Day 11 at CSD-18

Apologies for the lateness of this entry – I got busy with wedding preps once I got back to the UK.

Last day of CSD is always a bit of a strange day, still work to do but also mixed with people leaving during the day. The first thing I did when I got to the UN was talk to Lucy from the Indigenous People MG to see if they were interested in joining our ‘Way forward’ statement. They were happy to join us, so it then became a statement of 3 MGs. And I was going to read it! Now, talk about scary…. my first speech at the UN. It did mean I was going to miss the last morning briefing of the Women MG in which they talked about preparation for CSD-19 and Rio+20.

And so I sat in the main session, waiting for my turn, not knowing if I would even get the chance and if so, when exactly.  But my turn came and, according to others, I read well. So, below is the text of the statement. For me, a good summing up of what we’ve been trying to achieve and remind governments of.

“The Major Groups for Indigenous People, NGOs, and Women call for integrative solutions at all levels: local, national and global on all the themes of CSD-18 to ensure that all life and human rights, and especially the rights of women, children & youth, and indigenous people, are protected.

We call for actions that would ensure that best practices and lessons learned are shared and used worldwide. These would cover the following 3 challenges to be implemented by 2020:

  1. Ways of restoring the earth to its natural health by stopping environmental degradation and contamination of natural resources.
  2. Freeing the environment of toxic chemicals and waste.
  3. Moving to a values-based economy that promotes zero-waste and is tied to sustainability indicators.

A discussion is needed before the next IPM on the 10-year Framework of Programmes that is open, all-inclusive, structured and formalized.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be implemented and include education on sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Producers must be held accountable for the life cycle of their products and the degradation of natural resources.

We call for a legal and financing mechanism, such as an International Court for the Environment, that would use these funds for environmental restoration and a basic livelihood for all.

In this way, each person can develop their unique potential and contribute to the wellbeing of all.

We ask governments to be inspired by visionary proposals from all sources, including civil society, to bring  new thinking to CSD-19.

Thank you.”

Participating at CSD is a combination of hard work, long hours, frustrations about procedures and communication issues, but also laughter, a sense of achievement, lots of cooperation, and the feeling that you’re contributing to improve the wellbeing of every world citizen. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be of service to the process of developing a more sustainable world society.


Day 10 at CSD-18

Last-minute editing of the statement for the Ministerial Roundtable, during the NGO briefing at 9-10am, was a slightly stressful way of starting the day. And statement writing today did cause me stress. At one point I was involved in sorting out 2 statements at the same time – that doesn’t work! Unfortunately the joint statement with trade unions about chemicals and waste management wasn’t read in the afternoon roundtable (no time or poor chairing, depending on how you view this!). However, Wanda did give her statement on transport, so that was a bonus (we weren’t expecting that).

I spent a lot of time, with 2 others, in the afternoon writing the 2 minute statement for Friday morning (‘the Way forward’). I wasn’t entirely happpy with it, but ah well, “it’ll do”. I then decided to stay around for the 6pm strategy meeting of the NGOs (only the 2nd time this CSD). Chantal Line (from the CSD Bureau) popped in to say that only 2-4 Major Groups would get speaking time and that joining forces was a good idea. So, I read our statement out to the NGO group, they made a few suggestions, we added 3 more sentences and edited a few words and that was it. Joint statemement from NGOs and Women and I felt much better about it as well. Funny.

Oh yes, I promised you poetry. I absolutely love the 2nd poem Kiara did at the BIC’s side event on Monday. It is inspired by the Fire Tablet (a prayer written by Baha’u’llah) and the BIC’s statement for CSD-18. So, here is the text:

And so, here we are.

We find ourselves left with nothing but choice.

Pulled between the comfort of the old world.

And the uncertainty of the new.

What will we decide?

The anguished cries of the dying world

can no longer be ignored.

The pervasive thoughts of fear and greed and power

can no longer be allowed to consume us.

The time is now.

The time of action is upon us.

Be not sorrowful for the injustices of the past –

Let the tears and blood shed serve as a reminder to the importance of our cause.

