Voices at People's Forum: Development justice is the lynchpin to #SDGs

Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)
The Asia-Pacific Civil Society Forum on Sustainable Development 2018 (more commonly known as the People’s Forum) was organized by civil society, whose secretariat is represented by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) as a coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism: AP-RCEM), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment).

People’s Forum 2018 gave a common platform to CSOs from 17 constituencies across different sectors and countries to work together and consolidate their positions and recommendations for a regional sustainable development agenda and coordinate strategies for more effective participation in the national, regional and global intergovernmental processes on sustainable development.
Here are responses from a few of the 200 odd participants (in alphabetical order of their first names) who were at People’s Forum 2018 to what development justice means to them and their expected outcomes of the People's Forum?
  • Aaron Ceradoy, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Philippines
"For me, development justice is the resolution of the causes of forced migrations of people. I believe that the current development framework is not tackling the systemic issues that force people to go to other countries to work and, in the process, experience violations of labour rights, social exclusion, discrimination and violence. They do not have any choice but endure what they can endure for as long as they have a job, because the option of moving back to their home country is just not there.

People’s Forum is a platform to participate with other like minded people who are trying to promote the cause of migrants and other marginalised communities for social, environmental and other themes of development justice. I hope that the participants at the forum would also understand the interrelations between different concerns of the migrants and other displaced persons globally, and condemn commodification of migration—treating migrants as commodities and not workers."
  • April Porteria, CSO representative to UNEA (United Nations Environment Agency)
"Development justice is about people reclaiming their rights, and being able to decide on their own about utilisation of their natural resources.
We hope that the people’s messages from civil societies and grassroots communities will be heard by our governments. In my country environmental rights defenders are branded as terrorists. We hope that at the regional level, in the discussions around sustainable development, people’s voices will be heard because when we talk about SDGs we should be talking about the grassroots communities that are actually being affected by the brunt of the different environmental challenges."
  • Gomer Padong, Philippine Social Enterprise Network, Philippines
"Development justice for us in the social enterprise space means economic justice and redistribution of the wealth generated.

My expectations from this CSO forum is to bring the social enterprise narratives into the theme of resilience and sustainable societies."
  • Baralee Meesukh, HelpAge International - Asia Pacific Regional Office, Thailand
"To me development justice means that all people are given the opportunity to express their views and lead their lives with dignity. The older people should be treated fairly and justly and their individuality should be recognised so that they can choose to lead a life they want to lead.

I expect from this forum that the issues of the older people are integrated in the sustainable development goals."
  • Helen Hakena, Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, Papua New Guinea (PNG)
"Development justice means that people should benefit from any usage of their land by governments or corporates. They and their future generations should be able to lead a decent life.

My expectation is that discussions at the people’s forum will throw up innovative ideas and use them to further people’s goals and objectives."
  • Ranja Sengupta,Third World Network (TWN) and Asia Pacific Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM), India
"Development justice to me means that everyone, including marginalised communities, has fair opportunities to lead a life with dignity and, if not reach absolute equality, to be able enjoy basic human rights and economic, social and political opportunities and to live in a safe and healthy environment.

The most exciting thing about the People’s Forum is to exchange ideas, share our problems and explore solutions with people from different constituencies across the Asia Pacific region. We are like minded people fighting for the same causes. A secondary excitement is about engagement with official UN processes, through this forum."
  • Toan Tran,  Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, Vietnam
"Development justice is a big term for me and also for the people I work with. For me it refers to equal participation in all processes and actions including decision making. I would want to emphasize on FPIC—Free Prior Information and  Consent, meaning people should have information about what is happening in their area that might affect their lives, so that they can participate, by putting forward their opinions and taking their own decisions.

We are here at the forum to share and learn what is happening around us and how we can improve and enhance our participation in the processes, like the forthcoming HLPF (high level political forum), regarding the SDGs."
  • Sulique Waqa, Haus of Khameleon, Fiji
"For transgender women like me, development justice is about ensuring that voices of marginalised communities, like transgender women, are heard. Till very recently, transgenders, including other LGBTIQ communities, had been excluded from discourses around development goals. But if we have to leave no one behind, the voices of transgender women should be taken into account in national, regional and international processes. They should be given an opportunity to influence and shape the development agenda across the region. Development justice is also about smashing patriarchy and overcoming challenges posed by authoritarian/military rules. There must be recognition of intersecting and multiple identities of women and their rights.

The people’s forum is about resurrecting the issues of LGBTIQ constituency, and ensuring that LGBTIQ community is also an integral part of the formulation of position papers to influence the APFSDs. It is about correlating more as LGBTI constituency from the Asia Pacific region. After remaining invisible for years, we now finally have an LGBTIQ Caucus at this forum. We are here to reclaim our space and we are here to stay."
  • Urantsooj Gombosuren,  Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
"For me people, represented by people’s movements and by community based organisations, should be equal partners in the development process. Whatever development that takes place should benefit everyone equally and should not be just for a few to become rich."
  • Wali Haider, Society for Roots for Equity, Pakistan
"For me development justice is about respecting the wish and will of the people. If the community people are still being marginalised and deprived, then there is need for a systemic change that ensures accountability to the people. The private companies are ruling the world, taking away our natural resources and making trillions of dollars of profits, while people on the ground, especially the farmers, are deprived and in hunger like situations, in many third world countries, including Pakistan. Unless all our natural and productive resources are handled, accessed and controlled by local communities, development justice cannot be achieved."

Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)
29 March 2018