Official Newsletter of the Global Social Observatory
The Global Social Observatory extends warm wishes to all for a happy, healthy and productive new year. We are pleased to share this tenth issue of GSO News with a wrap-up of GSO events and issues of interest from the second half of 2015. The newsletter has three sections providing: updates on GSO activities; commentary on developments of interest to the GSO in international organizations; and upcoming events of interest.
Readers will recall that our last issue included a report on recommendations from the annual GSO General Assembly, which was held this year on 23 June 2015. Drawing on this guidance from the GSO membership, the GSO team has convened a workshop at the WTO Public Forum on the SDGs and trade and an informal brainstorming session on next steps for GSO work on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The GSO also worked with a team of graduate students from the Applied Research Seminar on “Human and Social Development” at the Graduate Institute to explore partnering trends and their implications for both the SDGs and Climate Change. Read more about these GSO activities below.
The GSO team was also active at the Post-2015 Development Agenda Summit in New York in September, the Committee on World Food Security in Rome in October and the Global Gathering of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement in Milan in October. We include highlights below on GSO interests from these events, along with some additional commentaries on the Paris Climate Change Summit and the Tenth WTO Ministerial in December.
Feedback from members and readers of the newsletter are welcome. The GSO Management Committee looks forward to adopting an action plan for 2016 at its meeting on 13 January 2016 that incorporates support for the 2030 Agenda and GSO work on conflict of interest as part of the GSO’s continuing interest in facilitating multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral dialogue and collaboration.
As we reported in our June/July 2015 newsletter, the annual General Assembly of the GSO met on Tuesday, 23 June 2015, with a special session on “Challenges and Opportunities for Cross-cutting and Multi-stakeholder Partnerships: Implementing the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Solutions Agenda of the Climate Change Summit”. We have appreciated the guidance from this special session for the work of the GSO in 2015, and we include a summary of recommendations for ease of reference here.
- Many partnering platforms to support implementation of the SDGs are already being developed, but the potential is there for more collaborative efforts. Each one should be scrutinized for how they are able to promote cross-cutting and multi-stakeholder engagement – both in Geneva and elsewhere.
- Cross-sectoral collaboration depends on cross-cutting budgeting and on indicators to measure cross-cutting impact with an emphasis on supporting capacity-building at the national and sub-national levels. This does mean a key role for governments to play in the development of partnership platforms.
- Partnerships will work only when all the stakeholders WANT to work together for a common end game. They need a specific purpose and an added value for each stakeholder – with clearly defined roles and responsibility for each one.
- Awareness raising on the value of partnerships can benefit from an active “facilitator” role from a third party. Trust-building may also require a strong “watchdog” role, especially with regard to the increasing participation of private sector interests.
- The GSO experience with transparency and disclosure of interests among stakeholders is an important tool for trust-building to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration.
The GSO should continue to facilitate multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral dialogue and provide a space for participants to search for common solutions. The GSO is also well positioned to serve as a repository of information on cross-cutting and multi-stakeholder partnerships and platforms. This newsletter includes reports on several GSO initiatives that are intended to build an information base for a continuing process of learning about the complexities of existing and new paradigms of multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration.
The 2015 Annual WTO Public Forum was held from 30 September to 2 October 2015 with the overall theme of “Trade Works”. The GSO and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) co-hosted a session on “Trade works through innovative partnerships for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”, linking trade as an engine for development in support of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. As our panelists observed, innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships will be needed to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, especially to harness the potential for trade as an engine for inclusive economic growth.
Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz from ICTSD, Deb Bhattacharya from the National Policy Centre in Bangladesh, Roberto Vega from Syngenta and Thomas Bombelles from the World Intellectual Property Organization shared their views from the perspectives of a global think tank, a developing country think tank, a private sector company, and an international organization. Katherine Hagen from the GSO moderated the panel. Here are some of the main points raised by the panelists:
- Trade is an engine for development that depends on governments to adopt the right policies
- The 2030 Agenda is encouraging a reformulation of agendas – agriculture and trade for food security and opening up opportunities for small scale producers in developing countries
- Capacity building will be key, as well as the financing for access to trade.
- Bridging the perspectives of Geneva and New York is contributing to a better understanding of trade as a key contributor to a rights-based global process of development.
