NEW YORK, USA– A global CSO platform, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) warned that the widespread decline in official development assistance (ODA), shrinking civic spaces, and weak private sector accountability risk the earlier gains of the 2030 Agenda. In a response statement to the 2018 UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF), CPDE said that the UN and its Member States must effectively address the issue of financing, inclusive participation, and mutual accountability in order to achieve the scale and ambition of the 2030 Agenda and realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The platform also urged heads of states to work together to bring back the spirit of international cooperation that resulted into the SDGs. This call comes after the failure to reach consensus on a Ministerial Declaration for the Forum. For the platform, the lack of consensus spells out slimmer chances to meet the resource requirements needed to achieve the SDGs.
ODA decline, private sector on the rise
Due to the huge resources needed for the SDGs, the 2030 Agenda identified ODA and multistakeholder partnerships as important means in implementing the SDGs.
Three years after, however, CPDE says that the mantra of ‘billions to trillions’ gave many development partners license to ignore the 0.7% of gross national income contribution to foreign assistance .
The token reference to development cooperation pales into insignificance compared to the importance given to the increasing role of private sector in development. Same as in the past years, governments and international financial institutions (IFIs) at the HLPF still believed that the private sector will be the key partner in implementing the SDGs and will step in to fill the gap in SDG financing. CPDE, however, warned about the business-as-usual approach to development by corporations, whether it through the promotion of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) or blended financing, especially if strong accountability mechanisms are not enforced or implemented.
Poor mechanisms for multi-stakeholder participation
In a study on SDG implementation at the country-levels conducted by CPDE among its national focal points, 61 percent of 20 CSOs respondents said that national review processes can still do much better in consulting with civil society.
CPDE has long advocated for genuine multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) which include all development actors to embody inclusiveness, transparency and accountability for all actors, and underpins the human rights-based approach to development.
When multi-stakeholder partnerships are in place, however, there are critical factors that make these platforms ceremonial in nature. “Civil society can be invited to participate in the process, whether by nominating a representative in the national committee or organising a consultation, in the first case there is a lack of criteria of selection so we don’t know how and who will be selected and on what basis, as for the second one, they can consult with CSO without integrating their comments in the report so the consultation will not be effective,” said Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development.
Spaces for MSPs, however, will only be fully achieved and utilised if the conditions for a conducive operational environment are in place. CPDE Co-chair Beverly Longid, an indigenous leader in the Philippines said that multistakeholder partnerships are challenges for CSOs in repressive and militarised situations.
Speaking in a forum organised by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), CPDE Co-chair Meja Vitalice’s stressed that creating spaces for citizen’s ownership is vital to the Agenda 2030. In another session, Vitalice also commented that “Governments have not really gotten down to the communities about the SDGs even as they have already aligned their development agendas. It is important that communities become the owners of the SDGs
Sustainability without accountability?
CPDE members also raised issues around this year’s theme,”Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.
Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation Executive Director Emele Duituturaga said in an intervention, “Three years on, problems still persist compounded by climate change in SIDS. The business-as-usual policy and technical approaches fail to address structural and power imbalances, persistent inequalities and grave injustices.”
She further added “that Governments have a fundamental role in regulating the private sector and ensuring all-of-society action towards changing consumption and production patterns, moving from an excessive focus on profit and growth to a planet-and people-centred economy.”
CSOs also observed that the HLPF discussions had downplayed the various impacts of transnational corporation-related activities in the aim to invite more private sector funds.
Speaking in a session, Rodolfo Lahoy Jr. of IBON International expressed concerns on the primordial role being assigned to the private sector even in SDGs environmental goals. “There are sustainable consumption and production models by many farmers and indigenous peoples groups. But it is difficult for Southern communities to forward these where they are silenced for opposing precisely unsustainable practices and when they have been attacked just for asserting their rights, for instance, when it comes to big mining interests in El Salvador and the Philippines.” he added.
The HLPF process was established as an annual review process to assess the implementation of the SDGs. The annual meeting convenes governments and other stakeholders including CSOs to report progress on the HLPF.
This year’s HLPF focused on the environmental pillar of the SDGs. CPDE sent a delegation composed of representatives from regions and sectors. The delegation attended both the Thematic Week and Ministerial Segments of the Forum.###