‘A marathon it was indeed’
In mid-July, the Open Working Group met for the last time, in the 13th and last session of the group, at UN Headquarters in New York. The Co-Chair Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, was right when opening the meeting by noting that the last session promised to be a marathon, “where the last mile is unbelievably mentally and physically challenging”. A marathon it was indeed.
After 8 days of negotiations - of which the final "day" lasted almost 30 hours straight – the group succeeded to adopt the proposal for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that the work of the Open Working Group on SDGs has concluded and that the process is now moving on to the next stage, for intergovernmental negotiations under the UN General Assembly.
It was an intense week, but the young people attending, jointly lobbying as part of the Major Group of Children and Youth, fought hard to bring youth priorities to the negotiation table. Joke Lannoye, our Global Advocacy Manager, attended the last OWG session to support the Major Group in its work. Since a lot of the negotiations were happening informally and closed, there were no official means to share statements or recommendations from civil society. We hence had to be creative to get our messages across using innovative means such as literally presenting our recommendations ‘on a plate’ or in a Nelson Mandela birthday card (see pictures below). We managed to advocate successfully and got important youth priorities into the final text.
Looking towards the next milestone
Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do in the coming year as governments will agree on the final SDG framework during the intergovernmental negotiations. In particular, there is no specific mentioning of the crucial role that young people can play in governance and accountability mechanisms, something that Restless Development will continue to advocate for in the coming year. Further, previous versions of the OWG document, and the High Level Panel report, had stronger references to the importance of citizen empowerment and participation in the data revolution.
The next important milestone in the Post-2015 process is the Synthesis report of the UN Secretary General, expected by December this year, which will form the basis of the intergovernmental negotiations in 2015.
As the intergovernmental negotiations unfold over the next year, we will support young people to compel governments to commit to ambitious action, both at the national and the global level. We will build the capacity of youth advocates and their organisations and provide information, tools and resources (including an upcoming report from the Overseas Development Institute on youth, governance and accountability) for them to effectively lobby their governments, empowering them to hold governments to account for the outcome of the negotiations. So watch this space!