From subjects to citizens – accountability in the post-2015 development agenda

This week I have the privilege of being in Bali for meetings around the 4th High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on Post-2015 Development Agenda. From individual youth activists to parliamentarians to multilateral institutions there is a common call for people’s participation and accountability to citizens in the next global development framework.

Today at the CSO Outreach Day, I was happy to hear democratic governance and accountability given prominence in the discussions between civil society and HLP members. As the HLP representative from the United States put it “accountability is listening to people and their aspirations.”

This demand-driven approach to development is a welcome change, as current development goals and indicators are largely considered an arbitrary and imposed framework. Because the current development agenda was developed without the participation and ownership of those who were most affected there was never a groundswell of support for citizen participation in monitoring and engaging in the MDG’s implementation. Continue reading

Aspiring to greatness – little by little

The heady days of the 2012 Olympic Games seems like an age ago. In recent weeks, though, as I’ve discussed citizen action and global justice around northern Europe, one story above all still lingers. For me, rather than any of the numerous and impressive individual feats, it’s the story of the British cycling team’s domination of their medals chart which might just help us understand our role in social change.

The coach of the British cycling team put the consistency of their success down largely to what they called “the aggregation of marginal gains”: rather than seeking any one secret weapon to deliver the knockout blow, this approach relied on gaining a series of 1% edges over the competition in every field – usually through superior equipment, stronger management and better training. They weren’t the only sporting team pursuing this incremental approach, but they were arguably unparalleled both in the range of advantages they found (including having the team sleep on special pillows) and in their clean sweep of the medals chart. Continue reading

Post 2015, ou l’occasion d’une réforme

Jean-François Lyotard, philosophe français disparu en 1998, a ouvert ses « Moralités post-modernes » par la formule suivante : « Qu’il nous arrive quelque chose… Nous n’attendons finalement que cela : qu’il nous arrive quelque chose ». Nous qui nous rendons cette semaine à Bonn pour la conférence mondiale des Organisations de la société civile (OSC) sur l’agenda Post 2015 («Faire Avancer l’Agenda Post-2015 de Développement Durable »), nous avons cela en tête : qu’arrive enfin ce moment de dialogue et de rencontre entre tous ceux qui, du point de vue de la société civile, travaillent sur la nouvelle génération des objectifs du millénaire pour le développement, après 2015. Nous nous disons également que ces objectifs pourraient être l’occasion qu’il « arrive » quelque chose au système des Nations Unies, et qu’il trouve dans ce processus la volonté et les moyens de réformer son fonctionnement et ses prises de décision. La définition de ces nouveaux objectifs de développement devrait en effet être l’occasion d’intégrer fermement les différents acteurs de développement, nommément les organisations de la société civile, le secteur privé, les autorités locales et autres acteurs non-étatiques.

Las… nous n’en sommes pas là, avons-nous constaté la semaine dernière à Sao Paulo, au Brésil lors du Forum 2013 du Forum pour une Gouvernance Mondiale Démocratique (FIM) , portant sur les relations entre l’ONU et la société civile. Depuis trente ans, la substance même de la politique s’est mondialisée : le commerce, les finances, le changement climatique, le VIH-SIDA, le terrorisme. Les acteurs de la société civile ont su construire des processus mondiaux pour attirer l’attention des Etats, notamment sur les questions d’environnement, du commerce des armes, des mines anti-personnel, de la corruption, etc. Cependant, les processus de la politique conventionnelle résistent à la mondialisation. Ses principales institutions – élections, partis politiques et parlements -, demeurent enracinées au niveau national et la gouvernance mondiale n’est donc autre que la rencontre des intérêts divergents voire conflictuels des Etats-Nations. Continue reading

Dispatches from Geneva: 1st Week of the Human Rights Council (25th February 2013-1st March 2013)

By Aisha Onsando, CIVICUS Intern, Geneva

The 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council opened with a high level panel commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and plan of action. The panel consisted of more than 70 dignitaries. Many speakers expressed concern for country situation’s already on the Council’s agenda such as Syria, Mali, Sri Lanka, DPRK and Bahrain. There was a general call for greater involvement by the Human Rights Council and the Commissioner of Human rights with a particular call for the extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur on Syria.

The High level panel also focused on the legacy of the Vienna Declaration and plan of action. Article 5 of the Vienna Declaration stresses that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated, that the international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This was the main focus of the majority of the high level panelists on the real contribution that the Vienna Conference contributed to the human right’s discourse. No right is more important than any other. No group of rights can be given primacy over the other. No right is fully achieved until they all are. Continue reading

Measure What You Treasure: Reflections from the Post-2015 Governance Consultation Meeting (1)

As a part of THE WORLD WE WANT, the post-2015 global thematic consultation on governance held in Johannesburg on 28 February – 1 March, I communicated my message for civil society strategies in 4 words, “Bring your measuring stick!”

If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist

You might not agree to the theorem, “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” However, we need to recognise that this is the dominant mode of operation – and increasingly so these days – in policy-making circles at global, regional, national and local levels. So what we need to do, in light of the formation of the post-MDGs goals and indicators on the horizon, is to “measure what you treasure,” instead of “treasure what you can measure,” as succinctly put forward in the video message by High Commissioner Navi Pillay during the consultation meeting.

As civil society actors, we all need to clearly formulate what we “treasure” in this opportune time and try to develop their respective yardstick (ie., measurement framework) so that we increases our chances of having what we “treasure” incorporated into the new set of globally-agreed targets and indicators post 2015. This is particularly true in the governance domain, where its key ingredients might be amorphous and abstract. Thus my message, “bring your measuring stick.” Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s litmus test

As the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council opens in Geneva, the situation in Sri Lanka is once again in the spotlight. It’s been almost 4 years since the end of the civil war there and conditions for local civil society – from human rights defenders to journalists – seem to be getting worse. While accountability for alleged war crimes and human rights violations is critical in the immediate term, the long-term litmus test of Sri Lanka’s ability to build an effective and peaceful democracy will be whether it can nurture a vibrant and independent civil society.

As CIVICUS argued in our submission to the Universal Periodic Review on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council last year, we are very concerned about abductions and other acts of intimidation against human rights defenders and journalists, human rights violations committed by Sri Lankan security forces, restrictions on freedom of expression and information, and a complex and obstructive registration processes for NGOs, especially those wanting to work in the Northeast of the island. CIVICUS is also concerned about the Sri Lankan Government’s rejection of so many recommendations from member states that came out of the UPR process. Continue reading