Major Groups/Post 2015 constituency consultation on post Rio+20/Post 2015

Major Groups/Post 2015 constituency consultation on post Rio+20/Post 2015
16 April 2013, NY

Submitted by Jeffery Huffines (CIVICUS) and Debra Jones (Save the Children), Meeting Co-Facilitators

The meeting co-facilitators opened the meeting highlighting the objectives of the meeting which focused on bringing together Major Groups and Civil Society Organizations (MG/CSOs) that are engaged with post Rio+20 and post 2015 processes.  Both agreed that it is a critical moment for these processes and reminded everyone that the meeting was not a decision-making meeting but an opportunity to discuss joint strategies to be shared with the broader constituency. Outcomes sought included: 1) Common understanding of the various processes and timeline; 2) Process for dialogue on producing coordinated advocacy strategies on post 2015/post Rio+20; 3) Begin to formulate concrete proposals for Member States on enhanced stakeholder engagement.

Sharing strategies for Post 2015 and Post Rio+20 SDGs

It was reported that the Expert Group Meeting on the high level political forum (hlpf) expressed unanimous support for stakeholder involvement and that what was successful in CSD should be carried over to hlpf. Specific references were made to FAO Committee on Food Security (CFS) as an interesting template.  

The Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) proposal for the Open Working Group (OWG) was outlined. Rio+20 occurred under CSD rules of procedure, but the OWG is under GA procedures where Major Groups and NGOs have no standing. In order to formalize rules of procedure for MG involvement in the SDG process, MGs came up with the MAG proposal that articulates agreed on principles where all stakeholders can participate to ensure an “open, transparent and inclusive” intergovernmental process promised by the Member States at Rio+20.

CSO strategies regarding the High Level Panel (HLP) on Post-2015 report were discussed, with the HLP now entering an intensive drafting period. There will be a HLP meeting on 13 -15 May, and the HLP report will be presented on 30th May. These are key opportunities that CSOs should use to follow-up with key Member States (MS), to give support to the report. Possibly there could be a civil society consultation in the summer.

For outreach, anything directed to the hlpf co-facilitators should also be directed to facilitators for ECOSOC reform.

Open discussion on strategies for Post 2015 and Post Rio+20

It was noted that not many groups had contributed to the MAG proposal, and that much more dialogue, input and consultation was needed for a consensus-based proposal. Concern was expressed that there was the risk that the MAG proposal could close doors to the participation of other stakeholders outside the MGs. It was pointed out that the MAG proposal was for the OWG only, not the hlpf. The arrangements for the OWG are ad hoc right now, which is too fragile. The MAG proposal was just one proposal put forward by the MGs early on, which is open to discussion in the absence of alternative proposals.

The future relationship of OWG to the hlpf is not yet known, but Brazil suggested that the OWG on SDGs could report to the hlpf. At the hlpf Expert Group Meeting (held on 3 April) several Member States proposed that the hlpf could be the home for SDGs, so how we engage is important. Several Member States also emphasized the need to have one set of goals, so there is a probability that the post 2015 goals will also report to the hlpf.

The usefulness of the thematic clusters approach by Major Groups during the preparatory meetings for Rio+20 was highlighted. Thematic clusters were created to allow groups within the NGO MG that have expertise on specific topics to develop common positions and advocate together for them.  The Science and Technological Major Group had also been very active in providing expertise on items related to climate change among other issues.

One Organizing Partner noted that MGs are currently the most effective way of non-state actor participation in these negotiations, and it gives groups that represent affected communities (women/ small farmers/ indigenous) that usually have less decision-making power access. MG approach could and should be strengthened and made more inclusive regarding other groups. If there’s one process for post-2015 and SDGs we’ll have to merge.

Another participant pointed out that some multistakeholder groups find it difficult to identify with only one MG to work through. For greater transparency it was suggested that MGs identify on the website who are representing them at specific meetings. MGs have started work on the regional level, but much more work remains for MGs to become more inclusive and transparent. Virtual participation is not enough.

The role of UN review conferences in shaping the post-2015 development agenda was highlighted. Specifically the ICPD+20 in 2014 is an opportunity to bring visibility to issues that have not been prioritized by Rio+20 or post-2015 agendas.

Opportunities for coordinated advocacy on OWG, hlpf, financing for SD - open discussion

 We want to ensure that human development and sustainable development groups are collaborating more closely, to ensure that a single set of global goals and a single development agenda is developed. Integration can happen through a top-down approach by creating formal structures with the UN system taking a lead role, or through a bottom up approach by stakeholders organize themselves. The challenge is to achieve integration as early as possible and to take this to the local, regional and global level.

