Monday 25 March 2013

Civil Society issue "red flag" to High Level Panel

Bali: final stop on High Level Panel tour
A select group of civil society groups met last week in Bonn, Germany, to discuss the last lap of the High Level Panel on post 2015, meeting this week in the Indonesian resort of Bali. Several members of the panel itself joined the NGO-ers, and commended them on the work of the Beyond2015 coalition and others thus far.

In fact, in clear signs to my mind of eyes turning to a post-High Level Panel world, several of them urged civil society to see themselves as the real custodians of the debate as opposed to the panel who would soon disband, following the presentation of their final report to the UN Secretary General next month.

Amina Mohamed, the UNSG's representative to the panel, urged national CSOs to lobby national parliaments to shape the agenda while Homi Kharas of Brookings, lead author of the final report, spoke at length on the central role of inequality. While the global measure of $1.25 a day was a useful barometer, he argued that achieving transformative change had to go beyond dollars and cents and mean the removal of barriers to opportunity for all. Music to the ears of the rightly vociferous disability lobby, for example, which to my mind has emerged as one of the more well organised and influential lobbies among the many runners and riders we heard back in London, at the panel's first meeting.

Kharas: lead author
But amid the love there was discord and concern, and this has been captured by a "red flag" communique issued by the CSOs to the panel as they meet in Bali. And it seems the role of the private sector is central to their ire:

"...we are deeply concerned about the direction that the High Level on Post 2015 Development may take, particularly as regards the roles that government, business and multilateral institutions in any sustainable development agenda"

Having warned against a model that would exacerbate existing inequalities they went on, pointedly turning David Cameron's metaphor of a "Golden Thread" on its head, in wording that will not go unnoticed by Justine Greening, DFID Secretary of State representing the British Prime Minister at the summit:

"The 'poison threads' in society -- like corporate land grabs that impoverish communities, an unjust global trade and financial architecture, corruption and privatisation of social services like education, health, water and sanitation -- must be addressed. We must create some rules and remove others to ensure that the global frameworks do not constrain human rights and development goals."

Cameron: rhetorical target
Tough stuff. And I fear the anti-corporate tone of it, along with the dubious political wisdom of rhetorically poking David Cameron in the eye, may distract from the very relevant point that conflict insensitive business practices can inflame sensitive situations and reverse development gains. I'm also not sure how clever the choice of "red flag" as a motif for a lobby seeking to influence right-of-centre politicians is, but that's a minor point perhaps.

On a positive note they have this to say about peace and conflict itself:

"No society can develop in an environment of fear and insecurity. Peace is not simply the absence of violence nor is conflict limited to fragile states; it is based on dignity, social justice, the fulfilment of human rights and well-being for all. Violence and conflicts are often products of struggles for resource control, lack of decent work and livelihoods, inequalities, failed structures and corporate interests.”

“The Post 2015 framework should be conflict-sensitive and ensure the safety, security and sustainability of life, ensure an end to gender-based violence, promote social cohesion, people’s participation and foster an environment where people live in freedom and with ownership and control of their own resources.”

The document itself is generally quite a strong series of normative pegs to measure the panel’s final report against: planetary boundaries, gender justice and accountability feature large as they should, for example.

And as all eyes start to look beyond the horizon to a post-panel world, with the Open Working Group already having had their inaugural meeting and set to take on the baton at the September General Assembly debate, it is beginning to look like the outlines of the global civil society shopping list are slowly starting to emerge.