Partnership among women groups will be key to SDG implementation

Perspective from the CSW 61 in icy New York by Emilia Sáiz

As I write, the UCLG Women delegation to the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York has been frozen to an uncharacteristic halt, thanks to the descent of Storm Stella on the city.

A great opportunity to stop and reflect with the UCLG team on the sessions UCLG Women organized yesterday; a rare opportunity believe me!

New York is sadder place with a closed UN, without the dozens of languages spoken there and the ideas in debate. The world would also be a sadder place without a strong multilateral system, which mobilizes not only the member-states, but also civil society and all other partners.The UN at the time of the Commission on the Status of Women is really a sight to be seen! 

Today, however, the UCLG team is watching Mayor Bill De Blasio relay information on the blizzard to citizens on the local TV news. We were struck by his emphasis on collaboration and solidarity as the means for the city to deal with the state of emergency. Yes, the city’s sanitation department would work to clear the roads, but citizens should also play their part by avoiding driving and by checking in on their vulnerable neighbors, he said. He also made his declarations in Spanish, making sure that this important part of the New York population would get the news first hand.

It is this kind of embrace of diversity and collaboration between local government and civil society, at both local and global level, that will be essential to the achievement of the global agendas that we have developed together as humanity. This was a message that came through loud and clear at both events organized by UCLG on the first day of the CSW yesterday. It was also clear that women have a key role to play in the pursuit of sustainable development, and that we must take into account their needs at all stages of life. For this reason, it was particularly gratifying to see a large delegation of young people at our side-event on women for sustainable development in Africa, and to be accompanied by Katherine Klein, representing the older persons constituent group, throughout the day.

Of course, the partnership between local government and civil society organizations is nothing new. At the special event on the role of locally elected women in the achievement of the SDGs, President of the General Assembly of Partners (GAP), Eugenie Birch and I both highlighted the role of our joint advocacy work in getting key concepts such as the ‘Right to the City’ included in the New Urban Agenda. At global level, the goals of civil society and local and regional governments - democracy, participation, increased local financing, the protection of human rights - are often closely aligned. Making sure the partnership carries on as legacy of Habitat III is something that is worth ensuring and working for in the coming period.

Now the 2030 Agenda is in force, it is vital that local governments and civil society build on our longstanding partnerships to support the achievement of the SDGs. We are convinced that a prerequisite for the achievement of the SDGs is putting in place the framework provided by the Habitat III outcome document. Ana Moreno from the Habitat III Secretariat was right in saying you achieve the SDGs but you implement the NUA.

Our world organization is currently redefining its priorities to become fit for purpose to deliver on the objectives that we have defended during the international negotiations, the strength and involvement of women in this endeavor will be key.

We need to make women in our communities both subject of our work and the ambassadors for what we stand for. The political leaders of UCLG’s Standing Committee on Gender Equality, UCLG WOMEN, are our continued inspiration and driving force.

We need to get our priorities right. The SDGs are to women’s empowerment what women are to the sustainability of the planet.

Global networks of local government and civil society both do essential work in raising awareness about the SDGs on the ground, in showing the connections between those global objectives and the day to day reality at local level, as Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Communication and Public Information, Cristina Gallach, encouraged us to continue to do yesterday.

Going beyond communication, the Habitat for Humanity  ‘Solid Ground’ campaign for access to land and secure tenure presented by Jane Katz  yesterday has obvious synergies with the UCLG presidency’s plans to focus on the issue of the right to housing over the coming year.


Women groups and local elected women should not allow the reporting and monitoring of the agendas to happen without our perspectives, and we will need to tackle this together. Our longstanding commitment and collaboration grassroots women through the Huairou Commission will be instrumental in this regard.

Often times one needs the mirror of others to understand one self, and working with the women of Huairou Commission and WIEGO has helped us open local governments’ eyes to the role that they can play. Martha Chen shared yesterday with us that local government hold the key for the livelihoods of many women in the informal economy who, themselves, hold the key to many of the environmental, economic and social dimensions of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.

If feminizing politics means collaborating rather than competing for success, I hope that local and regional governments and civil society will be leading the way!

A dedicated chapter will be needed for the amazing progress that we are making in the structural dialogue with the United Nations System. The welcome to New York has been remarkable but more will follow on that!