The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to promote and develop constructive relations between the United Nations and civil society organizations.



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UN-Civil Society Engagement

2 May 2012

The Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative

The UN Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative in September 2011 to catalyze action by all stakeholders toward the achievement of three interlinked objectives by 2030:

The Secretary-General established a High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All to develop an Action Agenda and to design processes for shared learning and accountability. The Group is comprised of 35 Principal Members, supported by a 12-person Technical Group. The work of the High-level Group will culminate with the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The overall Sustainable Energy for All Initiative is supported by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General with the UN Foundation as an important partner. The Secretary-General has stated that sustainable development – with sustainable energy as one of its building blocks – will be one of his top priorities for his second five-year term, which began on 1 January 2012.

The Sustainable Energy for All Action Agenda, launched in late April, is a basis upon which stakeholders will make commitments to action to move the world towards the above three objectives. The Action Agenda identifies 11 high-impact opportunity areas for action, and provides entry points for all stakeholders. Through an open and transparent platform, the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative seeks to build global alliances around high impact action areas between businesses, civil society and governments. The Initiative aims to work with 10 countries by the time the Rio+20 Conference begins in June, and will seek to work with as many countries as possible in the coming years.

To bring the Initiative to scale, all stakeholders at the global and country level must work together to coordinate, mobilize, facilitate, and leverage action over the long term. All stakeholders are urged to bring forward ideas and commitments for how and where governments, businesses and civil society can work together or individually on concrete sets of actions. The ultimate purpose of the Initiative is to provide coordination to aggregate and accelerate both independent and collaborative actions by all stakeholders toward the achievement of the Sustainable Energy for All objectives in all countries. In June at the Rio+20 Conference, stakeholders will join the Secretary-General in announcing commitments made thus far toward the Initiative.

Partnerships are central to the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, and in many cases, civil society organizations will be the glue that enables the partnerships to make real change. Civil society is a key partner for promoting community dialogue and engagement; understanding diverse conditions on the ground; understanding suitable business models for various contexts; policy advocacy; monitoring and evaluation; and delivering action. Private sector engagement in the Initiative will be key, but can go astray unless civil society is also engaged in shaping, supporting, and implementing those investments. Civil society must engage with governments to ensure that policies are based on the truth from the ground.

The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative asks civil society to make commitments to action in connection with the Initiative and its three global objectives. The Initiative also invites suggestions for country level actions or thematic topics that civil society is interested in pursuing.

The United Nations Foundation (UNF) created the Energy Access Practitioner Network as part of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and also leads the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. UNF invites civil society organizations to participate in one or both of these networks. The Energy Access Practitioner Network focuses on energy access solutions for electrification, cooking and thermal applications. Involving more than 400 organizations from small and medium enterprises, civil society and companies, it focuses on mini-grid, micro-grid and off-grid energy access solutions in rural areas and underserved urban and peri-urban areas where conventional business models have not been successful. Within the network there are seven working groups: finance, micro-grids, standards, health, education, agriculture, and supply chains. The UN Foundation is working on a synthesis report of the findings from these working groups.

For additional information about the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative please visit:

For information about the NGLS civil society consultation on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative during the lead up to Rio+20, please visit or contact NGLS.

Reports from the meetings of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All that took place in September and November 2011 and January 2012 are available here.

An audio recording of the 24 February briefing to UN Member States on the work of the High-level Group given by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, UNDP, UNEP and UNIDO is available here.

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