About Sustainability…

Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM)

June 03, 2022 Institute for Global Environmental Strategies Season 1 Episode 6
About Sustainability…
Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM)
Show Notes Transcript

Andre and Erin had a chance to talk to a fascinating person named Wardarina about civic engagement, especially focusing on the Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM). Simon joined the discussion to provide additional insights, as he too has a lot of experience engaging in this space.

Wardarina (or Rina, as she is often known) is currently one of the co-chairs, of the APRCEM. The APRCEM is a self-organised platform to support grassroot and marginalized constituency engagement with Agenda 2030 in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. The platform currently has more than 600 affiliated organisations from across the region. 

Rina shared her views on why stakeholder voices need to be heard in SDG-related processes. She also spoke about how APRCEM and others are working to further strengthen civic engagement and ensure that a broad range of views, knowledge, and experiences are included in Agenda 2030. This is a frank, open discussion that should also be educational to anyone unfamiliar with how major groups and other stakeholders factor into global forums on sustainable development. 

A side note: in shortening this conversation for brevity, we cut out when Rina mentioned that major groups don’t need to wait their turn to speak after governments at certain forums. Andre referred to this toward the end of the episode.

Helpful resources:

About our guest:

Wardarina (“Rina”) is a feminist and activist, originally from Indonesia. She has worked in the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) for 10 years, and now takes the position of Deputy Regional Coordinator. She is currently the women constituency focal point and co-chair of Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM), and also acts as Women Major Group Organising Partner at the global level. 

About this podcast:

"About Sustainability..." is a podcast brought to you by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), an environmental policy think-tank based in Hayama, Japan. IGES experts are concerned with environmental and sustainability challenges including, but not limited to, climate change; biodiversity and ecosystems; sustainable consumption and production; the Sustainable Development Goals; and overarching governance issues. Harnessing this expertise, the podcast serves to discuss and draw attention to contemporary issues and events relevant to sustainability with a frank reflective discussion from both within and beyond the Institute.

Everything shared on the podcast will be off-the-cuff discussion, and any viewpoints expressed are those held by the speaker at the time of recording. They are not necessarily official IGES positions.

André:

Hello, everyone. We're back with another episode of About Sustainability... , the podcast brought to you by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). This is André speaking, and this time, Erin and I had the chance to talk to a fascinating guest about civic engagement, especially focusing on the Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Organization (CSO) Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM). Simon also joined the discussion to provide additional insights as he has a lot of experience in this topic. Wardarina or "Rina" as she's often known, is originally from Indonesia. She's worked with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD) for ten years, most recently as Deputy Regional Coordinator. She also acts as the woman constituency focal point and one of the co-chairs of APRCEM. APRCEM is described as a self-organised platform to support grassroots and marginalised constituency engagement with Agenda 2030 in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. The platform currently has more than 600 affiliated member organisations from across the region. Rina shared her views on why stakeholder voices need to be heard in SDG- related processes. She also spoke about how APRCEM and others are working to further strengthen civic engagement and ensure that a broad range of views, knowledge and experiences are included in Agenda 2030. This is a frank, open discussion that should be informative to anyone who's unfamiliar with how Major Groups and Other Stakeholders (MGoS) factor into global forums on sustainable development. One little note to add here is that when we edited this conversation to make it short enough for the podcast, we cut out a bit where Rina mentions about major groups not having to wait their turn to speak after governments at certain forums. I refer to this in the latter part of the discussion, but it's missing from the earlier part, so that's just to avoid any confusion. With that little disclaimer out of the way, let's hear from Rina. Rina, welcome to the About Sustainability... Podcast. We're going to talk about major groups that take part in environmental negotiations, broadly speaking, and then with a bit of focus on your group, APRCEM (the Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism). And CSO - they're standing for-

Erin:

Civil society, is it?

André:

Civil society organisation.

Erin:

Yeah.

André:

Thanks. But before we do that, I thought it would be good to just kind of define which negotiations we're going to be talking about and what those are. You know, just for the person who is not familiar with this topic at all, could you start there?

Rina:

Sure. When we are talking about the negotiation that APRCEM [is] mostly engaged [in]... Yeah? It's on the negotiation on the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs that [were] adopted in 2015. Right? So we actually engage a lot in the subregional and regional process of the SDGs and also at the global level. And then of course, in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, there are other processes that [are] also linked with [them], right? Including the Financing for Development [Forum].. . And also we we also engaging a lot on the UN Environment processes, including the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). So that is the engagement process that we are going to focus right now. Yeah.

