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United Nations Development Programme
Strengthening Civil Society’s Role in Promoting Gender Equality Through the Implementation of the SDGs
Mosharaka - Mosharaka Regional Project
Amman - Jordan
29 - 30 Oct 2018
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Amman - Jordan
The new development agenda provides an opportunity for Arab countries to renew and deepen their commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in partnership with civil society. Structural barriers and persistent social norms continue to hold back women from fulfilling their political, economic, and social potential, and restrict their access to equality and social justice. Aiming to attain the SDGs presents an opportunity to address gender equality issues across the social, economic, political, and environment spheres.  

One of the failures of the Millennium Development Goals was the exclusion of civil society from the planning and formulation of goal-setting processes and development strategies from the beginning.  As agents of accountability, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should participate in development and planning processes at national and local levels. As gender equality cuts across the 17 SDGs, it is also important to engage women’s organizations. 

CSOs can play a key role in reporting and promoting the implementation of the SDGs and related gender equality initiatives, and more can be done to foster connections between CSOs at national and regional levels, as not all Arab countries have strong civil society networks. 

In 2015, UNDP Regional Bureau of Arab States (RBAS) in partnership with the Arab Women Organization (AWO), UN Women and the League of Arab States (LAS) organized a conference which focused on the implementation of the post 2015 SDGs with respect to issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  SDGs were examined from a gendered perspective in order to foster accountability and commitment at senior levels .  The event resulted in a series of recommendations, including the need to support, civil society partners to play an active role in the implementation of the 2030 agenda while mainstreaming gender throughout the 17 goals, and the importance of strengthening coordinating and networking mechanisms.

During the 2017 High Level Political Forum, Civil Society Organizations produced a joint statement that appeals for improved ways to guarantee their engagement into representation mechanisms and accountability processes on the implementation of the Agenda 2030 . During the same occasion, many countries also submitted “Individual Civil Society Reports and Reflections”  stressing the importance of investing in the capacity development of CSOs in order to facilitate their active role . No Arab country engaged in producing these reports. 

In 2018, in the run up to the yearly Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, a pre-meeting with CSOs was organized by ANND and ESCWA, which aimed to review the efforts of CSOs to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab region, to enhance exchange among organizations, and to make joint recommendations to the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development. 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages member states to submit Voluntary National Review that can serve as a basis for following up with individual countries’progress, while also being a channel for sharing challenges and exchanging best practice. Guidance for the VNRs encourages the holding of, and reporting on, consultation processes with civil society actors.  In the Arab states region, 12 countries have submited  VNRs: Egypt and Morocco in 2016; Jordan and Qatar in 2017; and Bahrain, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates in 2018. A review of these submited Voluntary National Reports shows limited acknowledgement of effective consultation with CSOs, especially those actively engaged in achieving Goal number 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls . 

This Concept Note proposes an initiative to encourage the engagement of civil society organisations on gender equality, building on the 2015 conference on “Arab Women in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” and the 2018 ‘Arab Forum for Sustainable Development’. Our aim is to support civil society organizations across the region through regional and national platforms to encourage CSO engagement in delivering the gender equality agenda across all SDGs and to support coordinating and networking mechanisms. 

The present initiative is part of the regional project “Mosharaka” which fosters women’s inclusive and effective participation in the public sphere focusing on enhancing opportunities for effective participation and meaningful contribution and leadership. 
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Kawtar Zerouali
Manager, Mosharka Project
United Nations Development Programme
Regional Hub in Amman
11 Abu Baker Seraj Eddin, North Abdoun
Po Box 852303, Amman 11185, Jordan
Tel: +962 6 200 3178

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