Women’s Human Rights and the SDGs (HLPF 2017)

High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2017

[For more information on this report, contact Grove Harris: groveharris at gmail.]

In July 2017, a second set of countries presented their progress on the SDGs to the United Nations. Civil society (NGOs and other nonprofits) raised concerns on many fronts, including the shrinking space for diverse people’s voices, the degree of progress, and the rise in attacks on front line human rights defenders around the globe. The Temple of Understanding worked with the Women’s Major Group, mourning the deadly violence against women human rights defenders.

Women Human Rights Defenders Resist
Photo by Grove Harris


Resurj, also a member organization of the WMG, has written an extensive summary report of the HLPF, “Going beyond Aspiration: HLPF analysis 2017.” (Conclusions appended below.)



Diverse Civil Society efforts include a “spotlight” report that directly challenges barriers.

“Unbridled privatization, corporate capture and mass-scale tax abuse are blocking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, argues a new report by a global coalition of civil society organizations including the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR).”



Other Civil Society colleagues prepared an overview of the country reports:

“Voluntary National Reviews: What are countries prioritizing?” (Conclusions appended below.)



A side event held by religious NGOs released a popular education resource for communities, produced collaboratively and published by the International Presentation Association. “Critical Hope for the SDGs: Advocating from the Margins for Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice in the Context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals” aims to ensure the SDGs become a people’s agenda, serving communities “on the ground.”



RESURJ’s conclusions:


The Sustainable Development Goals are really a battle between commodities and the commons. As a feminist alliance, RESURJ’s approach to justice includes that we understand and address the interlinkages between women’s bodies, health, and human rights in the context of the ecological, social and economic crisis that we face.  

As part of RESURJ’s ongoing advocacy within this process we have over the past two years, focused on how we leverage evidence based on people’s realities for a justice approach to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and other key processes. In particular, we aim to share examples of the interlinkages and experiences of people to inform policy advocacy, resource allocation, and interventions. We have also started to explore how certain interventions have the potential to impact multiple goals and targets, and are potential key tools in the realization of the agenda. One such example is how Comprehensive Sexuality Education can have a positive impact on young people and adolescent’s lives including contributing to reducing inequalities and violence, improving health and education outcomes, reducing poverty and increasing opportunities. Exploring interventions and policy that could have multiple effects on multiple goals is a learning process for us and we are taking this challenge on because we know that the interlinkage and intersectional perspective called for in moving the Agenda 2030 forward cannot come from governments alone.

We will not achieve the transformational aims of this agenda, if we silo our responses to the economic, ecological and social crises that we face. Holding the realities of people and our planet at the center, is the critical approach that we have missed before, and cannot risk missing again.


Voluntary National Reviews: What are countries prioritizing?


  • Countries should be more explicit in reporting on the VNR process, including efforts to engage stakeholders. Together 2030 calls on governments “to strengthen efforts to publicize their plans and processes for national review, and opportunities for participation, sharing common challenges and identifying best practices in stakeholder engagement.”

  • Countries need to step up the pace. They should not wait for their first VNR report before getting started on implementation.

  • Countries should report on progress toward all 17 SDGs, recognizing the indivisibility of the agenda and interlinkages among the goals.

  • Main Messages should include more substance on implementation, including specific activities, progress and challenges.

  • Civil society must keep demanding meaningful participation. It’s positive that many countries mentioned youth and women, but more stakeholder groups need to be included.

Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty (CSW61)

The UN Department of Public Information (DPI),
in partnership with the Temple of Understanding, presents

Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty

Part of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (Side Event)

 Thursday, March 23, 2017, 11 am – 12:45 pm
Conference Room 2, United Nations Headquarters, New York


Building on the intersections between Sustainable Development Goals 2, 5, and 6, this briefing will feature the voices of Indigenous people and highlight women’s leadership role in sustainable food production and sovereignty.


  • Sister Celine Paramunda, Medical Mission Sisters
  • Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), American Indian Law Alliance
  • Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, International Indian Treaty Council
  • Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, New York UNCTAD

The relevant Sustainable Development Goals include:

2. Zero Hunger
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation

The Temple is extremely grateful to Tribal Link for their collaboration on this event.




Click for PDF flyer >>



Resources on Women, Religion, and Rights from the UN


Realizing the Faith DividendRealizing the Faith Dividend: Religion, Gender, Peace and Security in Agenda 2030

This report focuses on the role of religious actors and religious considerations in the SDG agenda, particularly as they pertain to gender equality, peaceful coexistence and security considerations. The perspectives, ideas and initiatives discussed in these pages bring together experiences and policy analysis shared from the different realities of Donors, UN agencies and Faith-Based NGOs. The narratives build on and inform policies — required at a time when religion is predominantly viewed as an emerging challenge.


b1e2f580d5f9903ff82457c6bc548cc7Religion, Women’s Health and Rights: Points of Contention, Paths of Opportunity

This white paper looks at the religious arguments around some of the most sensitive and contentious gender-related issues from the perspective of the major faith traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. An article noting thisrReport and its launch in Oslo in May, was published in the Huffington Post, penned by one of the key consultants who compiled this for UNFPA and Norad. The article can be found here.

TOU at the United Nations: 2015 and Beyond

Our Work at the United Nations

templeMembers of the Women’s Major group meeting at the UN (photo by Sascha Gabizon)

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.

Goal 6 – Water and Sanitation  OWG10, April 2, 2014 

Goal 7 – Sustainable Energy Joint Statement for OWG12

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.