WECF at the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development

Annually, Member-States, civil society, and other stakeholders from the UNECE region come together to discuss progress on achieving the SDGs.  The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development took place virtually. We were excited to mobilize civil society in this space within the Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (RCEM).

During the RFSD itself, on the 16th and 17th of March, representatives from RCEM took the virtual stage for important interventions. Mark Wheatley stated, during the Opening Plenary Session on March 17th, “ In terms of our perspectives for the future , ‘Build back better’ is not what we need. We want transformation and a better, more just society. Agenda 2030 should be used to accelerate this. Instead of increasing exclusion of civil society from decision-making and movement of funds from CSOs towards government-led responses to COVID. We want inclusion, an end to pro-governmental businesses and organizations that make many CSOs even more excluded.” Read his full statement here.

On day 2 of the conference, Nelya Rakhimova represented RCEM with her intervention. “We heard from Member States that the pandemic has set back progress on the SDGs and in one case, again today we heard that the targets may not be reached by 2030. We also heard from the Deputy Secretary General that we need ambition, urgency and scale. (…) Civil society engagement should be an ongoing process, not just a one-off engagement in preparing for a VNR presentation. We were pleased to hear support for civil society inclusion at the Regional Forum and request that RCEM be financially supported by Member States through the UNECE secretariat. We recommend that RCEM is brought more centrally into the preparation of future Regional Forums. The RCEM was not involved in the planning of the Forum and its roundtables this year and, therefore, did not have the meaningful participation we would ideally like.” Read her full statement here.

In advance of the official meeting, we hosted two strategy meetings on the 8th and 9th of March, preceded by an orientation session to introduce new people to the civil society network. We discussed our common recommendations on different aspects of the SDG agenda: people, planet, prosperity, and perspectives. Shrinking space for civil society organizations in the UNECE region and this process was also extensively discussed. You can find the recordings of these sessions here:

In advance of the RFSD itself, Roundtable events took place on various topics. Representatives of RCEM were there and delivered interventions. These spaces allowed for more discussions between stakeholders and participants. However, as Mark Wheasley rightly stated during his plenary intervention, “the roundtables failed to address our negative impacts on our environment. We are worried about the emphasis on investments and business solutions without recognition of civil society organisations as key partners in building forward.” Find all civil society interventions during the Roundtables here:


Our own side-event: a creative mobilization space for feminists & women’s rights activists

On March 10, we organized our own virtual RFSD side-event. In collaboration with UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, we hosted a creative mobilization space with inspiring (young) feminist speakers. Specifically, we focused on the themes of the Generation Equality Forums of 2021:

The event was opened by Aida Kasymalieva, Deputy Chair of Toraga Zhogorky Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic, and our moderator Natia Kostava from Women’s Information Center in Georgia. Anna Hovhannisyan, Women’s Resource Center Armenia, Olga Djanaeva, NGO Alga Kyrgyzstan, and Sanja Nikolin, Future of Equality team, moderators of our sub-regional consultations for Eastern Europe, Western Balkans & Turkey and Central Asia shared their subregional demands. You can also find out more about them here or see them visualized for our #FeministsWantSystemChange campaign here.

We heard inspiring activist herstories of change from Selin Gören (Fridays for Future Turkey), Kim Hyojeong (NomadHer) and Teodora Mileska (SRHR activist in North Macedonia). Additionally, participants were able to share their own demands and actions for Generation Equality in break-out groups.

The Director of UN Women’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Alia El Yassir, concluded the event with some relevant reflections. “It is important to focus in on the actions, but how do we focus in on the principles very clearly? You can definitely articulate the concrete actions, but we need to come at it from a principle/values level. Especially when it’s about demands to governments, because they decide on funding, access to data, etc. There is a missing piece here: the way in which governments are (or are not) engaging with civil society. If this is effectively part of the process (transparency), then you can highlight where the gaps are and where change needs to happen!”

You can check out the event’s livestream on Facebook here.