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November 2011 NGLS Civil Society Consultation for the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability

At the request of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP), NGLS conducted a civil society consultation from 1-11 November 2011 to gather inputs for consideration by the GSP before the final meeting of the Panel on 13-14 December 2011. The work of thirty-four organizations and networks is reflected in this consultation, including four of the UNCSD Major Groups. NGLS sought to maintain geographic, political, gender and generational balance. A consultation of this limited size cannot serve as an inclusive representation of civil society perspectives on the work of the GSP, but NGLS made it a priority to understand a diversity of views within the very limited time frame of this endeavor. Predominantly through the use of quotes from telephone interviews and written submissions, two distinct summary reports from the consultation present principle civil society recommendations for the GSP - one on policy issues and one on governance.

The first summary report focuses on sustainable development policy and addresses employment, the acceleration of gender equality, sustainable economic policy, and indicators beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Civil society organizations provided numerous concrete and actionable recommendations to advance equitable economic development that respects human rights and the environment, including measures for:

 Creating decent, equitable and green jobs with a just transition and social protection floor. This should include a focus on ensuring equal employment opportunities for women and youth.

 Addressing entrenched gender bias associated with global patriarchy; mainstreaming gender governance; supporting grassroots women’s organizations; gender budgeting; collecting sex-disaggregated data; and promoting support for sexual and reproductive health.

 Reversing the trend toward deepening global over-reliance on markets and returning nations to real, non-speculative economies.

 Strengthening regulation of corporations and markets to tilt the balance towards public rights over corporate privileges. Recommendations to accomplish this include eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, as well as perverse subsidies for agriculture and fisheries; instituting a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT); and reforming fiscal systems to make them fairer and sustainable.

 Direct investing in education and vocational training; reinforcing local economies and indigenous knowledge; and ensuring equitable access to productive resources for women and youth.

 Promoting “the research and discourse on alternative metrics at national and international levels, within a specified timeframe, and with broad participation of civil society, building upon existing initiatives,” as the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives articulates.

The second summary report focuses on select sustainable development governance topics including a UN Sustainable Development Council, Sustainable Development Goals, and national and sub-national sustainable development governance. Civil society organizations provide recommendations for:

 Creating a Sustainable Development Council that has genuine political clout to bring global policy coherence for sustainable development and features strong, consistent, meaningful and diverse civil society engagement. Many organizations support establishing a Council for Sustainable Development that is on par with the Human Rights Council and reports to the General Assembly. A variety of proposals are presented for the Council’s core functions, the shape of its civil society engagement, and institutions and mechanisms to provide it with essential support.

 The formulation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - A variety of views are presented regarding the timeline for development of SDGs and the relationship of SDGs to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and criteria for SDGs. The one area of clear consensus amongst civil society is that if SDGs are to be developed, the process must be an “extensive, bottom up consultative process involving local communities and civil society in all regions of the globe,” as CIVICUS articulates.

 Improving sustainable development governance at the national and sub-national level, including by re-establishing or strengthening National Councils on Sustainable Development (NCSDs) while incorporating lessons from existing or former NCSDs; establishing Parliamentary Committees to provide oversight and raise awareness of sustainability issues; and appointing national Ombudspersons and Sherpas for Future Generations / Sustainability. Additionally, sub-national and local governments need political capacity as well as supportive national and global regulatory frameworks to channel expenditures on fixed assets towards creating sustainable systems.

Access the GSP civil society consultation summary on sustainable development policy here and the consultation summary on sustainable development governance here. Access the submissions to the Rio+20 compilation document here.

Excerpt from Ani DiFranco’s Input to the GSP

Seeking her input on the work of the Global Sustainability Panel (GSP), NGLS interviewed Grammy Award winning musician, poet and activist Ani DiFranco. Ani is also CEO of Righteous Babe Records, her internationally successful independent record label, and is widely acclaimed for her work on women’s empowerment. The National Organization of Women selected Ani for their “Woman of Courage” award in 2006: “Honorees are chosen for having demonstrated personal bravery in challenging entrenched power and in carrying out action that has the potential to benefit women in general.”

The following is an excerpt from Ani’s input to the GSP. Her full comments can be accessed here.

Three words that should appear in the Global Sustainability Panel report

1) Nuclear power should be addressed more pointedly. There’s a lot of talk about decreasing fossil fuel dependency, and reducing carbon emissions -and it’s great those are top on the list of how to stave off doom. But nuclear power needs to be put out there as one of the most unsustainable, dirty industries that must be stopped. Nuclear power has to be presented right next to fossil fuels in the list of energy sources to move away from.

2) Bio-mimicry is such an important concept. If you are talking about paradigm shift and getting away from old technologies, you need to present the new way. Bio-mimicry, in a word, is the new way. Stop thinking about how to best exploit nature and start thinking about how to emulate her. Nature functions in a cooperative and sustainable way, and the success of its systems has been vetted over thousands of years. If the Panel wants to steer the world in a fresh new direction, they need to define it. The single word bio-mimicry could define it. [...]

3) The word patriarchy has a place in this report. We need to say this word and understand it as the fundamental imbalance in all of human society from which all other imbalance is eventually born. The Panel should not treat women as victims and focus on women as the most disempowered. I appreciate that in the developing world, women often don’t have a semblance of power, opportunity, and access but even in the developed world don’t have enough women in power and in decision-making. The frame should be that women are the natural leaders of this paradigm shift. The mediation of patriarchy through the global advancement of feminism is at the heart of the transformation we are seeking. Feminism, which is the philosophy born of the female/maternal experience, focuses on relationship and the interconnectedness of humans to each other and the reality of the human family; the fallacy of autonomy; the reliance of one person, one country, one ecosystem on another. The great Charles Darwin, father of the concept of evolution, spoke from an inherently masculine perspective when he focused on the competition within nature and the process of natural selection. Had the science been constructed by a woman, the focus may well have been on cooperation as the main engine of natural systems, a force even more essential than competition. [...]

For information about previous civil society engagements between civil society and the GSP during 2011, please click here.

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


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