GEN spent the last two weeks in New York at the UN’s annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, held under the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.” It focused on reviewing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on water (Goal 6), energy (Goal 7), cities (Goal 11), consumption (Goal 12), forests (Goal 15), and partnerships/means of implementation (Goal 17).
GEN’s Delegation joined the Forum to share the ways in which ecovillages and community-led action can support and strengthen ongoing efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We worked to demonstrate that community-led action and community empowerment are cross-cutting to all of the SDGs and are essential for integrating not only the four dimensions of sustainability but also each of the individual Goals.
Our delegation was represented by Rob Wheeler (Main Representative to the UN), Yvette Dzakpasu (Advocacy Director), Cynthia Tina (GEN Board Member and GENNA International Coordinator) and Mohammed Ba-Aoum (GEN Youth Delegate).
Together, we did a lot!
The delegation spoke with a number of government representatives and raised awareness about ecovillages and the ways in which GEN can support ecovillage development programs on the local level. To engage with the public, GEN held an interactive exhibit, creating a space where conference participants could ask questions and collect information about ecovillages. Alongside this official process, GEN shared on social media highlights of what communities within the network are doing to meet the SDGs. Rob Wheeler also spoke at an event illustrating how ecovillage communities naturally protect and restore natural and cultural heritage.
Ecovillage communities have thousands of stories about how a transformation of societies is possible!
For example, SEKEM in Egypt is a great example of people working together to establish biodynamic infrastructure, holistic education and ecological business models for sustainable development. Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage, in northwest Cameroon, has created ecological buildings, the beginnings of a food forest among a terraced landscape, and water and solar energy systems.
GEN is pleased to have had the opportunity to voice the importance of community-led action.
HLPF was filled with voices of government, business and academia. But the voice of community was surprisingly quiet in many discussions. For GEN this was particularly notable because, as illustrated above, many communities within the ecovillage network are offering solutions to meet the SDGs already.
The value of the knowledge and expertise rooted in ecovillages can be realised through better linking communities with their local and national governments so that effective grassroots solutions can be scaled up across countries. This is what GEN aims to do with the Ecovillage Development Programme (EDP).
The EDP is designed to radically reform current development practices, putting communities, sustainability, and wealth creation at the heart of the development process. Recent studies show that financial support for community-led development is more efficient than conventional, top-down interventions.
The full and inclusive participation of communities on the ground in the conception and implementation of activities, together with the sharing and transferring of expertise and grounded experience is fundamental to GEN’s work.
During the VNR Labs, Member States could speak up in a small circle of trust about the problems and hardships they face in connection with the 2030 Agenda as well as highlight success stories. These Labs were convened under the Chatham House Rule so there is no sharing who said what but it was helpful to see governments, both from the Global South and Global North, engaging in free and frank discussion about where they are and what the challenges are. There is the lack of data to achieve the goals.
This discussion has opened a very new role that ecovillages can play. The role of communities in data gathering is of extreme importance. While engaging with local communities, Member States are more likely to gather accurate data to reflect their progress. GEN encourages governments to work with communities for a consultative process in gathering data and thus preparing for their VNR.
In conclusion, what is resoundingly clear is that on so many levels community-led action is more important than ever at all levels and the time is now for the creation of a concrete mechanism for funding community engagement.
We encourage the international community to call on the UN to establish an International Day to Celebrate Sustainable Communities in furtherance of these aims.