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Citizens must engage and respond to new global crises

Social Watch

A two-day consultation between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and 25 representatives of civil society organizations and foundations took place in New York on June 5 and 6, 2009. The summary of the points raised by civil society organizations in that consultation is being prepared and will be posted here soon.

They included an emphasis on the importance of human rights and a rights-based approach to development as well as a strong message of support to an inclusive multilateral discussion about the global financial and economic crisis, such as the UN High Level Conference taking place later this month. Civil society organizations expressed their surprise at the apparent lack of active participation of UNDP in the conference.

Among the 25 civil society organizations that participated in the consultation were John W Foster (North-South Institute, Social Watch Canada) and Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch International. See photos and videos of the consultation including John Cavanagh, from the Institute for Policy Studies; Kumi Naidoo, from the Global Call to Action Against Poverty; Gigi Francisco, from the Development Alternative with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch International whose video features below:

What follows is the article by UNDP that does not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of civil society participants:

UNDP information - 9 June 2009. Climate change and the current global economic crisis bring an unprecedented opportunity to transform global governance, which must start giving priority to human development and citizen engagement. This was one of the main conclusions of a two-day consultation between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and 25 representatives of civil society organizations and foundations in New York on June 5 and 6.

Participants discussed new roles for civil society –which includes citizens, activists’ networks and non-governmental organizations – in engaging with the United Nations to respond to global challenges. Civil society representatives called upon UNDP to create and expand opportunities for citizen engagement in development initiatives and to work together in addressing the concerns of the poor, who have been the hardest hit by the current economic and climate crises.

“The concept of democratic governance that we must promote is one that broadens participation to bring people into the process – particularly the poorest,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, responding to proposals from participants. "It is also crucial that the climate change deal to be sealed in Copenhagen is a development deal, reigniting global economic growth and creating jobs. We cannot address poverty and the Millennium Development Goals without addressing climate change -- it's at the heart of everything we do."

New role for citizens

“Citizens want to ‘own’ and work for democracy, but have lost faith in the institutions, political parties, political leaders and government bureaucracies”, said Rajesh Tandon, President of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia. “This paradox has led to experiments with greater citizen participation, enhanced democratic accountability and inclusive partnerships centered on citizens — a sort of public-private-partnership, with people.”

20 years of Human Development

The meeting was the first step in mobilizing “Platform HD2010”, a partnership that will include civil society in addressing the current global crises in the poorest countries. The partnership’s recommendations will contribute to the 20-year review of UNDP’s Human Development Report, a milestone in the concept of development: one that assesses not only countries’ economic growth, but the environment in which people can lead productive and creative lives.

The partnership will also contribute to the ten-year review of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), both of which are taking place next year. The ideas will also help plan the final five years for the proposed target to achieve the MDGs: the eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world's main development challenges. These goals were drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in the year 2000.

Many of the recommendations will involve gender issues, feeding into next year’s “Beijing + 15”: a review of progress made since the UN’s 1995 World Conference on Women.

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