André:

Again, so for the UNEP Environment Assembly, of course, that's a UNEP thing.

Rina:

Yeah.

And the SDGs discussions:

who's the body that oversees that? Who are you talking about there?

Rina:

Yeah, we engage a lot with the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), which is actually the body that really mandates that to monitor the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals in the global level. Right? And then in the regional level, you know, the regional commission of each of the regions is also mandated to have a regional preparatory forum before the actual HLPF or High-Level Political Forum. So there's a lot of engagement that is happening there, just to ensure that we, the civil society and also with the other major group and other stakeholders [are] able to make an intervention or able to influence the discussion on that.

André:

Okay. And that regional forum is APFSD, right? The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.

Rina:

Yes.

André:

Okay. So we did actually cover HLPF and APFSD in a previous podcast, so I just wanted to plug that for a second.

Rina:

Sure.

André:

Okay. And then about the major groups, because that's really what we're going to be focusing on here - is it correct to say that you've got countries ([Member States]) and you've got major groups? Those are basically the two sets of people at the negotiating table.

Rina:

Yes, we have the Member States, of course, that is actually engaging with the High Level Political Forum and also the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders, you know. As you know, that Major Groups and Other Stakeholders is actually established long before us since the Earth Summit in 1992 ([also known as the Rio Summit/Conference]), because- of course - because of the push from the civil society also at that time to ensure the active participation of all sectors of society. One is women and then also children and youth, and indigenous peoples, and NGOs, and then local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technology community, and also farmers. So it's nine Major Groups. But of course, like after the- a lot of conversation that is happening, especially in the Rio+20 Conference and then the document - the outcome document, which is the "Future We Want", is really highlighting the role of the major groups that they can play in pursuing sustainable development. Right? And they also have like several other groups that they felt need to be included in the conversation.

André:

So some of the categories, I would imagine, are far better represented than others, right, like NGOs, for example, and local governments, perhaps? I'm guessing here. But groups like farmers, for example, are they- I mean, are they represented as well or they're just a very meager representation of some of these groups?

Rina:

No, I think that all of the groups that I mentioned is actually equally active. Hmm.

Erin:

Yeah. Just to follow up on that or maybe taking a step back: how were these nine initial groups selected in the first place? Because I understand, like women and then NGOs... Like, there are women in NGOs, and I just wonder, like how these silos were created, I guess.

Simon:

Maybe two points. So... Well, I think Rina mentioned that before: Those nine major groups that we talked about a while ago, they came out of the Rio Earth Summit where civil society pushed for an official and institutionalised recognition so that they could participate and influence and be watchdogs or have all kinds of roles in relation to sustainable development processes. That happened in 1992. And then we got those- those nine constituencies or groups that Rina mentioned before and that worked until around 2012. Then we had the Rio+20 and the key outcome of the Rio+20 in 2012, that was the Future We Want. And in that outcome document, several other constituencies or groups were mentioned and there was also a lot of research that came out around the time that they basically discussed, to what extent do those nine major groups actually adequately capture the groups that have things to say and that have issues that they would like to be heard in the sustainable development processes? And maybe times have changed and it was time to update and perhaps expand those nine major groups. And that's when we are getting into talk more about and learn more about the APRCEM, because that is clearly an expansion with many more constituencies and many more activities, as Rina will tell us about in a little while. And the second point, just really briefly, I wanted to make is, to add to the question that André asked, too, whether they are all equally represented. And, you know, you could say that, yeah, officially, they are all those that are recognised, whether they are nine or 17 groups, they are officially recognised. And maybe then you could say that equally represented. But it's not always the case. Some have better organisation than others, and some have more financial support than others, or are just better to navigate that intergovernmental field due to experience and different forms of capacity. And some need help. And this is also, I think, one very important role - And I think Rina mentioned this - you know, you mentioned this indirectly when you say, "Well, an important mission here is to democratise that space". And I think that's within the answer of democratisation.

