Seeking to reflect the growing importance of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in international development, and the ways in which they can help implement and monitor governance improvement actions under the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development in partnership with the United Nations Association of America (UNA-USA) Council of Organizations (COO) and several other CSOs hosted a study launch and panel discussion at the UN Church Center on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The event was divided into three segments including a study presentation by co-authors Sarah Little and Ed Elmendorf on behalf of the Partnership for Transparency Fund with additional remarks by Jeffery Huffines of CIVICUS and Sarah Dayringer of Global Policy Watch, an interactive Q&A session with the audience and a networking session.
Aaron Etra, Chair of UNA USA COO, provided the words of welcome to a crowded auditorium of over 60 attendees before handing over the floor to Marc Jourdan, GFDD UN Programs & Outreach Manager and Vice Chair of UNA USA COO, who helped to introduce the speakers and moderate the panel discussion and subsequent Q&A session.
Ed Elmendorf introduced the study that he co-wrote with Sarah Little and Vinay Bhargava, by identifying several trends and their implications for CSOs, including the growing role that they seemed to have played over the last few decades. His colleague Sarah Little stressed that “civil society today benefits from a much more open process” as the number of international non-governmental organization (INGOs) have increased from 6,000 in 1990 to 40,000 in 2016. Following a detailed review of these trends Elmendorf and Little then outlined some key recommendations to assist CSOs in maintaining a strategic role in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.
Among these recommendations, Elmendorf called upon CSOs to take a more pro-active approach and “independently monitor government and donor programs” to ensure their effectiveness in meeting national and subnational commitments to the new development agenda over the next 15 years.
Jeffery Huffines praised the two speakers for their work in helping to advance the new agenda before highlighting the international context of the discussion and the realities which CSOs will be faced with as they look to implement these recommendations. Huffines noted that each CSOs face their “own political dynamic given their country location” based upon which “they will need to make different choices as to how they apply their specialization”.
Sarah Dayringer concluded the panel discussion by noting the funding gaps which UN Member States are currently faced with to achieve the SDGs and the role that the private sector plays at the UN in funding international development initiatives.
Thanking the panelists for their remarks, Jourdan then opened the floor for an interactive Q&A with the audience. The panelists fielded a variety of questions from attendees ranging from the disconnect between international development policies being adopted at the top level and the actual projects being implemented on the ground to the nature of relationships between national governments and CSOs looking to take a more proactive role in monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level.
The event ended with a networking session between the audience members and the panelists, to provide opportunity for further collaboration and partnerships and strengthen the role of CSOs in implementing the new development agenda.
Presentation by Sarah Little & Ed Elmendorf, Partnership for Transparency Fund
Further Reading Recommended by:
Sarah Little & Ed Elmendorf, Partnership for Transparency Fund
PTF Study: Civil Society & Development: Global Trends, Implications and Recommendations for Stakeholders in the 2030 Agenda
Open Government Partnership (OGP)
Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA)
Jeffery Huffines, CIVICUS UN Representative New York
CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report 2016 – Executive Summary (Focus: civil society & exclusion)
CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report 2015 – Executive Summary (Focus: resourcing of civil society)
TAP Network, Goal 16 Advocacy Toolkit
Sarah Dayringer, Global Policy Watch
The Struggle for a UN Treaty: Towards global regulation on human rights and business
Fit for whose purpose? Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations
Philanthropic Power and Development: Who shapes the agenda?
Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda: Time to reconsider their role in implementation
About the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA)
UNA-USA is a membership organization dedicated to educate the American people about the United Nations. For 70 years UNA-USA has worked to accomplish its mission of informing, inspiring and mobilizing Americans to support the principles and vital work of the UN, strengthening the UN system, promoting constructive US leadership in that system and achieving the goals of the UN Charter. Forming a strategic alliance with the UN Foundation in 2010, UNA-USA continues to pool talents to increase public education and advocacy on the work of the UN.
About the UNA USA Council of Organizations (COO)
The COO is a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local groups of organizations with interests in education, social justice, labor, sustainable development, energy and climate, millennium development goals, human rights, health and women’s issues that all share the common goals of making the American public more knowledgeable about global issues and strengthening the U.S. – UN relationship.