Continuing to connect the dots at HLPF in readiness for the SDG Summit on September 25

An analogy to help describe the experience of attending the High-Level Political Forum is that of an 8 ring circus. There is (i) the official program, (ii) voluntary national reviews, (iii) special events, (iv) VNR labs, (v) side events, (vi) parallel events, (vii) constituency events and (viii) collective events. How to strategize on what is important to attend? How to feel the pulse of each ring? How, when and where does one raise one’s voice or do advocacy? How can one be heard? The numbers below also hint to the complexities involved:

Taken from Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform
Taken from Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform

Good Shepherd has a presence in twelve of the countries that presented Voluntary National Reviews. Seven of these countries contributed to a survey which the GSIJP Office compiled into a REPORT – GSIJP – HLPF Survey Results We acknowledge the work done on this by Caileigh Finnegan, a summer intern in the office.

I attended a set of VNR’s on July 18. Among the presentations made was the one from Mauritius. Review their slide presentation. The REPORT on page 134 lists Soeurs du Bon Pasteur as among those consulted and who contributed! The following points remains with me – the reported growth over 50 years moving from sugar cane production to technology and becoming an upper middle income economy. It was also reported that there is a social housing scheme, inequality has lessened, minimum wage is implemented and there is a universal pension with free broadband to all families on the social register. It was further shared that women can access loans without a guarantor. Sr Donatus Lili, NGO Regional Designate visited Good Shepherd in Mauritius and made vital connections between the sisters, ministries, local communities and the UN Resident Coordinator who facilitated a meeting with personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were compiling the VNR Report.

The sisters had a fruitful conversation with Kelly Culver who came with two officers, Miss Prateema Kutwoaroo (Senior Analyst) and Mr. Hemal Munoosingh, both from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. Mrs. Madelon from ATD Fourth World, and Mrs. Josiane Schultz (Mission Partner) together with representatives from the six workshops also participated in the dialogue.

Included in the photograph are Kelly Culver (extreme right) with Miss Prateema
Kutwoaroo (Senior Analyst) and Mr. Hemal Munoosingh, both from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mauritius

The group reviewed the workshops conducted by Donatus while in Mauritius and how they see the SDGs. Mrs. Madelon suggested that the SGDs need to be translated into local languages and simplified so that they are more accessible and practical for people at the grassroots. Ms. Culver was delighted about the prison ministry and said that Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd is the first group who did not forget the voice of prisoners.  She was very interested in Marie Therese Saturday’s program with children and in the college. She hopes to follow-up with these three places and proposed to visit in the future for effective partnership. The team spoke about the two groups formed during the workshops for the VNRs, and requested that the sisters send their final recommendations to be inserted in the State Voluntary National Report for the HLPF. This will be the first-ever input of the Congregational achievements in Mauritius to be included in the State database. Ms. Culver had the opportunity to meet the girls in Pelletier,  so she could see first-hand the ministries in which the sisters are engaged.

Workshop in progress!

Very often there is a disconnect between what Good Shepherd reports from the grassroots and what is presented at national level. Why is this so? Because Good Shepherd are reaching out to do what they do best – reach the furthest behind, the one who is excluded, the one not counted, not heard, not recognized, focusing especially on girls and women, and bringing the voice of women prisoners to attention. While the provisions enumerated in the government report are available, it is a fact that dis-empowered people are unaware of them. Another challenge identified is the necessity of having materials in French Creole. Well done Good Shepherd, Mauritius!

Women’s Major Group

To the 9 Major Groups a number of other stakeholders have been added bringing the total number to 18 constituency groups – the most recent group is the LGBTI. Good Shepherd aligns and collaborates with the Women’s Major Group. Donatus contributed to the drafting of the Position Paper for HLPF 2019 and the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity endorsed the paper. The advocacy work of the Women’s Major Group can be captured in this quote from the executive summary addressing the need for structural and systemic change. “This Agenda’s success necessitates political changes so the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) truly benefit the marginalised and systematically excluded. There must be a profound shift from the dominant yet discredited fixation on economic growth to institutionalised leadership for development, justice and peace. This means moving away from extractivist industries, military investments, and emaciated humanitarian, gender equality and human rights action, and reorienting towards empowering feminist and social movements and human rights for all. Governments, corporations, the military industrial complex, international financial institutions, and other power holders must be held accountable to human rights and commitments to leave no one behind.” An analysis of the impact of the Women’s Major Group this year was phenomenal – Social Media reached 5 million people and made 42 million impressions. There were 21 interventions, 17 side events, 7 meeting with delegates and the daily colour campaign.

@gsijp and @winifreddoherty engaging with social media

Each thematic review session at the HLPF opened with an overview of the relevant goal under review from ‘The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019″ This paragraph from the forward outlines the current situation and set the scene for the SDG Summit on September 25th. “Notwithstanding that progress, this report identifies many areas that need urgent collective attention. The natural environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate: sea levels are rising; ocean acidification is accelerating; the past four years have been the warmest on record; one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction; and land degradation continues unchecked. We are also moving too slowly in our efforts to end human suffering and create opportunity for all: our goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 is being jeopardized as we struggle to respond to entrenched deprivation, violent conflicts and vulnerabilities to natural disasters. Global hunger is on the rise, and at least half of the world’s population lacks essential health services. More than half of the world’s children do not meet standards in reading and mathematics; only 28 per cent of persons with severe disabilities received cash benefits; and women in all parts of the world continue to face structural disadvantages and discrimination.”

