IEF response to SG's Synthesis Report

Submitted by admin on 9. January 2015 - 13:50

IEF response to SG's Synthesis Report

Official IEF reaction to the UN Secretary-General's Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Agenda
The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet

The International Environment Forum (IEF) is a professional organization for environment and sustainability accredited to WSSD and Rio+20 in the science and technology major group, with members in over 60 countries. We try to make constructive inputs to UN processes, particularly at the interface between science and ethics.

We greatly appreciated the Secretary-General's Synthesis Report, and more generally the work in the UN on the post-2015 agenda and the results of the Open Working Group on SDGs. The following comments may be useful as the process goes forward.

The Secretary-General's report refers to young people as torch bearers, and the "first truly globalized, interconnected, and highly mobilized civil society, ready and able to serve as a participant, joint steward, and powerful engine of change and transformation." He makes reference to "the power of the new agenda to inspire and mobilize essential actors, new partnerships, key constituencies, and the broader global citizenry," and the role of volunteerism "to localize the new agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable actions." He concludes by saying that the new agenda must be embraced by people.

However, most of the report and the whole UN process is basically, and by necessity, top-down, setting an agenda but very weak on implementation. It is necessary and highly desirable to have this global vision, but not sufficient. If it is not supported by a bottom-up process from the people most directly concerned, which is all of us, governments will not move, vested interests and inertia will slow or block progress, and we shall as usual do too little, to late. Trickle down does not work in the economy, and it will not work here either.

A much greater effort is needed, by the UN and all the partners in this process, to publicize this challenging and inspiring post-2015 agenda, to make it relevant to and accessible by people everywhere, to build public buy-in and ownership, and to motivate ordinary people to start applying the six essential elements in their own neighbourhoods and communities without waiting for governments to act. This process can start now, and does not have to wait for the decisions to be taken by governments this year.

One action component must be education as a key to encourage bottom-up initiatives and awareness. There is a goal with targets for education, but this should not be interpreted as only dealing with "education for all", or that "quality education" is only improving employability and not necessarily developing character and a sense of global solidarity. Education for a more responsible and sustainable future is easily fragmented when absorbed into curricula as an extra item rather than a core skill. The emphasis should be on ethical or moral principles that motivate action. If young people are to be mobilized, they need capacity building and training. A particular emphasis should be placed on pre-adolescents 11-15 years old in their morally-formative years, who have idealism and capacity and can learn the bounty of being of service to society.  The IEF is part of the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) preparing values-based educational materials in support of education for sustainable development and the 10YFP on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Efforts along these lines should be expanded in the post-2015 process.

The UN should be building a wide partnership with organizations of civil society, the media, youth, and the grassroots, to take the key messages from the Secretary-General forward through other than its usual channels. One example from our own experience was the effort from UNDP in 2008-2009, in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to request all the major religions to prepare Action Plans on Climate Change, which were presented to the Secretary-General at Windsor Castle in November 2009, a month before the Copenhagen Climate Summit. The Baha'i International Community asked us to help them prepare the Baha'i action plan presented at that time. The UN could request all the religions to explore how the six essential elements are reflected in their own scriptures and traditions, giving their followers a scriptural basis and a spiritual motivation to put this agenda into action. Similarly, thematic alliances can be built around specific goals and targets, with the potential to reach beyond the traditional constituency of organizations directly involved with the United Nations.

The post-2015 agenda is too important to be left only to governments. The Peoples' Climate March showed that there is a latent desire for mobilization. We hope that the Secretary-General can reach out in the coming months to a much wider constituency to build momentum for the necessary transition to a just and sustainable society.

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Last updated 9 January 2015