement must be made clear, for example for the VNR process, what informs that, how’s they are demonstrated, right to be invited to the table, be the voice of the people.
4. There are number of IAP2 colleagues working in partnership with UN ESCAP


Mr. Anselmo Lee declared that 2019-20 are the international years of engagement: ‘role of CSOs in the partnership process’. SDG is the global priority for 2019. Especially in the context of Asia where a number of countries are witnessing shrinking civic space, i.e., Cambodia.

Ms. Hannie Meesters, Programme Specialist on the 2030 Agenda and SDGs at the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, stressed that Voluntary National Reviews are extremely important processes which constitute a vital entry point for engagement between CSOs and governments at the national level. Find below key highlights from her reflections on the role of the UN and UNDP in the region and globally in the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda:
• There are entry points for CSO engagement with governments throughout the SDG implementation cycle, including during the alignment of national plans and budgets, building reliable data ecosystems, capacity building efforts, and financing for SDGs. VNRs show that systems are already in place, but engagement needs to be strengthened at all levels, particularly at the sub-national level.
• UNDP is providing support to VNR processes, by facilitating and advocating for formalized spaces for dialogue with governments, by helping civil society to self-organize, build strong coalitions, and raise awareness at sub-national levels. More voices need to be engaged, including by supporting access to funding [for marginalized and vulnerable groups], so that VNRs veer off being capital-based discussions. UNDP also has a focus on learning and accountability, as illustrated during the CSO Forum at the SDG Regional Knowledge Exchange organized in Manila (October 2017).
“We are in this together”, says Ms. Meesters, CSOs and the UN are interdependent and can build support towards a more effective and meaningful integration of the 2030 Agenda. Peer pressure among governments, and pressure from the UN and stakeholders can contribute to “push the bar” and support the better quality of VNR processes and understanding of what works and what doesn’t, also in terms of policy coherence and trade-offs that can achieve the transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda and the “Leaving No One Behind” principle. Lessons can be drawn from processes such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
• The UN and CSOs need to work together to keep the momentum. There is a risk of governments losing interest, as illustrated by the Commission on Sustainable Development, a body that started off very well, but was replaced by the HLPF in 2013. Looking ahead, 2019 will be a critical year for the 2030 Agenda with the HLPF focusing on empowerment and equality. UNDP will continue to proactively engage beyond VNRs, partner with and support CSO voice and participation and build smart linkages at all levels.

Mr. Anselmo LEE also stressed the need on Means of implementation (MoI) and systemic issues which have been otherwise overlooked.

Questions and Suggestions from the floor:
Q: CRT, Nepal: The government doesn’t value the CSOs. In the CSOs commission majority are from the government side. So there is a need to stress on advocacy and peer pressure, the number of CSOs should be more in the commission in order to highlight the crucial issues.

Chalida : how to get engaged with the govt? only elite CSOs are engaged, but not the real ones. Engagement with the local CSOs is difficult, which should be the role of government but everything is but pushed onto the CSOs. Also, communication between the govt and the CSOs is very important. But CSOs need a lot of support.

Denise ( S. Korea) stressed that if the UN agency ask their respective regional and national institution to interpret the publications in different language. She also mentioned that on the CSOs engagement, there is no innovative mechanism within the government. There are invitation-based committee, and the platforms are closed. 2030 agenda should be inclusive and regular.

Mongolia: the government hasn’t yet volunteered for the VNR but the CSOs are pushing the govt. the CSOs are trying to do some training and discussions and trying to assess SDGs targets. Also the government has changed, and the new government doesn’t have the needed capacity.

Heike (UNDG): linkages with the human rights; analysis on substance on the VNR and how much they are related to HR. She also presented the Costa Rica example where the government has done meaningful work . She also stressed the need to document and highlight the good works of NGOs to encourage the community and the government.

Its also to be noted that more than 90 percent of the target of the SDGs are linked to Human Rights

Malaysia: stressed the need to bringing the accountability language to the CSOs. Few CSOs are already doing it but there are certain challenges, CSOs in Malaysia are requested to be pro-government.

• Bangladesh presented their VNR last year. The CSOs had prepared the questions but they were not given chance
• There was suggestion on preparing the guidelines for the government just like ADA has prepared for the CSOs
• Constituency of adults and young people are missed.
• The government don’t come up with a strategy to engage the young people and use their innovation.
• There is also an expectation from the APFSD.
• Issue of data openness and transparency is needed and beneficial for CSOs. These are numerable hurdle, especially on natural resources and environment.
• Make access to information real!
• The best practices of VNR needs to be open
• Many government doesn’t have classified data
• There is a need to look for appropriate data for SDGs.
• Women’s and gender component needs to be integrating into all the SDGs.
• India: push for mining industry, dam, is very low (forest right act)
• Issues of exclusion and misrepresentation, hence participation of CSO becomes very important.
• Ms. Wanun: ownership of the SDGs. Localization of SDGs. In order to make sure this happens,, there is a need to stress on the same.
• Thailand has formed High Level Political Forum alliance established by CSOs where CSOs can engage

Conclusion from the panelists

• Need to make crucial link between VNR and HR
• Role of Parliament- how to strengthen its role
• Assessing CSOs in term of engagement and good practices and lesson learned
• Focal points in UNDP or UN ESCAP to look at the localization of SDGs

Ms. Hitomi Rankine: UNESCAP has the project on localization of 2030 agenda. Developing guidelines on right to participate, to making change in the government’s attitude.

Beckie: There is a need of substantive review of VNRs
• Universality of HR is not mentioned in VNR reports, maybe they are taken for granted or there are no clear HRBA tools and indicators .
• In the Philippines, there have been a lot of work on mainstreaming HRBA down to indicators, in the development planning processes but they were never adopted,
There is s a need to approach friendly local governments to localize SDGs more effectively and this is mostly the efforts of CSOs to approach the local government.
• In framing SDGs to HR, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and Philippines implemented a mulit-government agency (Departments of Health and Interior and Local Government), project called SDG water, which was scaled up and developed into more that 20 municipality, that adopted the HR indicators. There is a clear indicator of progressive realization of HR in the aspects of water provision, sanitation and health
• CSOs have also been doing training on HRBA since 2012

Mr. Uchita:
1. Huge difference between LNB and engaging everyone, one is rhetoric another one progressive
2. The political dynamic of engaging.
3. What people think what engagement mean: government call the CSOs for a meeting just before sending the final report to the UN.
4. Voluntary people’s report/shadow report- There was no plan and proposal to VNR which was sub contracted. So what was shadowing.
5. There is a people’s review on 3rd April.
6. The key issues on environmental, social, political and governance needs to be addressed.
7. Problem with VNR- big governance vs small governments feel uncomfortable
8. Nepal: local government is very powerful in terms of planning resource implementation.

Ms. Hannie: UNDP strengthens the HLPF by working with friendly governments and institutionalizing processes.
Mr. Anselmo : examples of friendly governments are Japan, Australia, S.Korea , so there is a need to engage with them and institutionalize processes
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