By Devon O’Reilly, July 26, 2017 — 
Every July since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), government representatives, U.N. permanent mission representatives, civil society organizations (large organizations to small grassroots groups), and individuals travel to New York City to convene at the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. During HLPF all of these groups, well most of these groups, come together to discuss, exchange ideas, and make decisions about the SDGs. 

How are we sure? And why does this matter?

Over these last two weeks at HLPF the Women Thrive team was focused on one mission: spread awareness about the fact that grassroots women’s rights organizations are not, for the most part, #InTheRoom during SDG decision-making.

The data shared in our National SDG Scorecard Global Report reveals that almost three-quarters of reporting grassroots women’s rights and gender equality groups are being excluded from SDG decision-making. 

The fact that grassroots groups are not being involved in the implementation of the SDGs undermines the core tenant of the goals, to ‘leave no one behind.’ Without input and leadership from those most impacted by decisions about funding, policies, and programs related to the SDGs (marginalized groups like grassroots women and girls), we simply won’t reach these goals. In order to achieve the SDGs, grassroots women’s rights advocates need to be #InTheRoom.

At HLPF we sat in the room with grassroots groups, international NGOs, and others to discuss this issue. We heard from other grassroots groups the same situation that Alliance members have told us – they know about the SDGs, want to participate, but aren’t being included. It was important that grassroots groups were at the HLPF and able to share their perspective, but unfortunately, these rooms are not the rooms where high-level decisions about SDG implementation are made. Grassroots groups around the world are still left out of these spaces. If this doesn’t change, successful SDG implementation is in jeopardy.

We’re working to make high-level decision-makers aware of this issue so they can include grassroots groups in decision-making. We met with the U.N. permanent missions of Afghanistan, India, and Kenya to share data about the exclusion of grassroots women’s rights group from national level SDG-related decisions and Alliance members’ recommendations for inclusion, accountability, and sustainable progress.

Next, our workshop in coordination with NGO/CSW/NY looked at why grassroots groups haven’t been fully integrated into SDG decision-making and how these groups’ participation can be boosted. Participants highlighted the need to shift power to marginalized groups, increase access to knowledge and skills, and build solidarity through networks and movements.

At our roundtable, co-hosted with the Women’s Major Group and Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, we dove more deeply into the systemic and structural barriers for grassroots gender equality groups and advocates to engage and participate in SDG processes.

Last, but not least, it was during HLPF that the #InTheRoom campaign was officially launched. Whether in the hallways of the U.N. or across social media, the reason behind #InTheRoom garnered great attention, reaching close to six million unique users.

Today, and going forward, our aim is to continue to advocate for grassroots groups that are largely left out of decision-making spaces. Stay tuned for the next steps and the calls to action that you can take to make sure grassroots advocates are #InTheRoom.