CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Information
  • Date submitted: 31 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Accountability (8 hits),

Full Submission

Executive Summary

Twenty years ago at the Rio Earth Summit civil society came out in droves to convey the message that achieving sustainable development requires active participation of civil society and cannot be left solely to governments. While the Commission on Sustainable Development already operates in a cooperative and participatory manner, Rio+20 provides an opportunity to strengthen multi-stakeholder participation and directly influence heads of states, summit outcomes and implementation plans. Many believe that the inability to halt or reverse global environmental degradation is attributed to the inadequacies of the global governance system.

Common themes identified by stakeholders include diversifying the types of stakeholders consulted in the pre-conference planning processes and increasing participation of women, minority groups and Least Developed Countries (LDCs). At past summits stakeholders provided significant feedback on summit logistics and strongly felt that civil society activities can no longer be separated from negotiations. In postconference processes stakeholders feel that partnerships among civil society must be strengthened in order to contribute to implementation and Accountability of summit outcomes. Summit outcomes must also be action-oriented and linked to international policies like the Millennium Development Goals and Kyoto Protocol.

CIVICUS civil society engagement recommendations for Rio+20

Key recommendations on multi-stakeholder engagement include:

Pre-Conference Recommendations

Rio+20 stakeholders should embody a diverse range of participants and should include representation from the nine Major Groups, traditionally marginalised groups and all of the UN five regional groups.

A document explaining stakeholder opportunities to participate in Rio+20 processes should be produced and shared with stakeholders prior to consultations.

In the preliminary stakeholder planning stage, a flexible timeline should be created with deliverables, future meetings and working groups.

Surveys, focus groups and open consultations should be conducted to determine key issues of importance to stakeholders.

Throughout every stage of the process it is important to provide stakeholders with feedback on how their input and decisions have been implemented and affected courses of action to ensure transparency and Accountability. Conference Recommendations

The summit venues for both stakeholders and governments should be in close proximity to each other (no more than 2 kilometres) and be located in the city centre or other easily accessible area; stakeholder must not be segregated from summit venues where negotiations occur.

Technology to include remote participants, via webcasts, needs to be a clear priority at Rio+20 and should include training for session facilitators to ensure effective engagement of remote and physical participants.

Rio+20 organisers need to prioritise creating systems for direct lines of communication with local security.

Rio+20 organisers need to create more opportunities for strategic engagement in negotiations with decision makers, including providing seats for stakeholders at roundtables and opportunities to submit contributions.

Rio+20 organisers need to provide funding for under-resourced stakeholders in both the preconference and conference events to ensure a diverse range of representation from the nine major groups, with a particular focus on the indigenous, women and LDCs. Post-Conference Recommendations

Outcomes for Rio+20 should be linked to international priorities and policies and need to be results oriented with explicit commitments to action.

Stakeholder engagement should align with country specific outcomes and efforts should be made to link UN country offices with national civil society networks and major group participants.

To strengthen Accountability, systems should be established, with stakeholder input, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of outcomes agreed upon at Rio+20.

CIVICUS civil society engagement recommendations for Rio+20

Introduction

UNDESA has commissioned CIVICUS to serve as an Organising Partner for the NGO Major Group of civil society stakeholders at the Rio+20 Summit which will take place in June 2012. In this role, CIVICUS submits the following recommendations and guidance on best practices in multi-stakeholder engagement at UN Summits.

CIVICUS has evaluated stakeholder processes and feedback from five preceding UN Summits including the Rio Earth Summit 1992, the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 (WSSD), the World Summit on the Information Society 2003 and 2005 (WSIS), the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 15 2009 (COP15) and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit 2010 (UNMDG). CIVICUS also reviewed recommendations for multi-stakeholder engagement using toolkits produced by the Stakeholder Forum and UN agencies, books and articles produced by civil society experts and the Cardoso Report. Conference processes have been divided into three stages ? pre-conference, conference, and post-conference ? and each section highlights a collection of challenges voiced by stakeholders, replicable practices at past summits and recommendations for improvements at Rio+20.

