Towards Coherent Policies for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Philippines

The upcoming 2019 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July in New York with the theme, “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality,” spurred Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and other organizations like the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), Save the Children, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA), Plan International, Philippine Social Enterprise Network (PhilSen), Tebtebba, Voice of the Free, and Fair Trade Alliance among others, to organize a broader CSO consultation workshop to catalyze a process for civil society organizations (CSO) from different sectors towards engaging the Philippine government on the Voluntary National Review (VNR). With the support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Save the Children Philippines and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), a consultation workshop Towards Coherent Policies for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Philippines: Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Inputs to the Voluntary National Review (VNR) was held on February 7 to 8, 2019 in Quezon City, Philippines participated by around 70 representatives of different civil society organizations.

Download the Report Towards Coherent Policies for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Philippines: Consultation Proceedings of the Civil Society for the 2019 Voluntary National Review

The ultimate objective of the CSO Consultation Workshop was to provide a participatory and inclusive process in crafting a parallel report that will spotlight the issues and themes important to civil society, and provide an alternative lens to the official reading of the status of SDGs in the Philippines. Specifically, the workshop aimed to gather the rich and diverse perspectives of the CSOs on the current status of SDGs in the country with particular focus on the key themes of the 2019 HLPF.

The workshop provided an opportunity for the organizations to discuss the key trends and challenges on the intersecting SDGs 3, 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17, and served as a venue for strengthening CSO unity around a common policy agenda on the SDGs. The participants brought into focus the trends and status analysis on the SDGs, identified the key challenges that have the greatest impact on the poor and socially excluded groups, and proposed solutions and policy recommendations. Discussions were framed by presentations by the panelists, additional inputs from reactors, followed by an open forum in which participants were invited to ask questions and share their insights.

At the same time, the consultation echoed the message of Mr. Isagani Serrano, President of Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and Convenor of Social Watch Philippines who explained in his Opening Remarks, that while many good things are happening within society as a whole, it is imperative to engage with the government, not only by taking a “whole of government approach,” but also a “whole of society approach” to work towards turning “the dream of fairness in a fragile world” into reality (See Appendix II).

During the first day, discussions revolved around “Increasing Concentration of Wealth and Economic Power as Obstacles to Sustainable Development and What to Do about it? (SDG 8, SDG 10).” In the afternoon of the first day, participants were divided into three groups for the parallel sessions on “Are Climate Justice Battles Being Fought and Won? Keeping Score (SDG 13),” “Debt, Trade, Aid, Foreign Investment (SDG 17),” and “Social Policies: Education, Health, and Social Protection.” On the second day, the focus was on “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16),” followed by an open forum and the summary of the parallel sessions.

The workshop brought about what has been dubbed the ‘People’s National Voluntary Review’ that takes into account and highlights the perspectives of the indigenous peoples, Moro people, persons with disabilities, children, women, and other socially excluded and marginalized groups. Participants were encouraged to rethink existing time scale maps and consider centennial planning and re-mapping of our territories with future generations in mind, whilst thinking of ways to destroy age-old, recurring problems in order to build, recreate, and reimagine a better world for all.

Some Key Recommendations:

  • Improve the collection and analysis of quality, reliable data disaggregated by age, gender, location, race, ethnicity, income, education, disabilities, migratory status, and other factors by investing in civil society, community, and national statistical capacities;
  • Promote green agro-industrialization development paradigm and sustainable, climate- resilient agricultural practices, and put in place industrial policies with low or reduced carbon footprint. This includes putting greater focus on MSMEs and sustainable enterprises;
  • Strengthen universal and transformative social policies by addressing backlogs and issues of quality, affordability, and access to education, health, social protection;
  • Substantially increase public investments for education and health, and ensure that these finances go to projects that benefit the poor and socially excluded groups;
  • Mobilize resources to finance the country’s development and coordinate policies on debt financing, relief, and restructuring to ensure that the debt is long-term and sustainable;
  • Integrate the teaching of the SDGs into the curriculum of public administration schools with the aim of changing mindsets, attitudes, and values for the better;
  • Redistribute resources and access to decision-making;
  • Strengthen government capacity to regulate the private sector, and strictly enforce rules, laws, and regulations, as well as fairer wages through supporting labor and pushing for redistribution;
  • Support civil society organizations through public financing, consultation, collaboration, and the creation of broader spaces to amplify their voices and express their advocacies without threat of cooptation;
  • Create enabling environments for strengthening the agency, participation, and leadership of indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and other marginalized groups; and
  • Establish direct partnerships and networks and promote coordination among social movements, local communities with LGUs, and the civil society.