We should not undermine the MGs as they are established and have been doing good work for 20 years. There is a discussion to be had on the relationship of the MGs with other constituencies, but that cannot be at the expense of the MGs.

During the discussion on the process, it was noted that a good approach would be to establish a timeline that includes other processes going on including those outside of UN HQ in NYC such as the UNFCCC climate change negotiations to be concluded by 2015. We should reinforce commonalities across these processes to bring help bring governments to consensus. The fact that SDGs are only developed at an intergovernmental level in NYC was seen as problematic but the MAG or alternative modalities which reflect its functions was seen as a good starting point for broader consultation on what to propose to the OWG in terms of stakeholder engagement.

On the question of substance, it was noted that building common messaging for Rio+20 was difficult. The question is how to preserve the diversity of the MGs/CSO while minimizing the impression of cacophony of voices. Some thought that the focus on messaging should therefore be on process and procedures, while others felt that the focus should be on the content of SDGs. It was noted that though it may be difficult for all sectors of civil society to come together and agree on thematic issues, there was an opportunity to converge around what all wanted the hlpf to represent - participation, integration etc.

On integration, it was noted that transparency and participation should be discussed before defining SDGs. Governance issues are important. The hlpf is important to MGs and post 2015 crowd because it could become the home where both SDGs and post 2015 development agenda reports. In the framework of the SDGs we have to integrate mechanisms for accountability and review, such as the use of peer review. It would be necessary to ensure that participation and accountability are really well developed.  

Some said we need regional processes that feed into the global process, through for instance, regional Commissions, that will help ensure that people can participate in more meaningful ways. Some see the environmental pillar over-represented, which is a source of tension between post 2015 NGOs and MGs. It is necessary to think about how the framework for sustainable development can address these three pillars equally and not one at the expense of others.

Some CSOs said they do not feel adequately represented in the context of the MGs and suggested that other groups should be included, for example people with disabilities and volunteers. Another concern was that mechanisms to collect the input of social movements are not adequately provided.

It was noted that this critique of the MGs system should not be about undermining structures that have proved effective to this point, but to build on them. The MG system has many best practices that can be improved on. The Aarhus convention could be learned from as well.  

It was noted that a number of organizations are members of several international networks (MGs, Beyond 2015, GCAP). This meeting was about discussing how advocacy can be coordinated among various international networks while respecting each other’s missions and prerogatives.

Review of best practices to engage MG and other stakeholders from CSD and other UN entities

The FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) was highlighted as an example whose principles and practices of stakeholder engagment have been authorized as part of a UN body. These are not very different from the suggested modalities for enhanced stakeholder participation available in document that was distributed at the meeting but clarity is needed on principles and practices at UNHQ due to the complexity of NY-based processes, especially under ECOSOC or the GA.

Over the last decade there have been many examples of civil society participation in GA events, albeit on an ad hoc basis as authorized by the GA President on a case by case basis. DESA is preparing a study that will review best practices to strengthen engagement of MG and CS with a focus on hlpf but not exclusively. Deliverables are to highlight best practices, assess quality of engagement and how it has evolved over time; organize findings and a multi-stakeholder round table to discuss these findings. The objective is to strengthen engagement in intergovernmental and political processes, a questionnaire will be used as well as interviews and desktop research.

At the CSD there used to be steering committees made up of MGs and regional and issue caucuses that elected their representatives, which ensured accountability. At CSD caucuses you had to register on a website and if you didn’t do your work, you would be replaced and your NGO would be informed, so there was accountability. There were stakeholder dialogues for the first two days of CSD where stakeholders were debating with (and therefore potentially influencing) governments. However at the WSSD in 2002 the two days were changed to a few minutes during the high-level segment. At the time it thought to be an improvement to have MGs speak directly in the official meeting.

Further best practices mentioned included: GA civil society hearings in lead up to Millennium 5 Summit; the Convention on Biodiversity where CSOs can take the floor and if two MS support a statement, it can then be formally taken up; HIV UNGASS with a self-selected committee of civil society set up by PGA, where different constituencies appointed their own representative; the executive board of UNAIDS, on which there are seats for civil society - though they do not have voting rights, they have the opportunity to engage.

Group discussion on Framework for Action for high level political forum

Regarding input, it was suggested that stakeholders should think about 3 things: (1) participation, (2) providing expert input in decision shaping, (3) review and accountability. Stakeholders should position themselves on governance as well as content. The OWG is expected to finalize the list of themes at upcoming meetings through next year. Stakeholders should see what is missing and get groups interested in those issues to push for their inclusion.

