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UN engages Civil Society at the UNSDCF Consultation in Pretoria

Pretoria, 25 September 2019 – The UN hosted a consultation with civil society organisations (CSO) to strengthen partnerships between the UN and civil society. The main objective of the consultation was to map out new strategies to aid in the implementation process of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) and ensure that CSO input is well documented for actioning in the UNSDCF.

Abigail Noko, Regional Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), welcomed the guests and called for all parties to forge ways of working together, bearing in mind that we all must be responsive to the needs of those left behind.

“The UN cannot work in isolation and certain issues cannot be addressed without the input and groundwork of civil society”, emphasized Dr. Mbulawa Mugabe, Country Director of UNAIDS, South Africa. Like the South African government, civil society is one of the relevant stakeholders that the UN partners with to execute projects and campaigns to drive development in the country and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In order to yield better results, the UN needs to engage and strengthen its relationshipwith civil society.

During the panel discussion, it was mentioned that the UN appeared to dominate the partnership with civil society and going forward, participants called for a shift with a balance that depicts an inclusive, consultative and collective action by the UN and civil society for future implementation.

An interactive activity saw the participants divided into groups with each group allocated a question related to the engagement of the UN with civil society and the gaps in the UNSDCF. The participants indicated that the National Development Plan (NDP) was developed and implemented before the adoption of the SDGs and therefore, there is a need for detailed realignment of the NDP towards the broader Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.

It was also highlighted that the NDP did not consider the rights and access to education and basic services for undocumented migrants. Creation of a network within the existing a communication networks to cater for specific sectors and groups of civil society, which are not represented and a UN partnership mapping exercise would be ideal in the way forward. It was noted  that although there are individual stakeholders within a group, civil society must work together as a collaborative contributor and not compete amongst each other. An online portal was suggested which would be accessible to civil society groups to serve as an information hub at regional and national levels.

The participants were keen to know how to practically engage with the UN and what the structure will be for the next three years of UNSDCF implementation approach. It was  also mentioned that to move forward, the two entities needed to first learn about previous experiences and use that information to map out how best to engage with each other effectively.

The consultation provided civil society with an understanding on the UNSDCF guiding principles, implementation processes and key focus areas. It was also suggested that an accountability and monitoring mechanism that fully integrates the voices of the CSO be considered. The UN was able to capture and document suggestions, expectations, gaps in the UNSDCF and recommendations presented by the participants. Article by: Mankosi Singo (UNIC Comms Team)