DPI/NGO Conference 2014

This year – 2015 – is a particularly critical year for the world with three pivotal summits taking place: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the UN General Assembly in September; the Climate Change summit in Paris in December; and the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in July. Many at the UN call 2015 a once-in-a-generation opportunity for transformational change.

From 27-29 August 2014, the NGO community at the United Nations gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for the 65th DPI/NGO Conference. It was nice to be back in New York after six years of being “on the road” due to renovations of UN Headquarters. This year’s conference had as title: 2015 and Beyond, Our Action Agenda.

The phrase “2015 and beyond” refers to the new global development agenda which has been in the making since the world gathered in Brazil for the Rio +20 Summit in 2012. Why a new development agenda? Because when the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2000, governments made solemn promises to achieve these goals by the end of 2015 – the end of this year! Some of the MDGs have, globally seen, been achieved, but not in every single country. For example, seen from a global perspective extreme poverty has been reduced by more than 50% (MDG #1), yet at the same time it has dramatically increased in sub-Sahara Africa. In other words, achieving the MDGs has been unequal and there is unfinished business to be addressed.

At the same time the world today faces challenges which did not feature in the MDGs, existential threats such as climate change that require global norms. In addition, the need for a sustainable development agenda which integrates the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development, was not as prominently on the horizon in 2000. But it is today and cries out for urgent universal attention. Hence the need for a more holistic approach to sustainable development by bringing all three pillars – social, economic and environmental development and protection – together in a Post 2015 development agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, form a major part of this new agenda and will set the world’s development priorities for the next 15 years, from 2016 through 2030.

The DPI/NGO conference was attended by a record number of more than 2,200 participants, coming from some 100 countries and representing around 700 NGOs, who networked and shared experiences and strategies around the new global development agenda. Four RSCJ were among the participants: Elizabeth Ruiz Rojas from Peru, as well as Paula Gruner, Joan Kirby and myself, all three from the USA.

The conference resulted in the adoption of the Civil Society Declaration, an Action Agenda. This declaration is ambitious, inspiring and concrete in addressing poverty eradication, sustainable development, human rights and climate justice. The thematic roundtables and workshops were structured roughly around these same four headings. Among the many workshops offered, I found two particularly interesting: one on sustainability and nuclear weapons, and another on global citizenship.

Cecile Meijer, rscj
March 2015

"The Conference has been for me a human and hopeful meeting. Human, because of the deep wounds that human action can produce in the world. (Problems around climate change, human trafficking, poverty, education, nourishment, human rights…) In one of the presentations, “Climate Justice in Practice”, one of the speakers said: “Those who are poor are the most affected by climate change." That made me think about my own responsibility toward creation in daily life. What are my "just practices" to care for the environment?"