A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The world just began a new 15-year journey yesterday, Friday 25 September 2015, when leaders from across the globe adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The SDGs have emerged from three years of negotiations to address the three interconnected elements of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. It is envisaged that the SDGs will be implemented at global, regional and national levels which is different from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) which posited a donor-recipient model of rich countries “helping” poor countries. This week, the Girls Globe team attended various side events organized on the margins of this historical moment in view of seeking answers to a question on very many young women and girls lips, “What next?”
One of the side events I attended was organized by the Women’s Major Group for Sustainable Development. The Women’s Major Group was created at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, where governments recognized women as one of the nine important groups in society to achieve sustainable development. At the side meeting organized by The Women Major Group, women’s rights organizations came together to celebrate the adoption of the goals, critically look ahead and define #FeministVisions for the future. One of the major recommendations was to ensure that as governments made new commitments to the world, accountability to promises made in previous frameworks will continue to recognize the deep structural inequality experienced by women and girls. These include the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) which outlines 12 critical areas of concern and The International Conference on Population and Development’s Programme of Action (ICPD, 1994) recognized that the right to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are enshrined in international human rights treaties already adopted by the international community.
In recognizing the limited progress on MDG 5 on improving maternal health, there were recommendations to adopt a more holistic approach to address the continuum of health which includes adolescents. In this case this means not only a focus on maternity care and contraceptives, but ensuring that women in all their diversity and throughout their life cycle receive comprehensive, integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services that are of quality and respect to their human rights.
As the 2030 agenda now moves to the next phase, from the global level discussions to regional and national level implementation, the need for a robust accountability framework is inevitable. All stakeholders and especially civil society organizations (CSOs) will play a critical role in the accountability process to ensure the success of the Post 2015 development agenda. The United Nations High Level Political Forum (HPLF) on Sustainable Development established to review progress of the SDGs every four years must continue in the spirit of inclusivity of CSOs and transparency in the accountability process. This means that when world leaders and development partners assemble at the HLPF to monitor and follow up on the post-2015 development agenda, they should not only be answering to the global public on policy choices and policy implementation but should inform citizens on results achieved, reporting on the quality of these outcomes, and on whether results met agreed standards.
Though the concluded United Nations Summit was for Heads of States from all over the world, it is critical to understand that government leaders cannot solve global challenges on their own any more. In today’s much flatter world, it is everyday people – and, critically, their personal networks – who have the potential to be the world’s big new problem solvers. Global health innovation strategies and response to emergencies in the recent years have vividly displayed the need for coordinated best efforts from non-profits, companies, individuals, online communities, young people, governments and the UN system. The same mindset of partnership, urgency, and “all hands on deck” is also required to achieve the Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The WMG is self-organised and open to all interested organisations working to promote human rights based sustainable development with a focus on women’s human rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.