A workshop was organised in Thimphu Monday to strengthen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocacy capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) at national and sub-national level.

Participants learnt how to implement the SDGs, including effective engagement with the government and promotion of multi-stakeholder partnership. The participants were familiarised with SDGs’ 169 targets and the symbols associated with each SDGs.

The workshop helped CSOs identify the SDGs that they are engaged in furthering and promote networking and partnership among themselves.

Director of  programmes with Tarayana Foundation, Sonam Pem, said the workshop would help create awareness among the CSOs about SDGs and how to contribute towards fulfilling them.

Asia Development Alliance’s co-convener (ADA) Seonghoon Lee (Anselmo) said that implementing SDGs require partnership and that CSOs have a double role to play when it comes to working towards achieving the goals. “One is direct implementation and advocacy of SDGs. At the same time, CSOs need to monitor whether the governments are carrying out implementation properly.”

He said that governments are fragmented with different ministries focusing on different priorities. The CSOs should, therefore, help the government make a coherent understanding of the nature, characteristics and complexity of SDGs, he said. “Many governments are technical, they do not look at the background, and they pick a goal and a target without understanding and knowing how the goals are interconnected.”

He said that CSOs being part of the process are free to interpret SDGs whereas most governments engage in only what they know. “Second is the need to demand consultations based on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If asked consultation or representation is sought, CSOs should give their opinion even if the governments do not implement it.”

Sonam Pem said that the workshop will help CSOs identify the goals they are working with enabling them to have constructive engagement with the government. “When the government conducts consultation meetings to compile their Voluntary National Reviews on the progress of SDGs in 2018, the CSOs will be in a better position to have constructive dialogue on the contribution made by us.  Our contributions can complement and supplement on what the government is doing so that the government can present a holistic report to the United Nations.”

She said that the CSOs contribute to achieving almost all the SDGs except for the life below water goal.  “CSO as a sector is contributing in areas such as poverty reduction, youth issues, women issues, HIV health issues, preserving our tradition and culture.”

An official from Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) shared the government’s plans to achieve SDGs.

Chief planning officer with GNHC, Lhaba Tshering, said that SDGs are incorporated in the GHN policies as the base for Bhutan’s plans and policies. “In the current Plan, there are many CSOs collaborating with the government such as Tarayana, RENEW and Loden Foundation.”

Lhaba Tshering said that CSOs have important role to play, which is why CSOs were involved right from the initial conception to the formulation of the 12th Plan guidelines. “Whenever we have policy formulation and discussion, we invite representatives from CSOs. Turn out has been good.”

About 32 participants from 20 CSOs attended the workshop.

The workshop was organised by the Tarayana Foundation in collaboration with ADA with financial support from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Karma Cheki