The Fiji Council of Social Services has urged the United Nations to consider the inclusion of discussions on non-state actors’ reviews of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in future High-Level Political Forums (HLPF).

Speaking at the United Nations Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Lessons Learnt from the first cycle of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development at the UN headquarters in New York, FCOSS executive director, Vani Catanasiga said joint reviews on national and regional progress on the achievement of the SDGs by non-governmental organisations, academia, businesses and communities must be included in official HLPF discussions.

“Without the involvement of these actors we will never really be able to correctly gauge our progress as a country and a region because they also contribute substantially to the SDGs,” Catanasiga told UN, member state officials and representatives from global civil society at the meeting.

Earlier, Catanasiga shared that a Fiji Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Voluntary National Review (VNR) Taskforce made up of non-governmental organisations, local businesses and trade union representatives has begun collating data and information for a review report on how CSOs have progressed the achievements of the SDGs in the country.

“These include the Fiji Women’s Right Movement, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, Rainbow Pride Foundation, Citizen’s Constitutional Forum, Save the Children Fiji, Haus of Khameleon, Adventist Development Relief Agency Fiji, Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding, Pacific Islands Association of NGOs, Habitat for Humanity Fiji, Fiji Commerce &Employers Federation and representatives from the trade union,” she said.

“The Fijian government has volunteered to present the Fiji VNR report this year at the HLPF so we are working to also gauge how our own activities have helped to advance the SDGs here in Fiji. It’s an opportunity for us as a sector to take stock of how are helping to deliver to the Fijian public the transformative agenda of the SDGs.”

She said the integrated and indivisible nature of the SDGs covering the three dimensions of sustainable development; the economic, social and environmental components require a multi stakeholder approach

“A whole of society approach is required if Fiji is going to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs so we are hopeful that both the government and the UN systems will create pathways for the participation of all stakeholders in this effort,” she said.

Catanasiga said working together as a taskforce since November 2018 has been challenging without dedicated resources but it has begun to improve their coordination on policy issues.

“So even before the finalisation of our report, we are seeing better relations and collaborations within our membership and we hope to build on this for a stronger voice in influencing people-centred development from here onwards,” Catanasiga said.

Fiji is expected to present its VNR report alongside Vanuatu, Palau and Tonga at the HLPF in July 2019 in New York, USA.