The shaping of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the illegal trade in wildlife, and sustainable consumption and production (SCP), were among the major topics discussed during the 15th Global Major Groups and Stakeholder Forum (GMGSF), which took place on the eve of the inaugural session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA).
A series of regional meetings were held by major groups and stakeholders around the world in the months leading up to UNEA. In all, 273 participants, representing indigenous peoples, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), science and technology, business and industry, farmers, women, children and youth, workers and trade unions, and local authorities – participated in six regional consultations to prepare key messages and recommendations to feed into UNEA proceedings and outcomes.
A highlight of the event was an interactive discussion with UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) . In his welcome remarks, Mr. Steiner said that despite some setbacks, notably in the climate change negotiations, there is broad consensus today that environmental protection requires addressing the relationship between humanity and nature. In this regard, he welcomed the return of the principle of universality in the SDGs process, but noted that the greatest challenge facing environmental governance today is helping societies to make informed decisions that do not dichotomize people and nature, or the North and South.
Another feature of the forum was a series of civil society presentations on a range of environmental themes, including the critical role of civil society in the shaping of the SDGs. “Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were formulated with less input from civil society; the SDGs and UNEA processes are encouraging the participation of a diverse civil society stakeholder base, to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups’ are taken into account, and that there is broad support for the implementation of the SDGs,” said Sascha Gabizon, Director of Women International for a Common Future.
The forum’s nine thematic clusters covered most UNEA themes, and provided stakeholders with a critical opportunity to influence the upcoming Ministerial discussions on SDGs and the post – 2015 Agenda.