As international human rights organizations who have been advocating for the SDG commitments to be underpinned by robust monitoring and review mechanisms, we are deeply concerned that the framework for follow-up and review outlined in the final draft of the outcome document (dated 8 July 2015) for the September Summit is very vague and falls far short of what will be required to ensure effective implementation. Indeed, the content on follow-up and review has been significantly weakened since the zero draft. We would like to remind Member States that follow-up and review is an integral part of effective, empowering and inclusive post-2015 progress, and must not be treated as an optional or onerous add-on. It will be impossible to achieve truly transformative sustainable development and to leave no one behind without conducting regular, transparent, holistic and participatory reviews of progress and setbacks at all levels.
Below, we present four ‘redlines’ for the global level of review, with some suggested language for the outcome document. While our language suggestions focus on the global level, the proposed text on the national and regional levels also has profound deficiencies. We urge Member States to include more specific commitments in these sections. This is a chance for States to show their intention to put in place robust and participatory monitoring mechanisms to conduct regular reviews at the national level (every 2-4 years is feasible for most countries). Of course, every national process will be different, but inclusivity, transparency, participation and human rights should be baselines for all – and all States should have formal and accessible channels for people and civil society (and other stakeholders such as National Human Rights Institutions) to freely participate and contribute their own reports and assessments.
Recommendations for the global level of follow-up and review:
- Ensure integrity of reporting processes at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF):
The country reviews at the HLPF should be based on three reports:
- Official state reports, which monitor progress towards the SDGs and analyze outstanding challenges. These reports should be informed by the national level review processes and consultations with stakeholders and be based on disaggregated, up-to-date data.
- Independent stakeholder reports, compiled from submissions by non-governmental actors -particularly civil society- into an official document by the HLPF Secretariat.
- United Nations reports, compiling information, data and assessments from UN agencies as well as the outcomes of other UN mechanisms that touch on sustainable development, particularly those from the human rights treaty monitoring bodies and the UPR process.
All of these reports must be made publicly available. This reporting modality will be essential for ensuring holistic reviews of progress and fostering learning, thereby allowing for more effective, inclusive implementation. Any review process based on just one official governmental report will lack legitimacy and will fail to meet principles of participation and inclusivity. This ambitious agenda demands we go well beyond the modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Reviews (AMR), which have proven inadequate in ensuring accountability to existing commitments under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Suggested language (para. 66, to add at end): So as to ensure a holistic and participatory process which takes into account the views and experiences of people, country reviews at the HLPF will be based on three reports: one official state report based on up-to-date data; an independent stakeholders report compiled from submissions by non-governmental actors including civil society; and a United Nations report compiling information and data from UN agencies and UN mechanisms including human rights mechanisms.
- Commit to open, participatory and transparent modalities and a meaningful role for civil society: A people-centered sustainable development agenda must permit individuals and civil society organizations to actively participate in the reviews, as well as submit alternative reports. The process of developing the post-2015 agenda has been participatory and inclusive to an unprecedented degree, but this will count for little if the space is inaccessible when it counts the most. Civil society organizations, including those without ECOSOC status, should be permitted to attend and participate in interactive dialogues. It will be impossible to live up to the ‘leave no one behind’ promise if the most marginalized and disadvantaged people are not enabled and empowered to participate in monitoring and review of progress, and to share their experience. The HLPF reviews should be broadcast in live webcasts, and all data and information should be made publicly available.
Suggested language (para. 70): The HLPF will support active in-person and remote participation in follow up and review processes by the major groups, civil society organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders in line with Resolution 67/290. We encourage these actors to report on their contribution to the implementation of this Agenda and commit to provide channels for them to submit independent reports to country and thematic reviews. In particular, the participation of marginalized and disadvantaged people must be ensured and their experience represented, so as to leave no one behind. The HLPF reviews will be broadcast in live webcasts, and all data and information considered will be made publicly available.
- Foster a culture of universal participation: Although the HLPF reviews will be voluntary, participation by all UN member states should be expected and incentivized. This requires that all states prioritize reporting at the global level and participate constructively, building on strong national review processes. Incentives for participation might include financial, capacity-building and technical support. Several member states have already stepped forward and volunteered to be reviewed first and we encourage more of this positive and proactive example-setting by Member States demonstrating their commitment to effective implementation of the SDGs.
Suggested language (para. 66): Reviews will be voluntary, while encouraging, expecting and incentivizing universal reporting and active and constructive participation, and include developed and developing countries as well as relevant UN entities.
- Guarantee sufficient support and meeting time for the HLPF: If the HLPF really is to be the ‘apex’ of the post-2015 follow-up and review processes, it must be adequately resourced to conduct meaningful reviews of progress and implementation. This requires that the HLPF be given sufficient meeting time to conduct country and thematic reviews each year and that it also has a secretariat with the necessary capacity and expertise to support those reviews.
Suggested language (add to para. 64, or add new para.): As such, we commit to ensuring that the HLPF is sufficiently resourced and supported to perform this role, including through sufficient time allocated for meetings and a secretariat with the necessary capacity and expertise to support thematic and country reviews.