The 13th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is not the only post2015 event taking place in New York during July. Away from the UN, civil society organization members seeking to influence the final document will be working together at meetings across the city, discussing the latest goals and targets and formulating joint responses.
During the 12th session in June 2014, Beyond2015 organised a breakfast meeting between civil society groups and OWG members. Sowmyaa Bharadwaj from Praxis talks to Mwangi Waituru about some of the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned as a result of taking part.
Beyond2015 hosts a meeting between UN representatives and civil society organisations in New York during the 12th session of the OWG in June 2014.
“For each of the Sustainable Development Goals there will be hundreds of organizations that either endorse or disagree with the issues being put forward depending on their own agendas. Our aim was not to isolate stories of what happened in, for example, a small corner of Kenya or India or Brazil but to reflect the realities faced in similar ways across many different parts of the developing world. We also wanted to get the message across that what we were proposing was grounded in these realities and based on several years’ robust research.
The first challenge was the huge amounts of diversity in perspectives of OWG members because of each country’s different understanding of issues related to e.g. poverty and inequality. So getting 180 different people with their own political agendas to try and reach some sort of common consensus and to give you time to present your own agenda was one huge problem.
The second problem was that some of the missions we interacted with had very limited capacity – some, such as the Philippines, did not have a Chair which meant that they weren’t able to vote on some matters. This resulted in them trying to lobby for issues that their own countries were trying to push forward.
The third challenge was that there was a lot of diversity among the civil society itself which made presenting ourselves with a common face extremely difficult.
So what did we learn from this? The main lesson we learnt is that people are very willing to listen to your point of view if you have good evidence.
The second lesson is that you need to know about the person you are going to speak to both formally and informally. It was very important for us to know beforehand the stance of different countries on different goals before we actually approached them.
The third is the importance of having a meeting of minds, speaking the same language and delivering shared messages. Although it is impossible to have a universal voice from the NGO sector, it is important that we have five or six common issues that are non-negotiable. This will be very helpful in future actions taken.
Finally there should be equality in the representation from the northern voices and the southern voices and their agendas should be treated equally and not blown off because their attendance was just to meet a political requirement.”