In the past two decades, particularly since the Rio Earth Summit, the United Nations has made significant efforts to create opportunities for multi-stakeholder engagement and influence in UN events. Equally, as non-government stakeholders have struggled for fuller cooperative engagement at UN Summits, they have provided constructive recommendations for further improvements. We recognise the continuous effort the UN devotes to creating an authentic and engaging platform for multiple stakeholders and trust the recommendations below will help advance multi-stakeholder engagement to a new level at Rio+20. CIVICUS civil society engagement recommendations for Rio+20

Pre-Conference

Challenges

Reoccurring comments in stakeholder feedback highlighted that stakeholder consultations in summit planning often do not include a diverse range of stakeholders and the number of stakeholders consulted is inadequate. In preparation for COP15 organisers consulted two organisations, Climate Action Network (CAN) and the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA). While these two organisations are highly regarded and represent coalitions of hundreds of members of civil society, there is a lack of diversity in the types of stakeholders consulted. Like many organisations, GCCA was limited to a small team that is responsible for consulting members of the coalition and stakeholders commented that an insufficient number of organisations had the opportunity to influence summit planning. Stakeholders brought up similar representation issues at the WSIS summit. WSIS did produce many replicable practices, but one area stakeholders felt the summit fell short was with representation of developing countries as a whole.

Stakeholder representation is a theme that surfaces regularly in stakeholder feedback and should be continuously evaluated by Rio+20 organisers. WSSD implemented the construct of the nine Major Groups adopted at the Rio Earth Summit and each Major Group was consulted and represented, but stakeholder feedback concluded that there is a need for more representation from women across sectors and not just in the major group committed to women. Additionally, there is no Major Group representing people with disabilities. WSIS stakeholders commented that there is a lack of representation from universities and the private sector, as the categories these groups fall into are often overshadowed by large NGOs and corporations. WSIS worked to broaden the scope of civil society but controversy arose when local governments were grouped with civil society and over twenty ?families? were created under the Civil Society Bureau. While expanded representation of civil society is welcomed, it should not become a catchall for stakeholders that do not sufficiently represent the group. Further WSIS feedback stated that national delegations were largely made up of diplomats, telecoms ministries and fixed telecommunications operators, while lacking adequate civil society representation and delegates from national development agencies who could address issues related to health, education and human rights.

Another reoccurring topic brought up by stakeholders in pre-conference processes is the uneven quality of side events at UN summits. Side events put on by multi-stakeholders vary greatly at all summits (COP15, WSSD and UNMDG) and there is a need to enhance collaboration and partnerships between stakeholders in the pre-conference planning to improve both the planning processes and the quality of the events. Replicable Practices

Multi-stakeholder consultation is an essential component of summit preparations. Many summit preparations include consultations of stakeholders six to twelve months prior to the summit and longer in some cases. Examples of replicable practices in the pre-conference stage were emphasised at WSIS as open consultations were conducted to determine both the venue and thematic units. WSIS used a variety of mediums for stakeholder participation including online discussions, participatory meetings and official statements. Stakeholders felt that there was strong representation of the various stakeholder families, coupled with satisfactory opportunities to speak and participate in negotiations. WSIS stakeholders also expressed satisfaction with the strategic use of social media and technology for remote participation leading up to and during the summit.

The UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010 also highlighted examples of best practices in the pre-conference processes. UN-NGLS organised a global online civil society consultation in advance of the hearings to engage a wider sector of civil society. The Global Call to Action against Poverty?s (GCAP) ?The World We Want? campaign coordinated NGO preparations that included the presentation of a sign-on letter to the Secretary-General, the international observance of Poverty Action Week and a civil society hearing that took place at the UN during the week of the summit. Other mechanisms included a task force comprised of stakeholders established to advise the General Assembly (GA) president on the formation and CIVICUS civil society engagement recommendations for Rio+20 participation of stakeholders in hearings. The GA also convened hearings with civil society representatives and private sector stakeholders prior to the summit.

It is clear that Rio+20 organisers have already adopted some replicable practices for consulting multistakeholders by implementing an open call for recommendations to allow greater civil society to voice their platforms and influence the zero draft document. In addition, multi-stakeholder participation should be included at intersessionals, informal consultations, regional preparatory meetings and major group activities.

Recommendations

Rio+20 stakeholders should embody a diverse range of participants and should include representation from the nine Major Groups. Efforts should also be made to include people with disability, marginalised and under-represented minority groups, women in their diversity, faithbased organisations and LDCs. All regions should have proportional representation in line with Member State representation in the UN five regional groups of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western European and others.

Those conducting the consultations need to take into consideration the dynamics, interrelationships, power, influence, abilities, beliefs and cultures of the various stakeholders to ensure the best representation possible at Rio+20.