- Integration, transformation and inclusiveness are priorities to ensure the realization of the principle “No One Left Behind”
- Partnerships should be encouraged because they work to pull together wealth, capacity, knowledge and expertise, especially in areas like neglected tropical diseases
- Global partnerships across sectors with trade as a means to realize objectives will include a multiplicity of combinations (moving from North-South partnerships to South-South, triangular, NGOs, CBOs, private sector, parliaments and local governments, too
- Some partnerships will be within the UN and others will be outside of it
- More public-private partnerships will be in the finance sector
- Accountability and compliance are yet to be more fully developed – the indicators from the UN Statistical Commission will be key
The GSO hosted a very informal brainstorming group of “friends of the GSO2 on 28 October 2015, in the lull between the 2030 Agenda Summit in New York in September and the Climate Change Summit in Paris in December. It was not as formal or structured as regular GSO roundtable sessions, but it was an opportunity for reflection on where the GSO might play a role going forward into 2016. We share these ideas with you here and encourage you to share your advice with us as we prepare the GSO work plan for 2016 at our next Management Committee meeting on 13 January 2016. Read more here.
At the brainstorming session, we all agreed that Geneva is well positioned to ratchet up its visibility as an operational hub for the 2030 Agenda. The potential is there for information sharing, especially on best practices and analytics through various “knowledge platforms” on the SDGs. But seventeen knowledge platforms would be too much. For starters, a scoping study is needed for what can be done from a Geneva perspective to work across silos.
The key, though, is to start at the country level, and the challenge for Geneva is how to increase awareness at country level for what Geneva can do to support these national initiatives. We sense that there is enormous demand for best practices, for information on comparability and for constructive measures of accountability. Ideally, this could involve a peer review process, modelled on the Trade Policy Reviews at the WTO, or the Universal Periodic Reviews at the Human Rights Council.
Participants discussed the experiences of different kinds of existing Geneva-based platforms that could serve as models for going forward. In the peace-keeping arena, for example, there are platforms that combine member-state involvement with Geneva-based academic institutions – the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining. Many focused initiatives have incorporated civil society and private sector participation with governments at both the global and national levels – the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, GAVI and the Global Health Fund. One should also study initiatives like Sustainable Energy for All and take into account the significant momentum coming out of the Paris Climate Change Summit.
Going forward may involve selecting three or four clusters of topics for platform development or one-stop-shops. Nutrition, food security, water and sanitation might be one such cluster – or health, livelihoods and sustainable consumption and production. Decent work and jobs, skills, education and green growth or climate change, chemicals and biodiversity were also mentioned. We also noted that there is a trade hub in Geneva that has become increasingly well integrated to bring groups together.
Finally, the brainstorming session took note of the mantra of “multi-stakeholderism” and discussed its meaning for partnering and collaboration with a Geneva perspective. The expanding role of civil society and the private sector in sustainable development suggests an increasing importance of the regulatory process. This could well be a strength of a Geneva focus on information sharing and analytics on regulatory standards in multiple and overlapping issue areas. There may be a role here for how one might reconfigure the categories of civil society, in place of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders that came out of the 1992 Earth Summit. This could include a review of how to channel the tremendous diversity in the private sector as well as in the NGO world. And an additional task might to facilitate links to the innovative financing mechanisms that are emerging for sustainable development.
With these ideas emanating from this informal brainstorming session, we look for further inputs from our readers but also for ways to shift from dialogue to action on platform development. The GSO Management Committee in January will be invited to discuss ways to focus future GSO work where it is best suited to go forward and also to create a working group of diverse partners, focused on multi-stakeholder partnerships, analytics and information sharing. Your ideas are welcome.
Applied Research on the Opportunities and Challenges for Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships
The GSO was pleased to work with a team of graduate students who authored a paper for their Applied Research Seminar on “Human and Social Development” at the Graduate Institute in Geneva during the second half of 2015. Elin Andersson, Simona Hernelyova and Veronica Pedroni worked with GSO Executive Director Katherine Hagen to conduct preliminary research and a series of one-on-one interviews that served as the resources for their paper on “Opportunities and Challenges for Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships: Linking Climate Change with the Post-2015 Development Agenda” (available here). The students also presented a poster summarizing the results of their research on 14 December 2015 (available here). READ MORE HERE.
