People-Centred Development – Reflections on the IPA mission at the UN
Australian Youth Volunteer, Joe Morrow, is currently working with Sr Elsa, our IPA NGO United Nations representative in New York. Joe has written this reflection of his experiences.
I am now approaching 2 months working with the International Presentation Association NGO permanent representative at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. During this time, I have been exposed to and assisted with the wonderful advocacy work that the IPA does under the guidance of Sr Elsa Mattathu. The UN system is extremely complex, and much of my time here so far has been trying to get my head around how these systems work and how best to focus our advocacy efforts.
This year is a momentous one for the United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire this year and a new set of goals have been proposed, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals, in contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, aim to proscribe a universal agenda for development instead of goals directed only towards developing countries. It presents an opportunity for significant commitments from all nations to effect truly transformative change in both economic and social spheres. Like everything at the UN, however, competing interests and priorities between member nations and other stakeholders can result in a weak outcome.
Our priority is to endeavour to ensure that these goals are rooted firmly in Human Rights, particularly for vulnerable populations such as women and girls, migrants and indigenous people. Where possible, we are lobbying delegates to include strong human rights language in the SDG declaration; for example, through collaboration with other like-minded NGOs, we have used the inter-governmental negotiations on SDGs to meet with delegations and asked them to explicitly name the human right to water and sanitation in the political declaration. By explicitly naming this right, member states are recognising the importance of water and sanitation and allows for specific follow up and review of this commitment. The issue of access to water and sanitation is a cross cutting one, which must be secured in order for other rights to be delivered; without water people are not given the opportunity to direct their own development.
What we strive to bring to the United Nations is the voice of those in the grassroots communities that can so often be forgotten in these high level debates. We try and remind delegations that there are people behind the numbers and statistics, people whose experiences are more important to the debate than political posturing or argument. Centring the focus on people as partners and, most importantly, engines of development we believe is the only way to ensure that the change we hope that the SDGs bring is achieved.
Looking forward, I still have 3 months ahead of me in which to contribute to the IPA mission. In that time, there will be 3 further negotiations on the SDGs as well as how they will be financed. We will continue our work to bring Nano Nagle’s light of hope and compassion for the poor to the international stage.