Trade Unions at the UNECE 2017 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) held its Regional Forum on Sustainable Development on 24-25 April 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. A trade union delegation was present.

The UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD) is part of a series of forums organised by the UN regional bodies in preparation for the 2017 High Level Policy Forum (HLPF), the follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The RFSD brought together Member States, international and regional organisations, civil society, trade unions, academia and the private sector.

This was the first stand-alone SDGs forum under the auspice of UNECE. It showed the significant disparities in terms of SDGs implementation, monitoring and follow-up in this region, which spans from Canada to Kazakhstan, including all EU Member States. Involvement of CSOs and trade unions in UNECE countries performing SDG voluntary national reviews (VNRs) is uneven, ranging from inclusion and regular consultation to neglect. The UNECE region features the many of the wealthiest countries in the world (many of which are important development aid donors), as well as developing and middle-income countries. Poverty and inequality also affects the most developed countries, and freedom of association and collective bargaining right are not always respected, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The trade union delegation was coordinated by the TUDCN and was made up of Joan Lanfranco (ITUC-TUDCN), Gemma Arpaia (ISCOS, Italy), Anton Leppik (ETUC/PERC) and Hans Laugesen (DFL, Denmark). A statement was delivered on behalf of the Workers and Trade Union Major Group in the context of the round table on data and monitoring. It highlighted the need for a participatory process in which trade unions and civil society play a crucial verification role. The full trade union statement is available here.

A CSO Forum was organised in the build up to the RFSD. Trade unions were actively involved and the delegation’s contribution included an update from the EU/Italy perspective, a report on SDG1, a report on the interlinkages of the SDGs and a report on the Regional Forum in Asia-Pacific. The ITUC’s research on the care economy was widely appreciated by participants. The concluding CSO Statement, which referred to the ITUC’s recent report entitled Investing in the Care Economy, focussed on SDGs 1 (ending poverty), 5 (achieving gender equality) and 17 (strengthening the means of implementation).

Nurgul Dzhanaeva, of the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan delivered the statement on behalf of CSOs. It proposed the creation of an adequate fiscal space to support social policies, which, through redistributive tax systems, would help to prevent and navigate crises. It called for measures to ensure women’s participation at local, national, regional and global levels and to secure proper coverage of sexual and reproductive health and rights. It demanded that women’s rights be mainstreamed across all SDGs. Furthermore, the statement insisted on the need for public-private partnerships and blended finance mechanisms to comply with development effectiveness principles and to include CSOs across the project cycle.

In addition, the CSO Forum participants agreed to the creation of a civil society engagement mechanism similar to the RCEM in the Asia-Pacific region.

The official report of the Forum is available here.

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