The research for this paper covered background reading on the role of non-state actors in global governance and the growing interest in multi-stakeholder partnerships, with a focus on linking initiatives in health protection and water management to climate change. The students then prepared a set of questions for one-on-one interviews of people drawn from the GSO network and conducted a total of 17 interviews either in person or over the phone. The students then analyzed the resulting data to identify different types of partnerships and their strengths and weaknesses. The students concluded that multi-stakeholder partnerships are here to stay, that they are in general a good thing, and that more partnerships are likely to develop to advance the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
They further concluded that there are similar dynamics and working methods for partnerships among the different development areas (health, water, climate change) and that the biggest differences are between different types of stakeholders. This was especially the case, they observed, among private sector stakeholders, who are “the most controversial” of stakeholders, but also “the most indispensable element” in the partnerships that they studied. The students concluded, nonetheless, that the stakeholders they interviewed were aware of these kinds of challenges and difficulties and were “working towards mutually beneficial partnerships”.
They noted that the following steps are common to the successful partnerships that they studied:
- Identification of a common goal or objective
- Inclusiveness and participation
- Alignment of diverse institutional, cultural and ethnic differences
- Communication and dialogue for trust building
- Maintenance through agreed rules and principles
- Emphasis on good decision-making process and strong governance
- Well-designed evaluation and monitoring mechanisms
- Responsible business practices – implications of public interest now and not just alternatives to public action
Finally, the authors pointed out that the “biggest advantage” of multi-stakeholder partnerships for the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Climate Change Agenda is “their flexible, informal and decentralized structure through which they can potentially link the local realities and practices with the global environmental and development norms and policies”. The GSO looks forward to sharing the lessons learned from these three students – Elin Andersson, Simona Hernelyova and Veronica Pedroni – with others involved in developing multi-stakeholder partnerships and to building on their excellent work.
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The Post-2015 Development Agenda was the theme of the high-level summit at the UN General Assembly on 25 to 27 September 2015, and we were quickly caught up in the euphoria – emanating from world leaders and followers alike – to celebrate the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The halls and conference rooms of the General Assembly and nearby locations were abuzz with people chattering away about their plans for the 17 goals and 169 targets in the new Agenda. “Multi-stakeholderism” was the word on everyone’s lips, which was music to the ears of a diehard GSO believer in multi-stakeholder and cross-cutting dialogue and collaboration. We present here our impressions of the many civil society, private sector and various multi-stakeholder initiatives that were part of this Summit jamboree.
- Civil Society Initiatives
There was a “high-level” civil society event of the UN Sustainable Development Summit on Sunday, 27 September, based around the NGO network known as “Beyond 2015”, with an oversight body of country-specific NGOs (from Bangladesh, Chile, Columbia, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines) and five global NGOs (Cafod, Interaction, Save the Children, Sightsavers, and Transparency International). However, another set of civil society events was organized by Civicus and the Stakeholder Forum. This included an open meeting for civil society groups on 28 September 2015 at the Open Societies Foundation to exchange views on the ways in which a global platform can support civil society at the national level. Emphasis clearly is on mobilizing support for national and sub-national action, and these global initiatives are looking for ways to enhance national-level civil society, especially in developing countries. A transitional working group has been further identifying the key issues through a consultative process, and it appears that the informal steering committee for this initiative includes representatives from Beyond 2015. Follow-up meetings for the new Global Civil Society Platform on Sustainable Development are planned for February in New York and April in Colombia but not yet announced (although Civicus has announced “International Civil Society Week” for Bogota, Colombia from 25 to 28 April 2015). Meanwhile, the Beyond 2015 Secretariat will be closing down in March 2016.
- Private sector initiatives
There were several side events specifically oriented to what the private sector can or should be doing to support the SDGs and how to participate in multi-stakeholder partnerships and initiatives. One such event was convened by the Harvard Kennedy School CSR Initiative, UK AID and the UK-based Business Fights Poverty, with a focus was on how to mobilize private investment into the SDGs for enhanced development impact. We learned about new financing vehicles with a greater risk feature, combinations of different kinds of investors (including entrepreneurial NGOs and even donors) and new business models to include capital and human resources. Another event had a session on new risk-mitigation tools, mechanisms for translating SDGs into core business objectives, and leveraging multilateral development bank funds with private capital for local markets. Business also attended the Global Compact’s Private Sector Forum, to announce new business commitments supporting the SDGs and to learn about a new “SDG Compass” for aligning business activities with the SDGs. Keep an eye out for the commitments here. And explore the launching of the new “SDG Compass” here.
