We attended the second Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The forum focuses on monitoring the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and took place on the 1st and 2nd March.
The forum was organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). They promote sustainable development in the ECE region. The ECE region has 56 Member States and includes Europe, but also countries in North America (Canada and United States), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and Western Asia (Israel).
The forum had 600 participants from more than 50 countries, The theme was “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. Participants from governments, civil society, academia and the private sector engaged in intense discussions, learning and exchange across a range of key sustainability priorities.
EDF Executive Committee Member Nadia Hadad was selected by approximatively 70 civil organisations to talk about sustainable cities (SDG 11). EDF Vice-President John Patrick Clarke gave the final closing speech, on behalf of civil society.
Our participation was a real success! Persons with disabilities were systematically mentioned as a group needed to be reached for strong SDGs
We also had the pleasure to talk briefly with the ECE Secretary General, Olga Algayerova, who we met at the High Level Political Forum last year in New York.
However, we have deep concerns about the lack of accessibility of the event.
There was no captioning, and no international sign language interpreters.The stages were not always accessible to wheelchairs users. Accessibility in these events is essential for inclusive Sustainable Development Goals. We call for:
• Investing in an efficient and accessible registration system. In fact, it has been really difficult and chaotic to register this year and last year due to a poor system.
• Including civil society in the Regional Forum agenda, where we appear on the stage and among speakers. Civil society should also be able to contribute to setting the agenda and to suggest topics for panel debates.
• The Regional Forum must be physically accessible. It must have captioning and international sign language interpreters. It is already happening at the UN in New York, it should also be feasible in Geneva and others Regional Forums.
• The organisation of side-events should be transparent. All civil society allowed to apply similarly to the High Level Political Forum and with a defined selection process.
• Funding to civil society should continue to be provided and not decreased. Many organisations (such as persons with disabilities, youth, refugees, LGBTI and older persons) are often based on volunteerism with limited financial capacity.
Regional civil society engagement mechanism
On the 28th February, there was a meeting of the ECE Regional civil society engagement mechanism (RCEM). It counted with100 representatives of civil society organisations. The objective of this meeting was to coordinate our actions to ensure civil society input in the process of implementation, follow up and review of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
The platform organised in different sub-regions and 14 constituencies (groups of people). Persons with Disabilities constitute one. Other constituencies are Women, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, Local Authorities, Workers and Trade Unions, Scientific and Technological Community, Farmers, Diaspora/migrants, LGBTIQ, urban poor, Older Persons, and small and medium enterprises.
EDF is currently coordinating the constituency working on “persons with disabilities”.