Opening remarks at International Civil Society Organizations Conference Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

Ms. Shamshad Akhtar Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Development of DESA, Secretary General’s Special Advisor of Economic and Finance

On behalf of DESA, I would like to extend our appreciation to the organizers for this invitation and also recognize how the UN values its interface and partnership with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This is a very timely international conference. My UN colleagues and I are keen to hear the perspectives of the civil society on Advancing the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Work on the Post 2015 Agenda has just begun. CSOs will have ample opportunities throughout this and the coming year to continue engaging in consultations and dialogue. You are being heard. In this process, strategic approaches and conformed consensus based on informed analysis will have high dividends. This agenda is global and yet it has to be adopted at the national level. As such, the engagements you have with governments among this group will be mutually reinforcing.

We have learnt many lessons. Among these, three broad lessons are noteworthy:

One, unsustainable development has consequences, as illustrated by the ongoing, unprecedented and protracted global crisis. This has reversed economic and social gains even in the most advanced countries. In this interconnected and globalized world, what happens in the North impacts the South and as a consequence developing countries are faced with additional macroeconomic management and social challenges. Global policy coordination has assumed renewed significance and urgency and calls for comprehensive global action.

Two, the MDGs served us well. However, with hindsight the limitations of the narrow approach to development are becoming self evident and we need to focus now on ending world poverty. Past non-inclusive approaches to development have not served us well: unemployment is at an all time high, inequalities have grown both in terms of income and social levels, and less developed countries and fragile states have become more vulnerable.

Three, in the past, not enough emphasis was placed on the means of implementation and in consultative processes such as the current one. This is assuming significance. Emphasis on implementation has involved debates on governance, rule of law, finance, among others, as well as accountability and monitoring. Approaches and collaborative mechanism to ensure the right enablers are integral to the development agenda.

Drawing from these and other lessons, and on the recognition of strong sectoral and growing cross border linkages, it is important to underscore the need for an integrated development approach. Economic, social and environmental issues have to be addressed in an integrated and systematic manner. Policy responses have to be mutually reinforcing in these areas.

In this context, sustainability has to be at the core of the Post 2015 development agenda. Consultations are echoing that the development agenda has to be people centric, respecting economic and social rights and in this context gender issues are at the core. Respect for planetary boundaries is critical as our and previous generations have breached and depleted resources and we owe it to our future generations to conserve and judiciously use our resources to protect our environment and biodiversity.

In interest of time, I will focus on four points:

The UN has broaden and deepened the consultative process supported by different institutional mechanism in order to listen to all stakeholders, involving experts, academia, public and regional forums, NGOs and CSOs, and private sector. These consultations are enriching and informing the global debates and will filter through in the emerging global agenda.

We recognize that Partnerships have to move beyond governments to CSOs and the private sector at large. The rationale behind is that CSOs, given their outreach and ear to the ground as well as their specializations, are well positioned to feed into the design of development agenda. However, our expectation is that CSOs could take a step forward and bring all stakeholders on a common platform, while getting more and more engaged in getting the delivery of services. Evidence has proven that well equipped, competent and focused CSOs, respecting openness and transparency as well as adhering to fiduciary responsibilities, deliver the services in line with public demands in a cost effective manner.

The UN system is gearing itself to ensure development policy coordination, consistency and coherence with the goal of ensuring that UN the funds, programs and specialized agencies deliver as ONE. In parallel, deliberations are underway among the UN membership to strengthen the intergovernmental processes to improve effectiveness and efficiency. While you will hear more about the Secretary General’s High Level Panel shortly, I would like to highlight that UN member states have formed working groups to foster the process of thinking about the sustainable development agenda and a sustainable financing strategy. All 60 UN System agencies, including the Bretton Woods Institutions are simultaneously tasked to continue their reflections on these topics and on other areas I touched upon earlier. Simultaneously, mechanisms have been put in place to ensure coordination and convergence on the agenda.

In conclusion, CSOs have several channels and windows of opportunity to continue their engagement on advancing the Post 2015 development agenda. Besides their involvement in thematic and country consultations undertaken by different UN agencies, and the consultation structured with the support of DESA’s window for NGOs, in the near term NGOs contributions would be highlighted at the forthcoming 4th July ECOSOC meeting in Geneva.