André:

I'm just kind of wondering, you know- this it goes back to what Erin said a little bit. NGOs in particular already cover various other groups. Right? So if you are a women's rights organisation, for example, you can presumably decide whether you want to be there as an NGO or if you want to be under the women's grouping. And the same could be said for various others. Right? There's this sort of overlap. And I guess that the groups that were selected were selected because of some political pressure, presumably, and also just a recognition that those were particularly important groups. But I'm just kind of wondering like what's justifies a particular group being identified as as a group by itself rather than clumped under everything else?

Simon:

I mean, I don't know the exact story about what happened. I think we can assume that that there was some kind of pressure and there was some kind of lobbying happening that created the space. But in those nine major groups, you can see that most of them are what we have mentioned a couple of times today - most of them are constituency based. And Rina can tell us more about why that is important. Some of them are not. For example, where we come from - ourselves ([IGES]) - we can be criticised because we are part of the scientific and technology major group. We could also be NGOs, but we are part of the- but it so happens that we are- we fly the flag of the science and technology [group]. And we don't have a constituency as such, like we don't represent a certain group in society. So it's- so it's not 100% streamlined in that sense. It is diverse.

André:

Right. Yeah. It would be unreasonable to expect it to be perfectly streamlined. I understand. Okay. So I did have some other general questions, but I think now is a good time to ask about APRCEM in general. And my main question about APRCEM - I mean, feel free to to tell us a bit about what the organisation is and its history - but what I'm most curious about is how it fits into that structure in the current negotiations. I mean, what is it regarded as by the General Assembly or by UNEP or whoever is administering the session?

Rina:

Maybe better for me to actually just give a little framing first and then how we evolve, because it's also a lot of evolution coming in relation with APRCEM, no? And then how we engage with the processes. So APRCEM, which is the Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism, is a civil society platform that is- really, you know, our objective and our aim, is really to enable stronger cross- constituency coordination, right? And ensuring that the voices of all subregions of Asia and the Pacific are heard in intergovernmental process at the regional and global level. So the APRCEM is actually initiated back on and driven by the civil society in Asia-Pacific itself. And it also seeks to engage with the UN agencies and Member States on the sustainable development process. And then when we first established the APRCEM in 2014, a year before the adoption of the SDGs, we were focusing on engaging with UNESCAP, yeah? Which is the UN Economic and Social Commission of Asia- Pacific that has a mandate to hold and organise regional forums. But we actually- we see it as a very... what do you call it? Strategic entry points, knowing the wide breadth of the SDGs issue. Right? And then the possibility for us to actually mobilise more of the civil society and consequences in the discussion, right? But we are actually keeping our mandate and vision to engage with the broader UN system in the region. So our vision is actually not only engaging with the SDGs, but we want to engage through our different thematic working group to engage with the UN Environment, for instance, or UN women. So up until now, we have been actively facilitating the engagement of the Asia-Pacific CSOs with the 2030 Agenda process, which I already mentioned earlier, the subregional forums, the APFSD itself, the High Level Political Forum, and then we [are] also facilitating the engagement of the grassroots. This is very important for us, the grassroots and civil societies in the other processes like the UN Environment. So how and why [were] we establish[ed]? So the idea is actually coming - just like what I think Simon mentioned earlier - is coming and really derived from the engagement experience in the process leading up to the Rio+20 Conference. Yeah? And then a lot of us, you know, that time that is engaging with sustainable development - civil society, NGOs, trade unions, indigenous peoples - we come together and see what is actually the good and bad experience[s] that we have engaging in these processes. Right? So we found- one thing that we found is that there's a huge gap between the global level process, which is mostly by the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders with the national process. And then how, like how will the grassroots organisation or national organisations engage with [those] global processes? And then so that's why we felt that there's a need for us to actually strengthen the middle- level process, which is the region, actually ensuring that we are also able to strengthen ourselves as civil society, we are able to coordinate ourselves, consolidate our position and then have the understanding- a more coherent understanding also in relation with this UN processes that might be very, very far from the national level organisations' realities, for instance. So we felt that the regional process itself need to be strengthened because we felt the regional process gives proximity. You know, like, people might [find it] hard to engage in New York [where global forums take place], but maybe easier to go to Bangkok [where the Asia-Pacific forums take place], for instance. So it gives proximity and also accessibility and relevance for the national / local groups and also grassroots organisations. And then also, we want to bring more voices [of] the Asia-Pacific CSOs. So we will reflect that. And then looking at - this is actually a relevant global discussion before - the major group system. What is actually... What [are] the weaknesses? What are the strengths? Right? And I mentioned about the strength, about ensuring the representation of constituencies and etc.. . That is good, but also [there are] weaknesses because there is no regional or middle level process. It is very New York-centric. It is quite top-down. So we looked at that time, how the discussion on the global level were found to be very far from the realities of the communities in Asia-Pacific. The lack of- the issue of lack of representation of the Asia-Pacific civil society that engage in the global processes. Right? Not only on the number and the quantity, but also in the level of substance. So whether that our own issues and our own demand and our own key policy recommendation is well-represented in the global process or is that represented by others? This is something that we actually want to change and also we want to strengthen. Right? And then also, there's a need for us to say that, "hey, we need to be more coherent in our work". A lot of time, civil society that work in the regional process has been sporadic, primarily thematic. So those who are engaging with the UN Environment or the environment usually go together with women [working] actually with the UN women, for instance, and CCW. They also work together, but not necessarily come together to talk about the common agenda.

