SDGs: Swiss civil society gets organised

Political article
Alliance Sud, the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, the Environment Alliance and the Centre for Peacebuilding are coordinating how the Swiss civil society can help the Sustainable Development Goals on the road to succes.

Which Swiss NGO is working on which of the goals of the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development? Where and how do Swiss civil society organizations wish to collaborate more closely? NGO representatives met in Berne on 18 October to discuss and clarify these questions.

The networking meeting was hosted by Alliance Sud, the Centre for Peacebuilding, the Swiss Trade Union Federation and the Environment Alliance (Umweltallianz). Some 50 organizations from a broad range of thematic fields held very intensive discussions on the subject. The most important takeaway from the meeting was that most organizations wish to cooperate, be it in building awareness or with respect to the Federal Government's consultations for the purpose of coordinating the Baseline Report due out at the end of 2017.

September marked the first anniversary of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Switzerland outlined its initial implementation approaches at the UN High-Level Political Forum in July 2016. But before there can be tangible action, Switzerland has to examine where it stands with implementation. This will mean reviewing the extent to which the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda are being met or not. All responsible federal entities must submit their assessments on the matter and identify areas where action is needed. This is a critical step towards familiarizing the entire administration with the 2030 Agenda. Civil society players are then to be consulted. These consultations with civil society entities and the private sector are set for next spring.

The Berne meeting centred on reaching basic agreement among non-governmental organizations on the topic of the 2030 Agenda, also with a view to the Federal Government's consultations. The hosts had invited non-governmental organizations and trade unions from the most varied fields such as the environment, labor, development, peace, education, health, gender equality, people with disabilities, etc. The high level of interest elicited by the conference is motivating all the participants to press ahead with the work already begun. A joint effort is needed to ascertain how civil society will best be able to defend its interests.

In the course of the day, the organizations mapped their work to the various goals and targets. Fortunately, Swiss NGOs are already working on each of the 17 goals. There was consensus on the need for cooperation in regard to the 2030 Agenda. The precise form this will take is yet to be clarified. Two points came clearly to the fore: much remains to be done in terms of awareness raising, and federal policy does warrant critical and constructive monitoring.

Suggestions regarding the form of future cooperation ranged from loose cooperation on thematic presentations by the Federal Government, to an SDG charter for Swiss NGOs, as well as a coordinated platform with a core group comprising various existing platforms or networks. In the near future, the four host organizations and their invited guests will jointly prepare a proposal regarding the form of cooperation. In addition, dialogue is to be sought with other civil society players, for example, with academia.

Download (in German or in French) of the «Conference Proceedings» of October 18th, 2016 in Berne.