Some Civil Society views on accountability

By Marina Ponti, Social Watch

Versión en español

As UN negotiations on the post 2015 framework begin to tackle the complex issues of accountability, review and follow up, the diversity of views, perspectives and the lack of concrete proposals make the likelihood of finding an agreement remote indeed.

To “break the ice” on the issue, let’s use Stefano Prato’s[1] categorization of review, accountability and follow up, which is particularly helpful.

Review means tracking progress towards agreed goals, not only through data collection but also through participatory bottom up processes that involve local communities and vulnerable groups.

Accountability means tracking political commitments, which requires a dedicated high-level political forum.

Follow up neither involves tracking progress, nor commitments, but looks at ways to push the envelope further, looking at the future and increasing ambitions as one progresses.

Prato also emphasizes the importance of keeping review, accountability and follow-up processes separate to enable them to achieve their specific objectives

He makes an explicit reference to the Financing for Development process and reiterates the value of maintaining an independent follow-up process to ensure that the ambitious “systemic agenda” of FFD stays alive, in addition to the elements of the Conference that will be merged to the Means of Implementations (MOIs) of the SDGs.

Another interesting point of view comes from Marianne Beisheim[2], who underlines the risk (now almost a reality) that the “A” word (accountability) could be left out from the final post 2015 review document, which would drastically weaken any accountability mechanism.

In her view, accountability is of paramount importance for the post 2015 agenda, though, such accountability should start with citizens’ and civil society organizations’ involvement in the drafting of how national governments translate global goals and targets into national and local ones. Moreover, citizens and civil society organizations should also be involved in the monitoring process and in the formulation of the policy recommendations to address identified gaps and challenges. Civil society’s participation requires access to data and national plans, and meaningful participation should be ongoing, not limited to one day events.

Even though the discussion is its early stages, some useful principles, criteria and recommendations are emerging:

  • Importance of inclusive and participatory processes: despite the rhetoric on data revolution, it is important to ensure a mechanism that is able to reach “beyond” big data, allowing for disaggregation and for participatory and inclusive processes with local and national stakeholders. Participation is key to improve the quality of data and the inter-linkages between the goals and the three pillars of sustainable development;
  • Importance of building on existing mechanisms: on one side there is a consensus on the leading role that the High Level Political Forum will play in the review and accountability of the post 2015 agenda, however, as there is no proposal yet on how the HLPF will perform its review and follow-up duties within a reformed ECOSOC, it becomes very important to assess existing best practices from other peer review mechanisms such as those of the OECD/DAC, the African Union in the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council to name a few.
  • Combining universality with differentiation: one the greatest challenges of the review and accountability mechanisms is how to safe guard the universality of the agenda while balancing the need for member states to define and work towards achieving nationally relevant, ambitious but realistic, sustainable goals.
  • Adequately counterbalancing the voluntary and state-led nature of the process. As the only consensual view expressed by Governments is on the voluntary and state-led nature of the review and accountability mechanisms, it becomes evident that their future credibility and effectiveness will depend of the degree of inclusiveness, transparency and participation that will be allowed.

Member States have a few months to find common ground on the issue of review, follow up and accountability more broadly. This needs to happen before the Head of States meet in September for the SDG’s/post 2015 Summit.

When negotiating current and future proposals, I urge them to remember what Luisa Emilia Reyes Zuniga[3] stated very eloquently during a panel presentation[4]: accountability is a mean and end in itself.

By Marina Ponti, Social Watch


[1] Managing Director, SID (Society for International Development)
[2] Senior Associate SWP’s (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)
[3] Coordinator, Area of Gender Policies and Budgets, Equidad de Género, Mexico
[4]   Accountability for the post 2015 and Financing for Development Agendas, panel discussion organized by UN-NGLS, SID, Women’s Major Group and CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness

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