Erin:

Thank you. Quick question. You know, you mentioned that a lot of the... I guess for the major groups, one weakness is that it's very New York-centric and it's more top-down, but I'm just, you know, having trouble understanding what that really means. Like, does it mean that NGOs and so forth in New York or I guess in North America or wherever... "The West" get more representation? And therefore, you know, is this like an Asia-Pacific issue or is it like a regional issue or is it more like the constituencies...?

Rina:

Based on our assessment, right, And then, of course, this is coming not only talking about the Asia-Pacific, but we're also talking about the civil society in Africa and other regions... Latin America... You know, there is a gap in terms of- for instance, that enable them to directly engage.

Erin:

Mm hmm.

André:

And is there has there been any kind of friction with existing organisations and other major group representatives? Because, as far as I understand, you are- APRCEM is open to membership from any existing group. Right? Among the nine groups, as well as the additional eight that you that you mentioned or that you alluded to. But are there groups who would prefer to - I mean, of course, they can still do things by themselves - But are there groups who would prefer to only do things by themselves and not to have a coordinating mechanism ? Has that not come up?

Rina:

Uhm no, I don't think so.

André:

Okay. I think there's really a collective realisation - the need to work together. I think that is... Mostly a common theme from all of our discussion. Right? And then also, yeah, like and... that's true. Like, for instance, APRCEM, I haven't told you about, you know, our structure and etc. , but just to let you know, for instance, that we actually felt that having APRCEM in the MGoS also enables a more coherent linkages between the regional and global processes, right? For instance, in APRCEM, we have 17 constituencies, yeah? We not only have nine major groups. We also have the migrants, people with disabilities, the LGBTIQ, the fisherfolk, people who are being affected by conflicts and disasters, people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Some of these groups are not yet recognised in the NGO system, but some [are] already recognised, right? So for instance, my organisation, APWLD, we are part of APRCEM but also the women major group. Right? And then being with the APRCEM also enables us to strengthen our regional perspective together with the other women's group in the region, to actually feed into the discussion in the women major group in the global level. Right? So we don't see it as a redundancy, you know? We see how it strengthens our coordination and narrative that we built together just to ensure that, you know, like all this region[al] perspective is also included. Right. So that's- that's how it is. Mm hmm. Okay. Okay. Hmm. Well, within any region, there are certain countries where community organisations have less or more say in what the government does, right? And in the countries- the more authoritarian states, there's a lot less representation. So do you make special efforts to reach those people, the ones in countries where they, you know, their relationship with the national government is insignificant. Maybe a grassroots organisation that's trying, but that's struggling to get anything happening within the country where the conditions are just very difficult.

Rina:

We also found, you know, when we are actually doing our selection to APFSD, we have a lot of underrepresented countries, right? Or CSOs coming from those countries. And then also we found difficulties, you know, like, for instance, like how they also want to defend themselves during that meeting. Right? Like, for instance... I'll just give you [an] example. As you may know, there's always a chance for civil society to speak on behalf of civil society and ask questions when the government is doing their Voluntary National Review (VNR), right? [But] then the representative is not comfortable actually to speak directly. They want to actually give their inputs, but they ask the committee, which is APRCEM, [and we] tend to be the one who is asking the questions.

André:

Mm hmmm.

