Letter to UNECE, Member States and UN agencies on UNECE RFSD 2020-endorsed by IAW

Leaving no one behind is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. However, by scaling down the RFSD as it is now proposed, UNECE is consciously choosing to leave the essential participation of civil society behind. 

Therefore, civil society organisations are urging the rescheduling of the UNECE RFSD 2020 to guarantee full and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, as well as meeting the aims and objectives of the Forum.

Following the decision in United Nations Headquarters regarding the postponing of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Asia-Pacific RFSD, we ask that the regional forum be not held in a sized down version with only Geneva-based participants, but that a full meeting is held later in the year.

In the light of the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus, we, civil society organisations in the UNECE region, sincerely welcome and appreciate the serious reaction to protect the health and well-being of people in our region.

We share UNECE’s significant health and well-being concerns, but we are concerned with the way it was addressed through scaling down the RFSD process as it has serious potential to disrupt the participatory process of the implementation of the SDGs in the region. Moreover, this change would directly undermine the legitimacy of the review process through the introduction of a participation bias and raising structural barriers to non-Geneva based CSOs. This would not be fully aligned with the purpose and functions of the RFSD.

However, we need to emphasise that the UNECE RFSD is the most critical annual process to review regional progress and challenges towards achieving SDGs. The process is robust in many other ways as it brings closer together governments, UN agencies and the beautiful diversity of civil society to discuss, debate and collaborate on ways to accelerate progress, solve common problems, and commit to actions that will achieve these joint goals. We believe that the purpose of RFSD is not only to feed into the HLPF process, but also is essential for creating and consolidating the space for engagement between civil society and member states.

Therefore, we urge governments to:

  • Postpone the UNECE RFSD, to later in 2020, to ensure adequate accountability on the process of implementation on the SDGs in the region with full participation of civil society and other stakeholders, as it was done for CSW and Asia-Pacific RFSD.
  • Ensure an interactive space and processes for Governments and civil society to adequately discuss VNRs, challenges, best practices and the sharing of insights from different sectors.
  • Establish different modes of multi-stakeholder engagement leading up to the rescheduled dates of UNECE RFSD. Continue and build on the existing structure for online multi-language engagement. Including online sessions, webinars, written submission channels for civil society to share their insights and expertise, as well as to inform/influence the RFSD session and shape its outcomes, particularly in consideration of the fact that rescheduling of RFSD itself will undoubtedly affect the level of participation of diverse civil society organisations, and thus contribute to the more successful RFSD.

The civil society in the UNECE region is recalling the commitment to institutionalise civil society engagement and to leave no one behind.

Yours sincerely,

The Governing body of the UNECE Regional Civil society Engagement Mechanism.

The letter has been endorsed by a large number of civil society organisations in the region.



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