A document explaining stakeholder opportunities to participate in Rio+20 processes should be produced and shared with stakeholders prior to consultations.

In the preliminary stakeholder planning stage, a timeline should be created with deliverables, future meetings and working groups. The timeline can be subject to change, but mapping out expectations ensures transparency and will allow time for collaboration and input from multistakeholders, particularly around planning side events in Rio.

Surveys, focus groups and open consultations should be conducted to determine key issues that are important to stakeholders. Stakeholders should be consulted on preferred methods of engagement and processes for communication and stakeholders with limited access to internet should be included and accommodated.

Throughout every stage of the process it is important to provide stakeholders with feedback on how their input and decisions have been implemented and affected courses of action. To ensure transparency and Accountability stakeholders need to know that their views were considered seriously. The prompt production and dissemination of results gathered in surveys, focus groups, intersessionals and other consultation processes instils integrity in the process and can generate dialogue on opportunities and challenges.

Conference

Challenges

Over the past two decades UN summits have continued to work towards improving multi-stakeholder participation and engagement with heads of state, but persistent barriers still prevent meaningful engagements and opportunities to influence negotiations during conference events.

COP15 stands out in recent history as a conference where multi-stakeholders, particularly civil society, faced many challenges in participation at conference events. There were an unusually large number of participants at the conference and the venue could not handle the capacity. This conference made it clear that there is a need to connect stakeholders and constituents to conference sessions using technology, as side events, workshops and dialogues were overcrowded and strained due to the large number of participants. Remote participation via webcasts and other technological mechanisms at Rio+20 would alleviate the overload of physical participants and provide greater access to restricted meetings. At WSIS, while technology was in place to ensure remote participation, stakeholders expressed a need to train session facilitators to engage with both the physical and virtual audience. Stakeholders also suggested there is a need to strategically publicise the opportunity to participate virtually to engage a more diverse sector of remote stakeholders in conference meetings and events.

Logistical issues at COP15 posed many challenges to stakeholders and prevented accredited organisations from accessing conference events and meetings. COP16 logistics posed similar challenges with separate conference venues for heads of state and stakeholders. At COP16, the commute between conference venues took thirty minutes and this drastically limited stakeholder interaction with government officials and decision makers. Similar problems emerged for civil society at the WSSD in Johannesburg. Stakeholders felt their impact on the summit was fragmented due to separate venues and the long commute required to access the venue where negotiations were held. It was not only civil society that was constrained by the logistical arrangements, but governments complained as well, especially those from LDCs. LDCs rely on civil society for support and policy recommendations; therefore organisers cannot continue the practice of separating stakeholders from decision makers at Rio+20.

Security at UN summits is another consistent challenge which resulted in an undesirable scenario at COP15. Local security in Copenhagen was unprepared to handle the huge numbers of conference attendees and resorted to harsh tactics in an effort to maintain control. Similarly, at the WSSD, security officials originally denied civil society access to the convention centre and The Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) had to negotiate with governments and UN officials to avoid a NGO boycott or walk-out. When organising Rio+20 it is important for organisers to understand the mind-set and approach of local security and create strategic lines of communication for understanding systems and decisions. It is also important to work with local security in Rio to break down stereotypes and recognise that a large, organised group of civil society does not mean anarchy will ensue. When entry to conference events is strained and prolonged or when impromptu restrictions are implemented during the conference, both civil society and security may not understand the implications or decisions behind these and it can lead to a breakdown of confidence and unneeded tension at the summit. The Rio organisers need to establish expectations and strategic systems for engaging with local security to ensure the safety and effective participation of multi-stakeholders. In addition, COP15 stakeholders commented on unorganised and impromptu media stunts inside the conference venue which resulted in restrictions on access to meetings and side events for others. At Rio+20 there is a need for leadership and guidance on strategic and effective delivery of media stunts to prevent problems and restrictions within the venue.

At the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992, stakeholders reported that they felt like ancillary participants and were largely removed from the central politics shaping Agenda 21. Overall, civil society reported that opportunities to influence decision makers were limited and they did not feel engagements were meaningful or produced optimal results to push sustainable development agendas forward. Stakeholders in Rio also felt that civil society representation was unbalanced and the global South was underrepresented. When engaging multi-stakeholders at Rio+20 it is important to develop proportional representation in line with Member State representation in the UN five regional groups. It is also important to provide funding for under-resourced stakeholders to guarantee a diverse range are consulted and have the opportunity to participate.