Rina:

So that is the situation, especially now with the situation of the shrinking civil society spaces in our region, you know, like really the attack of democratic rights, you know, a lot of the intense militarisation that is happening, especially to the human rights defenders and environmental defenders. Right? So we we also recognise that issue and that... But what we found is that, you know, so safety and security is really like our core principles. But we also found that there are cases where having a regional and being part of the regional process, a global process, is actually help[ing] them with their work, with the government in the national level. You know, it's very funny, we found this and then it's actually quite the same with the other regions. When we reflect [on] this, [we found that it] is actually the regional process, opening more doors to the grassroot and national level organisations in the national level-

André:

But it gives them some anonymity. Right? Likethey can engage- they can have their say through you, rather than having to stand up and be noticed by- especially by their own governments-

Rina:

If they chose to.

André:

If they choose to, yeah.

Simon:

There's also one- isn't there, Rina- you said about selecting participants for, let's say, the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD). There are different criteria, right? Like some are... Well, a participant, he or she or they need to know about what's being discussed. So do they have substance experience on the SDGs that are being reviewed this year, but it's not only that, it's also representation, I mean, geographical and constituency representation. So maybe that just adds a little bit to to André's question. I think in some cases, APRCEM looks at trying to make the most balanced, say, group of people to be there at any given year.

Rina:

Yes.

Erin:

Several times a year... I learned that APRCEM compiles a statement that represents all of its constituencies. But I also understand that you're representing a lot of different groups here, right? With a lot of different opinions. And I just- I'm curious to know, you know, I have listened in on other negotiations by Member States, like government-level negotiations, and that in itself seems very difficult. And I was just wondering, you know, how you kind of create a coherent statement that everybody agrees with in the end that's also strong and, you know, impactful.

Rina:

Yeah, because I think that, from before 2014, we have like about 75 organisations saying that "we are part of APRCEM" and then now we have more, you know, we have like around 688, that say "we are part of APRCEM". So one thing about how we actually consolidate [our] important position is, it's not an easy task. It's not only for putting the seat on the table like what we said, ensuring that civil society is there, but also what are the things that we want to say, right? Ensuring that we have substance to contribute. We said that it's not possible, that SDGs would not happen if, you know, if we don't tackle the systemic issues. Yeah? And then so that's where it's coming from. So our position, in relation with that, is also coming from all the discussions of the numerous systemic issues that we also identified. You know? Like, so, for instance, during the discussion of the COVID-19 [pandemic], yeah, we're looking at the issue of the debt crisis in the developing countries. So we look into the issue of, you know, how the trips, you know, in relation with patents and then vaccines and how- what is the alternative recommendation that we want for that, right? So we try to give that policy recommendation, that appropriate systemic barriers. So... we have a political unity of development justice. We call it development justice. Right? And then [we engage in] all of that kind of discussion and confirmation, and then also sometimes we also get challenged, right? And then we have another discussion. Sometimes we also change positions in relation with something, you know, that is happening during our conversation and the People's Forum.

André: So APRCEM:

any of the nine existing groups plus the additional ones can be part, right? So... So that includes business and industry and scientific and technological community. And they- and not even just them- but also other groups might have different ideas of what developmental justice is, right? This is not an agreed-upon concept. Like different people have different ideas about what exactly that entails. How do you resolve- do you just not have very many representatives from business and industry in your group so that you don't need to worry about their perspective or how does it work?

Rina:

One of the things when we are, you know, assessing the major group system - there's a lot of papers coming in and reviewing the global major group system at that time, right? And one of the papers is produced by the Global Policy Forum (the GPF), which says that, you know, the major system was providing a structured means to manage diversity, right? It's also been argued that how the major groups engagement mechanism also reduces the scope and role of civil society engagement with the UN system.

André:

Because some of the groups don't really represent civil society, right?

Rina:

Exactly. Exactly right. So we are very clear that what we want to have is a civil society organisation engagement mechanism.

André:

Mm hmm.

Rina:

So the MGoS- so in that paper, it also said placing business and industry and local authorities in an engagement mechanism with civil society can dilute critical messages; [messages] are just going to the lowest common denominator, right And then also the major groups can also serve as a filtering role, right, at that time, which can further limit the voice and participation of the regional representation. So we also see some of the aspects of the regional representation. So for us in APRCEM, we also reflect on very clearly how we want to have civil society organisations, but we have like 17 consequences. So our business and industry- we don't have "business and industry", but we do have "social and community enterprises". Yeah? That is part of it. You know, the enterprises that also have, you know, the... vision, you know, for social justice and etc. . So they are part of APRCEM-

André:

But how do you- how do you decide if someone qualifies for that? Aren't you kind of doing a gatekeeping kind of function by allowing certain groups in and others not? I'm just kind of wondering how you avoid- How you... How you maintain kind of openness if you put rules down like that, you know?