Be not overcome by the coldness of the hearts of people –

Let the heat of love pulse through our veins, warm our spirits, and melt the ice in the human heart.

Be not saddened by the overwhelming darkness of desolation –

Be the light, the spark, be the source of happiness and grace.

Let not our differences taint our thoughts, or be the source of contention and strife –

Let the colours of our diversity radiate,

Let the threads of humanity bind us,

Let the woven cloak of humanity envelop us.

“When the swords flash, go forward!

When the shafts fly, press onwards!”

Let the music play, let the words flow,

Let the light shine, and let the roses bloom.

Be invigorated.

Be inspired.

Be filled with passion.

Let belief and trust guide our steps.

And kindle in our veins

a fire that will set ablaze the hearts of mankind.

Day 9 at CSD-18

It was the morning of childhood dreams coming true. The opening session of the High Level Segment (strange name, I know) took place in the General Assembly hall and I was allowed to sit at the seat of the Women’s Major Group. The following speakers spoke: H.E. Dr. Luis Alberto Ferraté Felice (Chair of CSD-18), H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki (President of the 64th session of the General Assembly), H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali (President of ECOSOC), H.E. Ms. Gerda Verburg (Chair of CSD-17), Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker (Co-Chair, International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management), and Dr. Ashok Koshla (President of IUCN).

I especially liked the speech of the ECOSOC Director. He talked about women as agents of change (yeah!! – all our hard work over the past years has resulted in this acknowledgement) and that empowering women is essential for sustainable development. He also said that gender equality must be fully integrated in all processes related to sustainable development. I’m hoping the UN will put up his whole speech on their website later.

Gerda Verburg (Dutch Minster) reminded us about the paradigm shift for agriculture as a result of CSD-17. Agriculture is not longer part of the problem, but part of the solution. She again reiterated: ‘if you do what you did, you get what you got’.

It was a good opening session and I enjoyed being close to the action.

Day 8 at CSD-18

Tuesday already, we’re getting ready for multi-stakeholder dialogues although dialogue at the UN is not what you and I would consider a ‘dialogue’. Still a lot of reading of prepared statements, but with a bit more focus on specific questions posed by the CSD Bureau Interesting sessions though. In the morning, it was about partnerships and what makes them work (or not), and in the afternoon it was about the constraints of implementing previous CSD decisions. Let me just cite you the intervention Lesha gave on behalf of the Women’s Major Group. It can be found on the statements section main CSD-18 website.

“Sustainable development requires the willingness of all stakeholders to think and act for the future; it’s a process. We should not forget this.

This Commission should be proud of its influence on other UN processes. Extensive involvement of Major Groups stays essential to make the transition from policymaking to action at grassroots level. We remind you of the structure UN-AIDS uses to involve Major groups. Cutting back on intervention time by civil society-based organisations is not helpful and is counterproductive to engage civil society.

The horizontal exchange of information, such as between decisions at this Commission and the Commission on the Status of Women is lacking. Agreements are not followed through or linked to other agreements and conventions.

Another constraint for implementation is solely consensus based decision-making; this means that recommendations of CSD sometimes do not get implemented because they are blocked by a (single) nation. The One-UN reform should maybe look into that as well

Side events are often very action-oriented, but their content is not fed back into the main sessions. It is useful to have the inclusion of short summaries on the CSD website, but it would be more useful to have full presentations included to facilitate knowledge sharing.

Greater emphasis on interlinkages and cross-cutting issues is what sustainable development is about. The CSD Bureau and Secretariat should facilitate more intensive preparation for these sessions to make the links between the themes more visible. Allocating only 3 hours is almost an affront to CSD itself: denying the importance of interlinkages and cross-cutting issues, specifically for Sustainable Development.

For example water was agreed as a cross-cutting issue for CSD and UN Water – a good example of cooperation and coordination – published a report last week linking water to all CSD themes. But how many delegations have read this report?

The biggest problem for actions to get off the ground is the lack of funding for institutional- and capacity development of CBOs – most donors are project-orientated in their criteria and not supporting processes like behavioral change. Seed money is needed for developing (bankable) programs and actions – a lot of donors ask for “track records” – thus creating a paradox.