This glossy version is in English only but the text is also in Arabic, French and Spanish

This action needs to tackle deeply embedded issues at the structural and systemic levels within the global community and invoke a spirit of multilaterialism. There must be a profound shift away from the dominant yet discredited fixation on economic growth to institutionalised leadership for development, justice and peace.

Ending week one -‘Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality’ – HLPF 2019.

My assessment of how the global community is doing ‘Empowering the girls, women and children Good Shepherd accompany and ensuring their inclusiveness and equality’ is not too well! The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 tells the story The question asked on the front page of the report is telling. ‘We must ask ourselves if our actions today are laying the right foundation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?’ The specific set of Goals reviewed this week were SDG 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16. Some of the headlines in the SDG 4 report are: Shockingly low proficiency rates in reading and mathematics signal a global learning crisis’; ‘Early childhood education offers a head start in school, but one third of the world’s children are being left behind’; ‘Progress has stalled in reaching out-of-school children’; ‘Too many schools in sub-Saharan Africa lack the basic elements of a good quality education: trained teachers and adequate facilities’; and ‘Despite progress, 750 million adults still cannot read and write a simple statement; two thirds of those adults are women.’ See SDG 4

I attended the side event SDG 4: At the Heart of Achieving the 2030 Agenda co-sponsored by groups that have education at the heart of their mission. The panelists presented a range of examples of inclusive, quality education. It was noted that injustice is inherent in the educational system.

Sr. Nakato Betty RSCJ outlined some principles underlying quality and inclusive education and depicted the current interaction of the system of education with the student to asking a fish to climb a tree!

Mr. Brian Fitzsimons with International Presentation Association presented a project ‘iScoil Ireland’ begun in 2007 that seeks to addresses the ‘shockingly low proficiency rates in reading and mathematics’ mentioned in the SDG report through interactive, flexible, and personalized learning using technology and multiple modes of assessment leading to a recognized accreditation with 82% receiving a qualification.

Kristin Hokanson, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur presented Education for Life with Sustainable Development Goals integrated into the virtual school.

Nick Newland, Associated Country Women of the World spoke to the situation of education in conflict affected and fragile states and this should be at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. I was reminded of an article in Global Sisters Report that you may help helpful to situate your self in the reality of the camp with the Society of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate.

Nick Newland addresses the issue of education in conflict affected and fragile states.

The Spotlight Report was launched on Thursday morning. This is the 4th edition of the report which seeks to track progress across the Agenda and the individual goals. The findings are that progress is seriously off track. Progress has not and will not come with accelearation or resources. Rather a major shift in policy is required with serious attention being given to the role of the public sector in line with responsibility for human rights and the public resources required to implement the goals. There is a need for strong institutions and good governance for sustainability. In the Spotlight Report there is a chapter on SDG 4 By Antonia Wulff, Education International The chapter can be accessed here It gives a very good insight into what is really happening. “In practice, numerous actors are competing for influence, particularly on defining what works in education, as so-called knowledge-based economies, grapple for growth and hunt for quick fixes in education. The SDGs are to be implemented in a political landscape where the UN system struggles to assert its relevance and values; gone are the days when UNESCO was the obvious authority in education, to which countries would turn for policy advice. This matters because agreement continues to be sought as to what the broad priorities within SDG 4 mean in practice, such as quality education or relevant learning. Governments have committed to a shared level of ambition and set of priorities but at the end of the day it is up to each government to translate them into more specific national policy.”

Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019

While numerous actors are competing for influence – the World Bank, the OECD, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (Education Commission), and the London-based Varkey Foundation – NGO’s are at the cutting edge empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality as demonstrated at the SDG 4 event for individuals and groups within society but who notices, how counts?

I began the week on Sunday July 7th being a panelist at a Water Aid event – presenting an overview of SDG 4. My question to the participants was do we continues to advocate for our separate individual issues in relation to education or do we advocate for structural and systemic change? The Secretary General’s Report had some stark comments: “In 2016, one third of all primary schools lacked basic drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services, affecting the education of millions of school children, but particularly girls managing menstruation.” In 2018, one fifth of the world’s youth were not in education, employment or training… There is a stark gender difference. Young women were more than twice as likely as young men to be unemployed or outside the labour force and not in education or training.” I called for collective advocacy to challenge the unethical dimensions of the financial markets, financial institutions and an unscrupulous sector. When preparing for this I had access to two excellent presentations showcasing what Good Shepherd are doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo focusing on the education of children who were engaged in child labour and in Puket, Thailand with a focus on the education of children whose parents have migrated to Thailand. These programmes demonstrate holistic rights-based education.

Protecting the Human Right to Education
#ChildrenNOTMiners

NGO’s are often not recognized, not counted, not consulted, not included. But we do what we do best, ‘upholding the dignity of every person in the face of gross inequalities, violations of human rights, and the stubborn persistence of gender based violence against the girl child, women and children.