TOU at the United Nations: 2015 and Beyond
Our Work at the United Nations
In August, four representatives of the Temple of Understanding will attend this year’s NGO/DPI conference. The theme is 2015 and Beyond, and the outcome document will feed into the UN’s sustainable development goals process.
We are proud of our vibrant participation in the process of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. This group, an outcome of the Rio+20 conference, has met for 16 months to develop goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals as focal points for UN work over the coming 15 years. The multilateral consensus based process consisted of major information gathering and then compilation and condensation into the acclaimed outcome document of 17 goals and a chapeau.
Grove Harris represents the Temple of Understanding in her ongoing work with the Mining Working Group at the United Nations and the Women’s Major Group, both of which served as consistently strong voices of civil society throughout the process. She was able to deliver “interventions” on two occasions, speaking before the body and contributing written materials.
She was also able to address the high level gathering convened by the President of the General Assembly, which is another channel of input into the SDG process.
Collaboration is the only way to work; these statements carry the input and endorsements of many of the UN’s Major Groups of civil society and contributed to the final outcome document.
There are many good critiques of the outcome document available online. For example, a letter from the Mining Working Group at the UN and Blue Planet Project urged an explicit reference to the human right to water and sanitation under Proposed Goal 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all). Arguing that the current OWG approach to mainstreaming human rights makes them “invisible,” the groups recommended an agenda “rooted in human rights obligations” rather than one simply “guided” by human rights principles. You can read more here.
One of the most pointed and longstanding critiques is that without adequate means of implementation, significant progress will remain a nice idea. Thus many look to the parallel process on financing for development, and a recent session of that was particularly informative with civil society critique of how financial processes remain non-transparent and non-democratic, and at times the exact antithesis of these lauded principles. Concentrations of wealth and power offer a significant threat to sustainability.
Recently Joseph Stiglitz spoke at a side event at the UN, as part of the OWG process. His ideas about eliminating extreme inequality as part of sustainable development are available online, in his article on Eliminating Extreme Inequality: A Sustainable Development Goal 210-2030.
The work towards the SDGs is far from complete; the OWG strand now goes to the Secretary General for the next stage.