Putting people & planet at the heart of the agenda: CSOs call for real action beyond 2015

As the 69th UN General Assembly convenes this month, the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness calls for a post-2015 development agenda rooted in a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to inclusive development.

As incoming president of the UNGA Sam Kutesa notes, delivering on and implementing a transformative post-2015 development agenda[1] is about “leaving no one behind”[2].

However, inclusive, rights-based development is about more than this. Fundamental changes to the plight of those of us living in poverty and marginalisation will not come by waiting on the better off to lead the way. Effective development is about creating an environment that enables people to assert and claim their rights, to flourish and take charge of their own lives and livelihoods. It is about putting people at the heart of the agenda, based on the principles of non-discrimination, empowerment, and gender equality.

Transformation thus entails addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality, conflict and discrimination, climate change and environmental degradation. A step in this direction requires an implementing framework rooted in, and building on, existing human rights standards and obligations. It means seeing 2015 as a watershed moment to fulfil pre-existing commitments made long before the turn of the millennium- commitments enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1981 resolution on the right to development.

Already, we have seen a shift away from discussions around a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), toward deciding on the means of implementation (MOI) for a post-2015 agenda. As with the MDGs, we believe the targets set will be far from ideal, but that there is a need to go beyond goal setting toward ensuring real action on the ground.

Ultimately, the success of this agenda will be judged by its ability to advance the principles of democratic ownership, social justice, indigenous self-determination, and environmental sustainability, and the promotion of human rights and welfare across all dimensions.

Moving forward, civil society recommends the following guiding principles for rights-based, inclusive development.

1. A human-rights based approach (HRBA) to inclusive development and environmental sustainability

Agree to the centrality of human rights in the post-2015 agenda, elevating HRBA as the dominant development paradigm. A common vision for social justice, gender equality and environmental sustainability at a global level will avoid confusion and fragmentation of development efforts.

Integrate a HRBA framework into all post-2015 goals and targets, but ensure human rights exist in every sector of society. Establish concrete policies and mechanisms to ensure human rights are protected at a country level. This should include universal social protection, accountability and monitoring mechanisms for governments including robust regulatory mechanisms for the private sector. Establish means of legal, social and economic redress by which people, as rights-holders, can hold governments and corporations to account for violations of their human rights.

Maximise synergies between sustainable development and inclusive development. For instance, the shift away from fossil fuels or dirty industries need not entail the loss of jobs, just as rainforest conservation need not result in the dispossession of indigenous lands or other rights violations. Indeed, the integrity of the environment is essential to human life and wellbeing. The promotion of labour rights, full employment, and environmental sustainability is entirely possible, but only in the context of new economic paradigms premised on meeting human needs – not corporate profits – on a sustainable and equitable basis.

2. Equity and democratic ownership as key principles for governance at all levels

Ensure democratic ownership of national governments that put primacy on responding to the needs and rights of their citizens, within international economic and governance structures that enable governments to fulfil this mandate. Respect country ownership principles, including the right to national self-determination, with precedence given to nationally defined policies and priorities to facilitate a ‘universal’ approach to a rights-based agenda. Address long-standing controversies surrounding tied aid, unfair trade, policy conditionalities and debt. These contradict the equity principles of development cooperation, while limiting the resources and space developing country governments have to meet commitments to their own citizens. All aid, development and financial flows, including climate finance, must adhere to development effectiveness principles.

Enable the meaningful participation of key social sectors – trade unions, indigenous peoples, women, farmers – and their organisations, at all levels of governance. Consistent with the principles of democratic ownership, promote solutions to environmental problems through holistic approaches rooted in the knowledge and expertise of communities directly impacted by climate change.

3. Civil society as an equal partner in the Post-2015 development architecture

Institutionalise civil society as a partner on equal terms with other development actors to advance a transformative agenda. An enabling environment for civil society to carry out its progressive role hinges on the space given to citizens to raise their concerns and hold governments and the private sector to account.

Balance the contributions of different actors in development based on their respective roles. Reverse trends toward shrinking civil society space in governance at a country level. Calibrate the prominent role given to the private sector in the rhetoric over “inclusive” partnerships in the post-2015 agenda.

Emphasize public sector support and public finance for sustainable development in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Support the Istanbul principles and establish guidelines for promoting an enabling environment for CSOs.

Civil society challenges the global community to move beyond ‘leaving no one behind’, to ‘putting people and planet first’, by committing to a rights-based approach to sustainable development.

[1] http://uncsd.iisd.org/news/kutesa-confirms-theme-for-69th-unga/

[2] http://ngoforum.or.ug/un-president-of-the-69th-general-assembly-holds-a-national-consultation-on-post-2015-development-agenda/

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