This blogpost is a reflection from one of the breakout groups formed during the NGO Collaboration Session as part of the Civil Society Forum 2022, during the sixtieth session of the Commission for Social Development.
This breakout group was composed of the following NGO representatives: Jean Quinn (Unanima International), Liliane Nkunzimana (Baha'i International Community), Sharon Fisher (Soroptimist International), Severin Sindizera (Indigenous Peoples Global Forum for Sustainable Development), Winifred Doherty (Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd).
In February 2022, the Commission for Social Development focused on poverty and hunger, as well as resilient recovery from Covid-19. The themes of true partnership and collective action were central to the discussions around inclusive resilience. Collaboration was described as a key element to address issues around sustainable development. Also discussed was the need for coordinated action within organizations acting at the international and grassroots level for effective advocacy, policy influence and project implementation.
Several experiences shared both by organizations and Member States showed that policies and programmes developed by diverse stakeholders in collaboration led to speedier recoveries from the impacts of the pandemic. Conversely, in many parts of the world, failure to coordinate action effectively has led to shortcomings in delivering relief.
As with many other issues, challenges around coordinated action are not new but were merely exacerbated by the pandemic. As a followup, it seems timely to reflect on what values can inform the creation of spaces and mechanisms needed to ensure a flow of information and experience from the grassroots to the international community and vice versa, and should characterize systems needed to give expression to this.
The large number of spaces where these points were raised is a testament to an increasing desire to transform the present functioning of organizations. It is this heightened consciousness that is prompting different actors to question the nature of contemporary institutional relationships and to reconceptualize them to allow for better degrees of consultation at all levels. The implications of such an acknowledgement require that internal operational processes be embedded with the principles of trustworthiness and an alignment of words and deeds recognizing the rights of people, planet, and the common good. Additionally, it calls for more efficient flows of information, across a diverse range of perspectives, that inform decision making, programs, and grassroots action.
Such a systemic change necessitates concerted effort toward trust building, the development of flexible internal mechanisms, and a reconfiguration of communication structures. It also calls for generous sharing of information and readiness to learn and share across borders and boundaries. There has to be an accepted recognition that experienced individuals rooted in particular spaces regardless of their backgrounds have much to contribute. Organizational capacity to synthesize information and to share it dispassionately in a relevant manner will need to increasingly be built in a manner that is infused by an appreciation of humanity’s greater degrees of interconnectedness. The valuable contributions that civil society can bring to such processes will only increase as more organizations are able to do this.
By harmonizing their efforts in a more coordinated movement at the grassroots level, civil society organizations can more meaningfully and effectively bring to the international stage the lived experiences of the individuals they work with. These perspectives will naturally connect decision making spaces to a fuller picture of reality, thereby enhancing the nature and quality of decisions taken. CSOs’ credibility and value will multiply in relation to how accurately and thoughtfully they mirror these impacts in a way that honors the dignity of affected individuals. As this happens, other stakeholders may seek them out more and more for their constructive inputs.