Letter from CSOs to President of ECOSOC on HLPF 2016

20th July 2016
H.E. Oh Joon
President,
United Nations Economic and Social Council
New York

Your Excellency,

We, as members of various local, national, regional and global civil society organisations, social movements, constituencies, platforms, major groups and other stakeholders from different parts of the world, would like to congratulate you on your leadership of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). We appreciate the efforts made in designing the HLPF 2016 programme and allowing for the effective participation of all relevant stakeholders.

We also take this opportunity to commend the contributions of member states, especially those who volunteered themselves for review at HLPF 2016. Many of these member states have had some form of consultation at the country level involving different stakeholders, and have posted their review documents in the public domain, reflecting the principles agreed in paragraph 74 of ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

As this is the first HLPF after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it offers an opportunity to reflect on successes, learnings, and ways to strengthen the HLPF process. We would like to share the following observations and recommendations for your thoughtful consideration.

  1. Programme design - The national voluntary reviews are the basis for recommendations and decision-making by the HLPF, and the programme should allow their findings to guide discussions and the sharing of experiences throughout the HLPF. Part of the mandate of the HLPF is the follow up and review of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other sustainable development frameworks. Accountability is needed to drive effective international cooperation. We recommend that the HLPF programme in 2017 and in forthcoming years should begin with the Ministerial Segment where member states conduct their reviews and adopt the ministerial declaration, followed by the expert level thematic roundtables and dialogues. This would allow the discussions taking place at the expert level to be informed by inputs from the national reviews. The early release of the draft agenda of the HLPF would provide participants the opportunity to better prepare responses, thereby increasing the overall quality of stakeholder participation.
  2. Modalities - The modalities for the HLPF in general - and especially the reviews of national voluntary reports at the global level - should encourage interactive dialogue and debate. More time should be given for member states to engage with each country report, with inputs from major groups and other stakeholders. This modification in format would enrich the quality of discussions and create spaces for constructive engagement, problem-solving and the exchange of good practice. Further, we recommend that the HLPF be made more inclusive and accessible by providing closed captioning, international sign interpretation, and accessible format website and documentation for visually impaired participants.
  3. National Reviews - The HLPF rests upon - and should aim to reinforce - national democratic ownership of the reporting frameworks by all stakeholders. National review processes need to be strengthened to be more inclusive, transparent, effective, and participatory, as well as better able to capture successes and learnings, and to make corrective adjustments, when necessary. National reviews should make the best use of already available information, including data from other UN reporting mechanisms as well as inputs from thematic experts. Additional sources of information like parallel reports should also be considered as inputs and made available on the HLPF website as part of review materials for the respective country.

Moreover, the UN secretariat could request member states to volunteer to conduct national voluntary reviews over the next 4-year cycle, creating a schedule that facilitates better preparation. Parliaments should play a key role in national reviews. Guidelines for the effective participation and engagement of all relevant actors at the national level should be developed at the HLPF in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

We remain committed to making the 2030 Agenda a reality. We view our participation in implementation, as well as in monitoring and review of all sustainable development frameworks, as essential for its success. An enabling environment that allows civil society the full realisation of the core freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, should be ensured so that civil society can play its rightful role in policy formulation and implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Indeed, the promise to leave no one behind cannot be realised without the voices of the peoples, especially those living in poverty and the most vulnerable.

We appreciate your readiness to engage with us to enhance the HLPF.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

See list of CSOs that have endorsed this letter.