68th United Nations Civil Society Conference Outcome Statement

The Illustration of the Outcome Statement of the 68th UN Civil Society Conference presented in an animation Photo Credit: Digital Gravy

“Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities”

68th United Nations Civil Society Conference

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America

26-28 August 2019

We, as members of civil society, adopt this document to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, building on the education and global citizenship focus of Gyeongju (2016) and the concept of people-centered multilateralism we developed in New York (2018). This year, we concentrate specifically on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030.” We underscore the need to understand cities and communities as central to the achievement of all SDGs and not only SDG11. We highlight the importance of inclusivity, peace, family, education, youth, and the empowerment of women and girls. Further, we explore the ethical development of the economy, infrastructure, and technology needed to support balanced, sustainable communities. We recognize the interdependence of rural and urban prosperity, as well as the need to address the specific conditions of mountainous areas and small island developing States. We also highlight the need for collaboration of governments, civil society, and the United Nations in this work and stress the urgent need for climate action. For each of these, we affirm our beliefs and shared values, urge others to partner with us, and commit ourselves to actions that uplift the human spirit, create humane cities in which people can flourish, and enhance the quality of life and dignity for all. Without recognition of the challenges to our quest for sustainable and inclusive communities, we will accomplish nothing.

Therefore, we affirm:

  • The importance of inclusivity and respect for the dignity and human rights of all. Thus, sustainable cities and communities must foster opportunities regardless of age; gender; race; nation of origin; sexual orientation; religion; socio-economic status; disability; language; universal, societal, and individual traditions and values; or political opinion.
  • “[The] family-related provisions of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits and their follow-up processes [that] continue to provide policy guidance on ways to strengthen family-centered components of policies and programs as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development.”[[1]]
  • The need for immediate and effective action in response to the climate crisis. It poses a grave threat today, not only to the sustainability of human society, but to life itself, especially in coastal communities and other vulnerable places. Furthermore, the window for effective action is closing rapidly.
  • The need to recognize peace as a fundamental component of sustainable societies, defining it not just as the absence of war and civil strife, but as the active presence of justice, security, social stability, inclusivity, accessibility, and lives lived in harmony with one’s neighbors and the earth’s ecosystems. We specifically recognize the need to address forced migration and its impact on both migrants and communities of origin, transit, and destination.  
  • The engagement of all members of civil society in global and local governance. Good and accountable governance, free of corruption, is key to the achievement of the SDGs, rule of law, and justice for all.
  • The significance and potential of youth. More broadly, we affirm the need to empower all generations with education, skills, and opportunities. These will allow youth to sustain themselves; contribute to the health, well-being, prosperity, and resilience of society; and thereby enable all generations to thrive.
  • The need for adequate, affordable, accessible housing, public services, infrastructure, mobility, and land management. These will reduce poverty, homelessness, and hunger while sustaining connectedness, human and environmental health, and community-led development.
  • The potential for the ethical use and development of technology to address critical challenges faced by communities, harness opportunities, meet the needs of our planet, and re-envision the way we live.
  • The need for community-relevant, goal-oriented private and public investment at all levels of society.  
  • The pivotal importance of education, including technological literacy; it is key to raising awareness of the SDGs and to our capacity to achieve them, especially Goal 11.
  • The central role of local governments in the localization of the 2030 Agenda, its 17 SDGs, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the New Urban Agenda. These global agendas are only as good as the positive transformation they trigger for people, planet, prosperity, and partnerships.

Simple recognition of a problem does not generate progress unless stakeholders actively facilitate solutions. Thus, we encourage all stakeholders to form integrated, goal-oriented action plans that are tailored to the unique circumstances of their cities and communities. Stakeholders include individuals, children, youth, families, women, farmers, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, faith-based communities and organizations, scientific and technology communities, education and academia, workers and trade unions, persons with disabilities, volunteers, aging people, business and industry, philanthropies, and governments at all levels.

Therefore, we urge all stakeholders:

  • To enhance inclusivity and respect for the dignity of all, from which human rights originate. Accordingly, we work to remove unjust systemic barriers to success, noting that bias and discrimination marginalize and segregate large segments of society. We especially call out racism, religious intolerance, and gender inequality.
  • To support the family in its essential educating and nurturing roles, recognizing its important contribution to social integration.
  • To recognize the severity and urgency of the climate change crisis and the destructive impact of our human footprint. We must act on clean, renewable sources of energy, low-emission mobility modes, and net-zero energy buildings. This change will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by cities and will protect our air, water, and ecosystems, thus sustaining biodiversity. Further, we recognize that countries and cities will experience climate and environmental challenges differently and have different resources with which to address them.
  • To replace excessive consumerism with balanced production, consumption, reuse, and recycling.
  • To build and sustain safe, peaceful, and just societies, free from war, civil strife, human exploitation, hate speech, and other crimes. Conflict resolution; respect for the faith, values, and traditions of all; and access to healthcare, including mental and behavioral health, are central to this effort.
  • To ensure a vibrant and sustainable future for our youth through educational, vocational, and mentorship experiences that meet individual needs and facilitate inclusive, effective intergenerational dialogue. These will develop skills needed to create or access local socio-economic opportunities.
  • To invest in sustainable housing, public services, mobility systems, safe drinking water, sanitation and waste systems, and other infrastructure accessible to all citizens. This investment will enable resiliency and prosperity and reduce poverty and hunger. It will also ensure that development minimizes environmental harm while connecting people with jobs, services, commerce, and each other.
  • To develop and appropriately use old, new, and future technology to address challenges to sustainability, inequality, accessibility, human and environmental health, education, climate change, communication, commerce, agriculture, and safety.
  • To establish legal and institutional frameworks that enable community and business investments to positively impact every level of society and every social and economic group.
  • To ensure that governments and organizations at all levels take human needs and the environment into account while addressing societal, economic, infrastructural, and administrative policy.
  • To encourage and support all stakeholders in their efforts to collect, maintain, and monitor relevant SDG data, thereby allowing analysis by all demographic groups and by territory.
  • To incentivize all educational organizations to encourage pluralistic mindsets and engagement in civic and political processes. These efforts should emphasize the role of civil society and contribute practically to the achievement of the SDGs.
  • To enable local strategies that embrace the universal vision of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the New Urban Agenda while remaining sensitive to local contexts.

