Civil Society Shadow Reporting: Meaningful Participation in the Voluntary National Review Process

Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch, Barbara Adams and Jens Martens from Global Policy Forum participated in the session “Civil Society Shadow Reporting: Meaningful Participation in the Voluntary National Review Process”. The Session was co-organized by Social Watch, Global Policy Forum, GCAP and Action for Sustainable Development and it was held in the framework of the Global Festival of Action on 2nd May 2019 in Bonn, Germany.

Bissio expressed that when the Agenda 2030 was approved with the level of ambition that we applauded when it came to accountability we found that this was one of the weakest parts.  The Agenda 2030 says governments are accountable to the citizens which it is in itself very powerful, that governments would report on a voluntary basis on what they are doing. And several governments are officially reporting (186 in all years) to the United Nations. But something interesting is happening and it is not developing countries are going to international forum and presenting what they claim they are doing and exposing themselves to be asked about it.

Adams pointed out that without the work of the civil society we would not have those 17 SDGs, we would have 8 perhaps, we would not have the emphasis on the social sector, we would not have inequalities, consumption patterns, etc. The work of civil society working together and then going to governments because if they do not put those things on the agenda would not be there.

Martens remarked that action is not an end in itself, we need a clear political strategy, which is activism and what we need is activism. What we need is political strategy to change policies. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have to be implemented by governments, by policies of governments and what we saw in the last four years is a festival of inaction even when governments promise not to continue business as usual and to implement the SDGs. There are conflicting agendas, conflicting policies and this is happening at national and global level.

See the video of the session here. Further information about the Global Festival of Action here.

Information about the Session

The reporting to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) is a practice that has gained traction, as dozens of governments are volunteering each year to participate and contribute their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Numerous CSO coalitions at national and international levels have prepared their own shadow or spotlight reports to follow-up on their governments efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. At global level, the report Spotlight on Sustainable Development provides the most comprehensive independent assessment of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. This report is published by the Civil Society Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, supported by a broad range of civil society organizations and trade unions, and informed by the experiences and reports of national and regional groups and coalitions from all parts of the world.

How do these reports influence policies and discourses? Can they foster the fundamental policy changes that are necessary to unleash the transformative potential of the SDGs? In particular, do these shadow or spotlight reports address the structural obstacles to SDG implementation and the need for more coherent fiscal and regulatory policies? This is especially relevant with regard to the implementation of SDG 10, to reduce inequalities within and among countries. SDG 10 is under review at the HLPF 2019.

The 2030 Agenda cites the “enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power” as one of the “immense challenges” to sustainable development. In the monitoring of SDG 10 implementation, there is an urgent need to look more holistically at power imbalances, increasing market concentration and the accumulation of wealth and economic power in the hands of a relatively small number of transnational corporations and ultra-rich individuals. Intense concentration of wealth and power is in fact inimical to progress across the entire 2030 Agenda and the overarching commitment to leave no one behind.

The interactive workshop aims to share experiences of CSO shadow reports and engage participants in a discussion on national SDG implementation, CSO participation and accountability. Participants will be invited to discuss particularly strategies of engagement and monitoring to address inequalities and the implementation of SDG 10.