Rina:

Yeah. Okay. So yeah. For the social and community enterprise (SCE) [group], we don't actually filter anyone from the social and community enterprises, right? Because, of course, the SCEs actually have different nature and different visions and missions. So if they say that they are part of the social and community enterprise [group], they immediately go to the APRCEM, right? We, you know, we told [UN]ESCAP, right? Okay. You have the Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism, but it doesn't mean that they cannot - the UNESCAP - cannot engage with the business and industry. They still can, you know?

Simon:

And they still do.

Rina:

They still do! You know?

Simon:

No worries there.

Rina:

Exactly. And then they also have, like, the local authorities - they still do, you know, engag[e] with them. So, for instance, I think for me, it's a very good practice, what [UN]ESCAP is trying to do. So not really pushing and then have everybody in one group, but have the civil society- we just had the Civil Society Forum. [UN]ESCAP and business have the three-day - wasn't it, Simon, I think? - the three-day Asia-Pacific Business Forum before the APFSD to actually have their, you know, position and recommendation. And then also, the local authorities make their own engagement mechanism with UNESCAP. And then I think that it is, for now, like, functioning very well where we meet at the APFSD. And so, we don't want to say that we don't filter the voices, you know, because our voice, from the very beginning, is part of civil society.

Simon:

I guess maybe there is, to an extent- I mean, André, if you want to put her on the spot - it probably is a gatekeeping function just by the nature of how the network or the platform frames its engagement. But then, let's say, business and industry: they wouldn't want to engage. They don't have a problem being heard anyway. So they don't... they don't necessarily need any help to make sure that their messages are heard because they have dedicated forums for them already. For- I mean, when you talked about the Business Forum - the three-day Fusiness forum, yeah? I thought about what UNEP has now. It's called the Science- Policy Business Forum. And you could think about what kind of- what kind of connection science has with business there. So I think this goes both ways, really. Yeah.

Rina:

And just to add on what Simon said. And also the - what do you call it? - the chambers of commerce?

Erin:

Yeah.

Rina:

Chambers of Commerce. They also have [an] observatory role, right, in the UN right now? So. Yeah. Yeah. So aside from their part [in] the major group, they also have actually more [of a] role also in that kind of UN process.

Simon:

So yeah, it's called observatory status.

Rina:

Yeah.

Simon:

It's- you basically have a guaranteed seat at the table.

Rina:

Hmmm.

André:

So kind of something I should have asked of beginning- so I'm not sure how it's going to work really. [laughs] But so let me just ask the question and then going to add a couple of little bits onto it. The main question was, why have major groups? Like what is the- so technically, if governments function properly, you wouldn't need major groups because the governments would represent all of the groups within their countries. And obviously that-

Erin:

Provided that it's a democracy, right?

André:

The point is that there's no country in the world that's democratic enough to represent all its groups. Right? No matter- and we can dream about a society like that, but it's never actually going to happen. So...

Simon:

Never say never, but maybe in the far future. Yeah.

André:

Yeah.. . I think human nature is a bit of a brick wall there. But anyway. But I'm just kind of thinking back to what you said about the HLPF and APFSD. You said that the major groups - I might be getting it slightly wrong - but the major groups have had kind of equal say to the governments, that they didn't have to wait until all the governments that had had spoken. They could speak sort of when it was their turn to speak kind of thing. But I know that at other forums in the UN, maybe more formal forums like the CBD, which is the one I'm most familiar with, and UNFCCC and I guess also UNEA as well, it's still the case that the governments need- the governments have the right to speak first, and if there's time remaining, then the major groups will be allowed to speak. And somehow you guys got past that stumbling block. And I guess partly because HLPF and APFSD are less formal forums. So I'm making an assumption there. But my question really was like, and this a devil's advocate question. These are United Nations forums, right? So they're supposed to be forums of the nations, of the countries. So why should major groups have an equal say in these forums? And that's kind of another way of asking the question, I guess, why many groups exist in the first place. So like I said, that would have been better at the beginning of the discussion, but maybe you can answer it in a sort of a retrospective way.