- Selected Multi-stakeholder Initiatives and Events
There were many events oriented to linking the SDGs to the challenge of a climate change agreement in Paris in December 2015. Major side events of note included one by the UN Development Group promoting new types of partnerships at both the global and national levels and engaging in a “rethink” of what it will take to implement a national action plan. We also attended the launch event for the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (emphasizing the opening up of horizontal networks of talent across countries). Another interesting side event was convened by a broad coalition of environmental agencies to promote joint action, emphasizing a strategy of bringing the environmental dimension more comprehensively into the development agenda.
Finally, we also went to several events associated with food security, nutrition and health issues for which data exchanges and joint accountability were among the topics for debate. A Dutch initiative on “No More Food to Waste” was featured in several sessions; and the French-sponsored “Unit Life” (modeled on Unitaid and oriented to raising money to fight malnutrition of children under five) attracted several heads of state, including French President François Hollande. See a listing of many, if not most of the side events here. To conclude, we did appreciate a turn of phrase that we heard from our friend and leader of food security and nutrition David Nabarro who described the SDGs as a “tapestry” and argued that we must all become “tapestry thinkers”. We can all look to Dr. Nabarro’s “tapestry-weaving” skills in his new position as the Secretary-General’s lead representative on SDGs going forward. See the announcement here.
The Committee on Food Security and Nutrition (CFS) met in Rome from 12 to 15 October 2015, and we personally followed the deliberations, with a particular interest in the debates on responding to the Sustainable Development Goals in the new 2030 Agenda adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 and on a new role for nutrition in the CFS. . Even though the CFS is officially intergovernmental in its deliberations, the plenary meetings and working groups of the CFS are multi-stakeholder – to the point that representatives of the Civil Society Mechanism and the Private Sector Mechanism are regularly recognized among the speakers and not left to wait for the remaining minutes at the end of any debate to deliver their remarks, as is the custom in most other UN organizations. At the October 2015 session, the CFS agreed to establish two open-ended working groups, one on nutrition and the other on the SDGs, to present recommendations for how to integrate these issues into the CFS work programme at its next session. Several member states expressed support for bringing the WHO and the health perspective on nutrition to the CFS, and it was agreed by all that the WHO will be added to the Advisory Group that supports the CFS. A full report on the 2015 CFS is available on the FAO website here.
The Global Gathering of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement met in Milan from 20 to 22 October 2015. Over 500 people participated from 55 member countries plus two member states of India and four global SUN Networks (representing civil society, business, donors and the UN). The tools for the prevention and management of conflict of interest (COI) in the SUN Movement that had been developed through a GSO/SUN project were featured in a workshop at the Global Gathering. Of particular note was the consensus that COI can exist with all stakeholders and that there can even be multiple COIs. Panelists shared experiences on addressing COI issues, which included a continuing need to address how to engage the private sector in national platforms. The SUN Movement, it should be noted, was launched in 2010 for a preliminary five-year period and has been cleared for another five years. Going forward, the SUN Movement will have a new Global Strategy for 2016 to 2020 with a Road Map that should include provision for adapting the tools and resources on COI to each specific country context. See more on the Global Gathering here. We also alert our readers that the SUN Movement has a newly established Executive Committee to strengthen its governance and will soon have a new Coordinator, who has yet to be appointed. See the TOR here.
This has been the year of the “big summits” – Addis Ababa on global financing for development, New York on the sustainable development goals, and Paris on climate change. Some have urged the inclusion of the March 2015 summit in Sendai, Japan on disaster risk resilience as well. In any case, the Paris summit was a huge success, with a framework for action on moving towards clean energy even if the binding commitments are still far from where changes would need to be to reach the agreed targets. See the Paris Accord here. The GSO is especially supportive of the changing global scene coming out of the Paris summit that envisions greater collaboration among the outcomes of the major summits from 2015 and also the expanded opportunities and welcoming spirit for multi-stakeholder collaboration.
In the follow-up to Paris, much attention will be directed to marketplace incentives. First, there is a special panel discussion entitled “Aligning Markets with Sustainable Development” right here in Geneva on 18 January 2016. The panel will respond to a report prepared by UNEP on The Financial System We Need, which came out in October and was featured at the Paris Summit. The GSO is pleased to note that Mark Halle from IISD and a member of the GSO Management Committee of the Global Social Observatory will be moderating this panel discussion. Of course, the big event will be the high-level signing ceremony for the Paris Accord, scheduled for Earth Day, 22 April 2016 in New York. Another important initiative from the Geneva perspective will be the next UNCTAD World Investment Forum, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 14 to 21 July 2016.