The importance of coming up with an advocacy paper that clearly articulates recommendations for multi-stakeholder engagement before the next hlpf meeting was stressed. A lot of good practices of stakeholder engagement exist, so we need to focus on institutionalizing these.

Organizing advocacy in a way that is accessible to everyone was a key theme. It might be useful to have a SDGs thematic cluster or a thematic cluster for each of the proposed goals.

It was stressed that there has to be a deliberate strategy among MGs to open up their process so that those in the Post 2015 community who haven’t done so can provide meaningful input. Opening up or changing the structure of the MGs was raised, it was thought that the hlpf could be the right time to explore this issue.

If it’s too hard to a find common message on everything, a possible approach would be to differentiate between issues where stakeholders can speak with one voice, and those on which they can’t. On the issues of participation and access there should be one voice though.

It was noted by many that people on the ground, such as volunteers, should be given opportunity to be actively involved, not just be informed. It is essential to engage the grassroots level, those who are marginalized and have never been in these processes before. The UN should be pushed to adapt to them.

The Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) suggested that while previous letters by stakeholders were addressed to Ambassadors, future communications should also be addressed to relevant working level staff as they may be more available.

Communication and Outreach
The importance of communications and press for reaching the public was stressed, both timing as well as having clear messages and structures to get messages out is essential. National capitals make the decisions, so public opinion needs to be influenced nationally. Clear, specific, short, precise messages that resonate emotionally can have an impact. It was suggested to have a more creative media process to help youth and others who utilize mass media get much more connected.  A lot of good social media had been done around Rio+20, we need to expand on this and make it more creative. There should also be training so those with more experience can help those who are new.

It was suggested that language could be translated into “sound bites”, celebrity driven culture could also be used. More use of social media was advocated by several participants. Many mentioned the usefulness of using online platforms. This could provide a mechanism for input so that CSOs can say what they’ve been doing and how they’re contributing. However, it was also noted that managing the various inputs could be difficult. DSD flagged up the work space created on its Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform where MGs and other stakeholders can register to share positions online and have a dialogue on the SDGs and HLPF. The MG Organizing Partners can then synthesize these inputs and help formulate positions. The World We Want also hosts a thematic platform organized by civil society.

A competition for the best slogan to get agreement on civil society messaging was also suggested, as was using a common wiki space, and training activists on the ground. The public did not necessarily know the jargon used by UN and MGs/CSOs, one would need to be aware of this.

The lack of funding was described as a weakness of the current MG process, there seems to be minimal funding for travel purposes only. It was noted that having autonomous sources of money outside of governments was important. A trust fund could be set up, perhaps there could be allies among Member States, or private donors could be included. Asked whether there would be funding for MG participation in the first session of HLPF (23-24 September), DSD responded this would not be the case, unless the Resolution being negotiated on the hlpf modalities call for this. A MGs finance committee has been formed and has started work on looking at the funding mechanisms for the post Rio+20 processes including the SDGs.

Potential Follow-up Actions

Information Sharing and Communication
•    Joint Strategy: Develop coordinated communication and advocacy strategies on post 2015/post Rio+20.
•    Joint Calendar: Establish timeline of post 2015/post Rio+20 processes that includes negotiations outside of UN HQ (NY) such as UNFCCC climate change negotiations to be concluded in 2015.
•    Utilize UN DESA Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform ( and Post-2105 World We Want platform ( for information sharing and development of advocacy messaging and strategy. Also use common wiki space.
•    List online the organizations consulted by MGs and representing MGs at UN meetings to increase transparency.
•    Formulate key recommendations for enhanced stakeholder engagement to be delivered to co-facilitators before the next hlpf meeting to influence negotiations of zero draft resolution. Communications should be also addressed to relevant working level staff.
•    Consider the establishment of additional Major Groups.
•    Input to survey conducted by UN DESA consultant for report on stakeholder engagement in hlpf. For more information contact consultant Barbara Adams at .

Open Working Group
•    Joint Clusters: Establish thematic clusters along the SDG themes selected by the OWG. Stakeholders should see what themes are missing and get groups interested in those issues to push for their inclusion.

Other Recommendations
•    Develop clear, specific, precise media messages that resonate emotionally. Use social media. Sponsor competition for best slogan to get agreement on civil society messaging.
•    Engage the grassroots levels, those who are marginalized and have never engaged UN processes before. Train activists on the ground.
•    Develop autonomous sources of funding for MGs/CSOs.


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