Rina:

Actually, I never said that, you know, the major group have an equal say, you know.

André:

Not equal, but they have the- kind of- they're able to speak in turn. Right? With the government, which kind of implies some kind of-

Simon:

But it also depends on the chair. If you have a- if you have a chair that's open to civil society, then you will see that that can happen. But if you have one that's not, then it may not at all happen.

Rina:

Yeah, I think that for us in APRCEM, we understand that, the importance of multilateralism and then respecting the multilateral process - we understand that this is a space for, you know, member states to actually be able to discuss and then have an agreement. That is one thing. We do understand that. Right? What we are actually- I think, you know, like for the other processes, like for instance, I myself, [am] also part of the CSW process, for instance. And then there's a - what do you call it? - "rules of procedure", you know, on how you actually [are] able to make an intervention, how much time and then when. And et cetera, et cetera. Then we also fully respect that, you know. For the High Level Political Forum, of course, there are differences because- one is that the multistakeholder approach that it's bringing, right? So I think that that is always what the governments say, "oh, HLPF is different because this is [a] multistakeholder approach. So we are more relaxed on our rules of procedure ," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.. . And then.. . So that's why we are- there's a way for us to actually give more of our inputs, you know, in the middle, not at the end.

André:

Okay.

Rina:

So we do recognise that. I mean, I think that there's a lot of debate about multistakeholder-ism. I think that in some part that what we are trying to do with APRCEM is actually to maximise the opportunity and access that we have in this HLPF and then, in [that] way, we think also... it can sort of, like, influence other processes. Like for instance, we actually use the best practices of the Ministerial Declaration. Yeah? For the HLPF to the CSW process - looking at the outcome document and then also influencing the negotiations under methods of work. And then we also using the HLPF process, especially on the regional role.

André:

Mm Hmm. Yeah. So for instance, for APWLD, because we are engaging with the CSW, we [were] actually also demanding [a] regional forum prior to the CSW in New York in March. So we now have that kind of process, right? And then apparently, you know, also happened in the UN Environment where they already have [a] regional process before, but our work in HLPF is giving more weight to that, you know, to our role in facilitating CSO engagement in the region in terms of the environment issues.

Simon:

So... Rina, so... Okay. So you're saying that the experiences and but also the modalities, I mean, the more open, more relaxed multistakeholder-ism practiced in the HLPF, sort of through your work actually gets translated and can benefit or gets to influence other processes as, as that one under gender equality or women's empowerment. That's what you're saying, right? Okay. And then I mean, and then on André. Yeah. If if the governments were perfectly representing us, then there would be no need for nine or 17 or 25 or 51 groups at all. But I guess the- I guess that's sort of the conundrum about "sustainable" and "development", that it's bound to have some hardcore tensions within it. And when there are these tensions between sustainability and development, then you can't get to represent everybody at the same time. And then you need to have these voices in. That's just my personal opinion. That's necessary salt and pepper.

André:

Yeah, that's a good point. Even if the governments were listening to everyone equally, they wouldn't be giving one opinion, right, because there'd be conflicting opinions to represent. Yeah.

Rina:

There is, you know, like there might be- we should aim for inclusive and democratic multilateralism. You know, it doesn't mean that the past multilateralism is actually only focusing on the Member States, right? But we can actually open it and have a more inclusive way to ensure that these voices on the ground able to get heard in this kind of process, right? So that is- that is actually what I want to say, that, you know, aside from the debate about what is "multistakeholder-ism" or not- multilateralism, but we can, you know, and we should aim for that inclusive and democratic multilateralism in the UN.

André:

And by that you mean multilateralism that includes not just the countries, but the groups as well, right? That's your definition of true multilateralism.

Rina:

Well, inclusive multilateralism that gives space. So maybe not that equal footing, because still, multilateralism between states is important, you know? But it really gives space, you know, for the civil society, for the groups, for the constituency, for the people who are affected the most, you know, from the conversation that have happened. They are there, you know, to actually able to give meaning, to get their inputs [and] contribution, and meaningfully engage.

André:

Mm hmm.

Rina:

Right? And not necessarily just participation, you know, but it means that they can actually give inputs to the documents through the Member States, through the co-facilitators, and they're able to get heard in that kind of space.

Bob:

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