Finally, there is speculation that there will be restrictions on paper and printed materials at Rio+20 in an effort to be environmentally friendly. While generally this is a good practice, this must be messaged clearly and widely to multi-stakeholders and a strategic system must be established for civil society to disseminate information.

Replicable Practices

The WSIS summits and forums have consistently served as models for good use of technology and the remote participation of stakeholders. WSIS has stakeholder participation processes clearly outlined on their website, with timelines and instructions on how to participate. Additionally, WSIS organisers are consulting stakeholders years in advance of WSIS+10 in 2014. At the most recent WSIS forum in 2010, over one thousand stakeholders participated and contributed to event outcomes in a remote manner. Participants stated that the summit seemed truly international with a diverse set of stakeholders.

Every UN summit produces opportunities for learning from summit processes and stakeholder engagement. At WSSD, stakeholders interacted with government officials and participated in summit events throughout the entire two week session instead of being relegated to separate segments. After the challenges faced at COP15 organisers proposed that stakeholder side events, workshops and exhibits be grouped into thematic units to promote cohesion and this proposal was well received by stakeholders. Additionally, at the UNMDG summit multi-stakeholders were allotted four seats in each roundtable to ensure opportunities to influence decision makers.

WSIS conducts a thorough consultation process with stakeholders generally following the UN Rules of Procedure, but also developed a specific multi-stakeholder approach that went beyond typical engagement processes of other UN summits. Specific mechanisms introduced more meaningful engagement with civil society included allowing written contributions from all observers which were placed on the conference website and compiled to be used in negotiations and included in final documents, increasing transparency of summit processes. Stakeholders also organised themselves and formed a Civil Society Bureau and a Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors to more effectively interact with inter-governmental structures of the summit. The organisation of these groups created an opportunity for widespread exchanges of mutual expectations, procedures and strengthened understanding between governments, civil society and business.

Building on the Pre-Conference of multi-stakeholders for Rio+20, stakeholder participation should also be equally included in the three PrepCom meetings. It is further recommended that stakeholders have the opportunity to speak at each plenary session and be allotted seats at roundtables where negotiations take place.

Recommendations

The summit venues need to accommodate the large numbers of people who plan to attend Rio+20 and venues should be no more than 2 kilometres from each other. The venue should be located in the city centre or other area that is easily accessible by various forms of public transportation. Civil society can no longer be segregated from summit venues where negotiations are taking place.

Technology to include remote participants, via webcasts, needs to be a clear priority at Rio+20 and should include training for session facilitators to ensure effective engagement of remote and physical participants.

If paper restrictions are implemented at Rio+20, this change must be clearly communicated to stakeholders and there must be strategic coordination for CSOs to disseminate materials. Financial and technical support should be provided to CSOs to ease this transition, particularly indigenous groups or others who may have limited access to internet and technology. UNCSD should also allocate prominent website space where CSO materials and publications can be easily accessed by governments and other participants.

Rio+20 organisers need to prioritise creating systems for direct lines of communication with local security. Local security should participate in training on tactfully dealing with challenges that might arise at Rio+20 and establish systems for dissemination of detailed information to all levels of security.

Rio+20 organisers need to create more opportunities for strategic engagement in negotiations with decision makers, including providing seats for stakeholders at roundtables and opportunities to submit oral and written contributions to influence negotiations and outcome documents.

Rio+20 organisers need to provide funding for under-resourced stakeholders in both the preconference and conference events to ensure a diverse range of representation from the nine major groups, with a particular focus on indigenous people, women and LDCs.

Post-Conference

Challenges

Stakeholders are increasingly becoming disenchanted with summit outcomes due to the lack of government Accountability in implementation. Stakeholders also do not feel they are organised well enough, across sectors, at the national level to influence implementation of summit outcomes in a cohesive and strategic manner, particularly in LDCs. An example of this was underscored at the WSSD where a plan of implementation was developed by civil society, but follow through was limited because partnerships among civil society were not strong enough. Partnership building among multi-stakeholders should be incorporated into all stages of the Rio+20 processes and there is also a need to connect stakeholders with national UN offices for support and coordinated efforts in national follow-up. It is crucial to offer funding for activities related to the implementation of summit outcomes and Accountability initiatives within partnerships. Some organisations and partnerships may have greater resources to devote to activities, while those with restricted budgets will encounter problems initiating or participating in partnerships that adequately express their concerns.