We need more implementation goals with timelines in the agreed conclusions of CSD to ensure real action. A follow-up meeting a year later, like for CSD-17, keeps themes on the agenda.

The outcomes of CSD should be “translated / re-packaged” so it is accessible and connects with the interest of the focus groups and leads to interest and action from their part.”

Day 7 at CSD-18

For Dutch readers I’d like to point you to the blog that’s being written by Lesha and Wanda on behalf of the Dutch Wommen Council.

Monday of the 2nd week is always the day that you suddenly see new faces and realise that others have disappeared without you having said goodbye properly. So, thank you Alexandra, Olga and Yuyun from WECF for your inputs on chemicals, waste and mining.

Morning briefings were followed by coffee with Lesha and putting a statement together about implementation of previous CSD decisions. We divided tasks for statement writing and presentations for Tuesday and Wednesday, so half of the week already feels under control. Phew!

In the afternoon I went to the side event organised by UNESCO, the Baha’i International Community, and the Swedish Mission to the UN on”Rethinking prosperity: forging alternatives to a culture of consumerism.” The title of the event was the same as the BIC statement for CSD-18. Speakers included Tim Jackson of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission and author of the book Prosperity without Growth; Jeffrey Barber of the International Coalition on Sustainable Production & Consumption; Luis Flores Mimica of Consumers International; and Victoria Thoresen of the Partnership for Education & Research on Responsible Living (PERL). And then of course the arts were included; this year 2 poems read by Kiara Worth (she has promised me the text).

These are some of the focus sentences from the BIC statement:

“The issue of sustainable consumption and production, under consideration by this Commission, will need to be considered in the broader context of an ailing social order—one characterized by competition, violence, conflict and insecurity—of which it is a part.”

“The culture of consumerism, however, has tended to reduce human beings to competitive, insatiable consumers of goods and to objects of manipulation by the market.”

“It is not enough to conceive of sustainable consumption and production in terms of creating opportunities for those living in poverty to meet their basic needs.”

“Ultimately, the transformation required to shift towards sustainable consumption and production will entail no less than an organic change in the structure of society itself so as to reflect fully the interdependence of the entire social body—as well as the interconnectedness with the natural world that sustains it.”

“The unfettered cultivation of needs and wants has led to a system fully dependent on excessive consumption for a privileged few, while reinforcing exclusion, poverty and inequality, for the majority.”

“Developing the capacity for identifying technological need and for technological innovation and adaptation—in light of societal needs and environmental constraints—will be vital to social progress.”

“As a starting point, the program of education must be based on a clear vision of the kind of society that we wish to live in; and the kind of individuals that will bring this about.”

“The cultural shifts taking place are evident in the greater capacity to carry out collective action, to see oneself as an agent of change in the community, as a humble learner, as an active participant in the generation, diffusion and application of knowledge.”

Rest day at CSD-18

Sunday did mean ‘no work’! So, a long chat over coffee with Kiara and Jeff (only rule ‘we won’t talk about CSD’) was a nice start of this day of rest. I then went to B&H to find a new microphone, so I could skype without getting frustrated by other people not being able to hear me properly. B&H was amazing, it is owned and run by orthodox Jews and its shop layout is astounishing. Your order gets transported down to the ground  floor via a complicated system of  crates on air-borne conveyors belts.

I then spent several hours walking in Central Park, from top to bottom and back up again. It was good to be amongst trees and hear birds.

Ready for week 2!

Day 6 at CSD-18

Saturday did not mean ‘no work’. After skyping with my folks and love, I went to the UN for the Generation Solution meeting. Basically a brainstorming meeting for civil society to think of ways to engage the general public more with the theme of sustainable consumption & production (SCP). Well, it was a most interesting, and very confusing, meeting. I’m still processing what happened. I think the outcome was that there will be a ‘non-paper’ ready for consultation by Major Groups by the end of CSD-18. Attending did keep Duncan and me occupied until nearly 5pm, so we decided to finish the day with coffee and a movie. It was Saturday after all (and 7 long days of hard work in a row is pretty exhausting).