Inputting to a black hole: what will the HLP report deliver?

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I’ve developed a tendency to sit on the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s the tension building as the High Level Panel report gets closer. In under month, on 31 May, the first major input into the post-2015 discussion will be delivered. At the moment, it feels as if there’s a lot riding on it. If it does its job and creates a new vision of development based on solidarity, equity and participation, then it will open up the space for the conversations that will follow.

If it fails to deliver, it will be consigned to the dustbins of history (which I’m sure are filled with UN reports on development) and the last 9 months will have been an interesting learning curve but we’re back to square zero in shaping the debate.

What are the key messages from civil society? Poverty eradication, human rights, environmental sustainability, equality and justice, and peace and security, underpinned by good governance and accountability. Beyond 2015, in collaboration with Global Call for Action against Poverty and the International Federation of NGO Platforms, have carried out national consultations in 22 countries, with more to follow. The messages are clear: a strong consensus on the right of each person on the planet to live a life free from poverty; the challenge of inequality; that we must take into account the interconnectedness between social and environmental consequences of our growth path; and that poor governance threatens current and future development goals.

The HLP has shown willing to engaging with civil society and is even being touted by some as the most consultative UN process ever. Outreach days in London, Monrovia and Bali have been supplemented by Panel members and advisors engaging people in their local contexts. Just one example of this is Betty Maina’s recent visit to people living in the Mathare slum in Kenya with the Spatial Collective meant people were able to articulate their own priorities directly and share the impact that lack of access to water, poor sanitation and insecurity have on their lives. This is part of the global Participate initiative which enables people living in poverty and marginalization to feed into the post-2015 global process and bring the perspectives of those in poverty into the decision-making process.

An open, inclusive process for civil society engagement is essential to the post-2015 process. It is a ‘must-have’ for a legitimate framework, and one of the two key asks of Beyond 2015. But the timeframes which civil society were expected to organise a global forum with severely limited funding meant that creating a fair process for all to be able to participate effectively was an uphill challenge. Nonetheless, the HLP had a platform to hear from a wide range of voices and perspectives, including youth, migrant workers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, women, CBOs, FBOs, NGOs, climate experts, and many, many more.

My colleague has commented previously what makes for good consultation practice. The one that’s lacking at the moment is what has happened with the input. There is no way the High Level Panel could have failed to hear these priorities coming from civil society, time and again. But now that this has been shared, what happens with the input?

The final HLP meeting takes place from 13 – 15 May in New York. This time there is no civil society engagement. Fair enough that the Panel have heard enough inputs – but there needs to be acknowledgement that civil society’s input has been heard. This can only be reflected through having human rights, poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, equity and equality, and peace and security at the fore of the report.

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