Seventy-five (75) representatives of civil society organizations in the Asia Pacific region gathered on 15-17 May in Bangkok, Thailand for the Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum on Sustainable Development. The meeting preceded the UNESCAP intergovernmental Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD) and focused on consolidating and expanding the collective civil society call for Development Justice as central part of the post-2015 development agenda.
A major milestone of the CSO forum was the creation of a transition mechanism for a new Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (RCEM). The momentum to create such a mechanism derives from a series of discussions and meetings held throughout 2013 and 2014 in the region. These meetings have focused on the creation of a comprehensive and structured process to facilitate and coordinate Asia-Pacific CSO engagement on sustainable development with the entire United Nations system. This is a result of the Rio+20 outcomes, which has articulated the importance of multi-stakeholder participation for sustainable development.
During the CSO forum on May 15-17, representatives of the Transition Committee have been appointed based on constituency and sub-regional representation. During a one-year period (2014-2015) they will collate input from civil society on the optimal structure and functions of the RCEM. They will also facilitate outreach and capacity-building as well as consolidation and articulation of common positions of CSOs in the Asia-Pacific region in regional and global discussions on sustainable development. The Transition Committee is complemented by an Advisory Group consisting of individuals that have extensive knowledge on sustainable development and civil society engagement. This structure is expected to further evolve based on lessons learned and collective experience during this transition period and culminate in the formation of the full RCEM.
The aim of the RCEM is to enable stronger cross constituency coordination and ensure that voices of all sub-regions of Asia Pacific are heard in intergovernmental processes. Thus, the RCEM will ensure that the 60% of the world’s people living in the Asia Pacific region are better represented by civil society and social movements in global negotiations and have a stronger, coordinated, and more effective voice in regional processes.
As result of a bottom-up and inclusive process, the creation of the RCEM has been initiated, designed and will therefore be owned by CSOs in Asia and Pacific. It will be an open, inclusive and flexible mechanism designed to reach the broadest number of CSOs, harness the voice of grassroots and peoples’ movements to advance a more just, equitable and sustainable model of development. Moreover, it will be a platform to share information and best practices and build capacities of CSOs for better and more effective engagement in the future.
Taking into account diversity of the Asia Pacific region and the limitations of existing institutional structures for civil society engagement, the CSO Forum in Bangkok defined 8 additional constituencies, which are currently not included in the existing Major Group structure, as well as 5 (five) sub-regional groupings.
At the UNESCAP APFSD, the RCEM served to coordinate the interventions and engagement of CSOs in the various plenary and roundtable sessions as well as for side events and informal dialogues. This generated positive feedback from many UN bodies and member states who are recognizing the substantive contributions made by civil society at the APFSD. This was a very encouraging preview of the RCEM’s role and contribution to the sustainable development agenda for the region and beyond.
With the RCEM civil society can better advance their collective call for development justice – an agenda that calls for five transformative shifts of redistributive justice, economic justice, social and gender justice, environmental justice and accountability to peoples.
For further information:
Wardarina – Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
Chair of Transition Committee of RCEM.
 (1) Women, (2) farmers, (3) fisherfolk, (4) youth, children and adolescents (5) migrants, (6) trade union/workers, (7) people living with HIV, (8) LGBTIQ, (9) urban poor, (10) people displaced by disasters and conflict, (11) small and medium enterprises, (12) science and technology, (13)persons with disability, (14) Indigenous peoples, (15) elderly, (16) Local Authorities
South East Asia, South Asia, North East Asia, Central Asia, Pacific
 Fisherfolk; migrants; people living with HIV; LGBTIQ; people displaced by disasters and conflict; SMEs; persons with disability; elderly