By Dorothee Gueneheux, CIVICUS
Even in the context of shrinking flows of official development assistance (ODA), the new development agenda, which is to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) starting from September 2015, has been creating a big buzz over the past 5 years and especially at the international level. Consultations, reports and meetings  have been numerous within the so-called ‘planet New York’. But why is it important to follow this myriad of discussions?
It’s simple: we need civil society and citizens’ voices to be heard at the global level by governments in the meeting rooms at the United Nations in New York.
The MDGs have had an impact on what the world has decided are development priorities, both at the national level by governments and by international donors through their ODA (of course, the global picture is uneven, as they haven’t been applied or used consistently everywhere and by all donors). At least, the MDGs are very often used as a reference against which to compare new data as for examples for the reduction of poverty or of the maternal mortality. These development priorities have been reflected in national and donors’ plans and budgeting, and even criticised for leaving out many other issues. We can expect the new international development framework to have the same impact on efforts to end poverty and achieve sustainable growth. The MDGs and post-MDGs implementation has been- and will be- the responsibility of national governments primarily.
Therefore, national level civil society organisations need to hold their governments accountable on this implementation, and also on the positions of their representatives’ during international negotiations at the UN in New York.
Though we’ve been hearing and talking about post-2015 for a very long time already, the intergovernmental negotiations are still to start. Only in September 2014 at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly will this intergovernmental process begin, lasting for a year until the framework is agreed at a High-level post-2015 summit planned in September 2015.
Alas from what I heard during a meeting involving NGOs and representatives of the South African government last month in Johannesburg, the ‘real’ process between UN Member States has yet to begin. Of course, the decision and the background for these intergovernmental negotiations will be based on all the reports and consultations made before September 2014 (from the UN Secretary General, the Open Working Group, UN agencies, and so on). Yet, how much of what has been discussed so far is binding or has the commitment from most Member States?
Even though one can feel a sense of general fatigue around post-2015, civil society and its organisations need to remain active, and even double their efforts in this last crucial home stretch– and particularly at the national level.
We know that if the only ones to raise their voices are big international NGOs, it could be easy for many governments to refuse these positions as a mere reflection of international donors’ (read Western countries), as we have witnessed more and more in recent years .
National advocacy towards national governments is key.
To help civil society organisations and coalitions in their advocacy efforts notably at the national level on the post-2015 development agenda, Stakeholder Forum and CIVICUS developed an advocacy toolkit and media guide, available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese here.
Building on the content of the toolkits, here are some more advocacy top tips:
- Consult international conventions, resolutions and agreements of interest. For example, at the African level, the Banjul Charter is known to have very progressive language; recent resolutions of the UN Commission on Population and Development too. Look for the Conventions and resolutions which have been agreed on by consensus, more than by votes. This will reflect a stronger agreement.
- In your advocacy strategy and messages, re-use the same vocabulary as in these Charters, and resolutions.
- Check what has been the position of your government in the past regarding these international agreements and in particular the final declaration of Rio+20. Still at the African level, States have come to an agreement on an African common position on post-2015 early 2014.
- Find out who is going to be the lead for the negotiations within your national government. What has been this ministry or minister’s position in the past? Which other ministries might be involved (or have been involved) that might be easier of access for you or closer to your advocacy priorities? The governmental negotiator will need to be the “champion” of his/her national issues.
- Knowing that this is a time bound process, find out what are the remaining opportunities of engagement for civil society with the government and other stakeholders.
- The scope of the agenda is huge. The big challenge is to prioritize what will be your main issue(s) or challenges you want your advocacy strategy to focus on. Answering to the question ‘Where can be our bigger impact?’ might help in this prioritisation.
- Last but not least, your advocacy efforts and work need to be evidence-based. Without facts and data, your arguments might not be heard or taken seriously.
More advice and tips on: www.SD2015.org/index.php/engagement-tools/advocacy-toolkit
2015 shouldn’t be left to governments alone; the buzz shouldn’t stop in September 2014. Civil society should re-double its advocacy efforts on the new international development framework and for the next 14 months especially direct this advocacy towards national governments, in their home country.
 For all reports concerning Rio+20 and the sustainable development goals, check http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/. For all reports on implementation of MDGs and what is to replace them, consult: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/development-beyond-2015.html.
 Check CIVICUS Enabling Environment report on restrictions to access foreign funding as a way to shrink civil society space, here: CIVICUS, State of Civil Society Report 2013: Creating an Enabling Environment, 2013, 300 p. and CIVICUS, The 2013 Enabling Environment Index report, 2013, 32 p.