The impasse on the Doha Development Round and lack of agreement among member states for the future negotiating role of the WTO are making for grim news coming out of the last major event of interest to international Geneva in 2015, the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10), meeting from 15 to 18 December 2015. A package of agreements on some six issues was agreed following an extra day of negotiations on 19 December 2015, and the news release from the WTO gives it a positive spin. It may well be that the deal does accomplish some important objectives – including an end to agricultural export subsidies. And a parallel expansion of the Information Technology Agreement that phases out tariffs on 201 additional IT categories does have the effect of benefiting everyone even though it was only negotiated by 53 member states. However, the division on the future negotiating framework for the Doha Development Agenda and any “new” issues prevented agreement on a new work plan for the WTO. This does mean that negotiations will have to continue in Geneva in 2016, with no prospects of a breakthrough.
Nonetheless, the “Nairobi Package” may well have a “silver lining” in the form of a number of agreements applying to least developed countries and the prospects for a proactive African agenda on trade. This was especially noteworthy in the ICTSD’s Trade and Development Symposium that was held in parallel with MC10 in Nairobi. Thematic clusters in the symposium included “Africa Rising”, and “Focus Africa”. Other thematic clusters also spoke to the African agenda – “Trading Up” and “Natural Resources” but also “Food Security” and “Climate and Energy”. Another sub-theme of this symposium was a “Trade and Business Forum” that ICTSD put together with the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum. The symposium attracted a wide array of experts who can catalyze trade liberalization and collaboration for African development, and this may well be the lasting impact of MC10. ICTSD was also the source of in-depth reporting on MC10, available here.
- GSO Management Committee, 13 January 2016 September 2015
11 – 13 January CSTD Inter-Sessional Panel on Smart Cities and Infrastructure and Digital Development Geneva
16 – 17 January 6th IRENA Assembly, Abu Dhabi
20 – 23 January World Economic Forum: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Davos
25 – 30 January 138th Session of the WHO Executive Board Geneva
15 – 19 February WIPO Intergovernmental Working Group on Traditional Knowledge, Folklore and GC Geneva
29 February – 24 March 31st Human Rights Council Geneva
8 – 11 March UN Statistical Commission (SDG Indicators) New York
10 – 24 March 326th Session of the ILO Governing Body
14 – 24 March UN Commission on the Status of Women New York
31 March ECOSOC Forum on Partnerships New York
7 – 8 April International Conference on IP and Development Geneva
15 – 17 April 2016 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group Washington, DC
19 – 21 April Global Health Forum 2016 – Sustainable and affordable innovations in healthcare Geneva
19 – 21 April United Nations General Assembly Special Meeting on Drugs 2016 New York
22 April Special Meeting of ECOSOC on International Cooperation in Tax Matters New York
22 April High-level Signing Ceremony for Paris Agreement New York
5 – 6 May Climate Action 2016 Washington, DC
10 – 13 May Adaptation Futures 2016: Practices and Solutions Rotterdam
23-24 May World Humanitarian Summit Istanbul
23-27 May Second UN Environment Assembly Nairobi
23-28 May 69th World Health Assembly Geneva
30 May – 11 June 105th Session of the International Labour Conference Geneva
11 June – 327th Session of the ILO Governing Body
22 – 23 June Global Compact Leaders Summit 2016 New York
11-20 July UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development New York
1-16 September IUCN World Conservation Congress Hawaii
20 – 26 September 71st Session of the UN General Assembly (General Debate opens) New York
7 – 9 October 2016 Annual Meeting of the IMF and World Bank Group Washington, DC
17 – 20 October Habitat III: For a Better Urban Future Quito Ecuador
17 – 22 October 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security Rome
27 October – 10 November – 328th Session of the ILO Governing Body
7-16 November UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 22) Marrakech, Morocco
The Global Social Observatory (GSO) is an international organization founded in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland in April 2004. The mission of the GSO is to initiate dialogue on social issues in order to encourage leaders to engage in a broadened search for solutions and policy coherence. This service is based on a participatory process in a neutral space that brings all interested parties together across national boundaries to identify solutions and policies that are coherent. These solutions can then contribute to policy-making at the governmental and intergovernmental levels. Visit our website for regular news and project updates.
Please send any comments, suggestions or feedback on the newsletter to Ralph Doggett