Concrete actions and mechanisms for accountability must follow our affirmations and commitments if we are to build cities and communities that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.

Therefore, as global citizens, we commit individually and collectively:

  • To apply conscious inclusivity and respect for human dignity and rights in our daily lives while advocating for similar efforts in our corporate and organizational lives; in our laws, regulations, policies, and practices; and in our economy. This should facilitate the inclusion of marginalized, vulnerable, and deprived members of society.
  • To practice environmental stewardship by proactively mitigating climate change and its adverse impacts.
  • To promote sustainable peace as the presence of harmony, respect, and inclusive collaboration in our communities, within and among countries.
  • To inspire and support youth in their visions of, preparation for, and access to a robust future.
  • To urge governments, together with community partners, to build, upgrade, and repair infrastructure in ways that maximize sustainability, improve accessibility, minimize adverse environmental impacts, and ensure the ability to withstand climate change and natural disasters.
  • To use appropriate technologies to ensure inclusivity and accessibility, economic prosperity, and to mitigate climate change and other adverse environmental effects.
  • To mobilize public and private sector funds and investments to impact the implementation of SDG 11 related projects. Namely, these should include efforts to provide housing and basic services; upgrade slums; deliver sustainable transport systems; plan and manage participatory and integrated human settlements; protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage; reduce disaster risk and increase disaster resilience; reduce the adverse environmental impact of cities; develop green and public spaces; create links between urban, peri-urban, and rural areas; integrate policy making; and support Least Developed Countries in building sustainable, resilient infrastructure using local materials.
  • To form civil society collaborations, including public-private partnerships, in order to formulate policies, mechanisms, and regulations that foster peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable cities and communities. These efforts must include ways to track progress via key performance indicators.
  • To protect a free press and make wise and productive use of social and conventional media to communicate, build consensus, and bring together policy makers, businesses, families, and individuals to advance shared interests for the common good.

We urge UN Member States and UN system entities:

  • To engage and collaborate with ECOSOC and Department of Global Communications accredited organizations[[2]] in strategic actions that support and advance the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the New Urban Agenda.
  • To build on the vision, values, and commitments enshrined in this Outcome to deliver concrete multi-stakeholder discussion spaces, policies, partnerships, and implementation tools for sustainable and inclusive cities and communities.
  • To facilitate robust inputs and interactive discussions with UN Major Groups and Other Stakeholders during the SDG Summit on 24-25 September 2019. We call on the Secretariat of the SDG Summit to provide a visible platform and modalities for the public dissemination of relevant analyses and reports produced by UN Major Groups and Other Stakeholders.
  • To establish robust monitoring mechanisms for the transformative initiatives that will be showcased at the UN Secretary General Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019. This should be done via mechanisms existing under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • To provide meaningful spaces and mechanisms for the sustained engagement of civil society in the dialogues that mark the 75th anniversary of the UN. We underscore that this anniversary provides a much-needed opportunity to reflect on the direction of the UN and to ensure its ability to address the global challenges of the 21st century as experienced by people in their communities.

We call on governments at all levels and all other stakeholders:

  • To commit during the SDG Summit to actions that accelerate SDGs implementation and localization with people-centered strategies. Furthermore, we underscore the need to understand cities and communities central to the achievement of all SDGs and not only SDG11.
  • To give follow-up to their actions to accelerate SDGs through Voluntary National Reviews and UN Major Groups and Other Stakeholders reports.
  • To actively support and engage in the tenth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10), convened by the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) on 8-13 February 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. We underscore the critical importance of WUF to share practices, tools, and knowledge on how to achieve the SDGs and deliver climate change action in cities and communities.

We have only 11 years to deliver on the promises we made through the Sustainable Development Goals. We have less than 11 years to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Therefore, be it resolved:

We, the participants of the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference, will continue to actively contribute to our communities individually and in collaboration with other stakeholders to further the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as we move toward the United Nations’ 75th Anniversary in 2020.

We endorse and support the Youth Climate Compact, the objective of which is to identify specific actions that can be taken to reduce the devastating effects of the climate crisis and adapt our communities in mindset and structure.

We thank the people and the governments of the United States of America, the State of Utah, and Salt Lake City for the kind welcome and gracious hosting they have given to the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference and for their efforts to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.