Stakeholders at the WSIS and UNMDG summits expressed a need to improve follow-up actions for both stakeholders and governments to ensure Accountability from both sides on implementation of outcomes and commitments. Similarly, stakeholders felt that the outcomes of WSSD were ambitious and innovative, addressing the three pillars of sustainable development, but civil society was suspicious because they felt governments were trying to shy away from their responsibilities and leave implementation to the private sector. At the UNMDG summit, stakeholders felt the outcome document was merely aspirational instead of action oriented which presents problems in monitoring implementation and holding governments accountable. If Rio+20 is going to be a successful summit, outcomes must be action oriented and linked to the Millennium Development Goals, Kyoto Protocol and other international policies. Furthermore, the priorities of national governments must adapt to align with summit commitments and relevant UN agencies must also pledge to adapt the agreements of outcome documents into organisational priorities and work programmes.

In addition to monitoring government implementation of summit outcomes, follow-up with stakeholders is an important part of post-conference processes. Documents such as summit reports and webcasts should be widely disseminated and should also be available on summit and UN agency websites for access by greater civil society. Evaluations should also be completed by all contributing participants pertaining to both conference events and engagement in processes leading up to the summit. Stakeholder feedback should then be compiled, disseminated and posted on websites to promote transparency.

Replicable Practices

There were five notable documents that resulted from the Rio Earth Summit and two are particularly important to highlight in this context. The Framework Convention on Climate Change sets concrete actions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and led to the Kyoto Protocol which also outlined formal mechanisms for enforcement. The clear mechanisms for implementation of this convention serve as an example of the action-oriented outcomes stakeholders would like to see from Rio+20. Another major outcome of the Rio Earth Summit was section three of Agenda 21 which organised stakeholders into nine major groups that represent civil society. The nine major groups are recognised as partners in the implementation of outcomes and their participation in summit processes is recommended in all UN conferences. This systematic and thematic organisation of multi-stakeholders has not only proved useful for civil society in participating in UN summit processes, but is also building capacity in stakeholder engagement with the UN. As a result of the Rio Earth Summit and in preparation for the WSSD, a group of experts established a framework on multi-stakeholder processes to ensure transparent, equitable, democratic and gender-balanced processes for summits that require stakeholder participation. This strategic organisation of multi-stakeholders has helped to streamline and strengthen participation and build capacity among a wider range of civil society.

Other replicable practices were used at WSIS and involved organising multi-stakeholders into issue-based caucuses related to summit topics. This practice promotes partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders and helps civil society formulate common positions on relevant issues. The method proved particularly helpful during the first phase of the WSIS summit when the rights of civil society participation were threatened. Stakeholder caucusing not only led to the development of specific viewpoints and recommendations published during the Geneva meeting and after the conclusion of the Tunis summit, but helped to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships that continued after the summit concluded.

The WSSD produced the Bali Guiding Principals in the fourth PrepCom meeting to serve as a set of guidelines to shape follow-up to the summit. The guidelines identify specific actions that stakeholders and governments should take in partnership to ensure implementation of summit outcomes. As part of this process, major group commitments and targets were gathered in national, regional and international consultations and commitments were included as part of the summit outcomes. Finally, in order to improve summit processes and engagement, it is critical to conduct thorough evaluations that can inform summit organising and participation at future events. WSIS conducted stakeholder evaluations after each meeting, event and workshop. Follow-up actions were then compiled into a final report that was made publicly available to all stakeholders and governments.

Recommendations

Non-participating stakeholders should have access to Rio+20 information and reports and dissemination plans should be established during the planning process. Final reports should be posted on the Rio+20 and UNCSD websites.

Establish proposed outcomes for Rio+20 and link them to international priorities and policies, the Millennium Development Goals, official UN processes and ensure buy-in from relevant UN agencies like UNDP, UNDESA, UNCSD and UNFCCC. Outcomes should be results oriented with explicit commitments to action.

Set clear targets and processes for follow-up with multi-stakeholders and each of the nine major groups once Rio+20 has concluded. Stakeholder engagement should align with country specific outcomes and efforts should be made to link UN country offices with national civil society networks and major group participants.

To strengthen Accountability, systems should be established, with stakeholder input, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of outcomes agreed upon at Rio+20.

Organise multi-stakeholders into issue-based caucuses to build partnerships and assist stakeholders in establishing stronger positions on Rio+20 issues during and after the summit.
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