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300 people from 80 countries and 203 civil society organisations participated in the People’s Assembly 2019 on 24-25 September in the UN Church Center in New York. There were many representatives from social movements fighting for justice at the local level. They analyzed the people’s perspectives and challenged heads of state attending the UN SDG Summit across the road in the UN Headquarters. The demands from the People’s Assembly were presented in the CSO Forum of the SDG Summit.

This declaration highlights key demands on the following issues. Peace and Conflict, Climate and Environment, Inequalities, Decent Work & Discrimination on the basis of Work and Descent, Gender, Persons with Disabilities and Civic space

The world is on fire

We exist in a world of profound inequality, climate emergency, a crisis of human rights and closing civic space and where violence is increasingly protracted and normalised. We live in a world where there is a crisis of accountability and governance. In 2019, at the end of the UNGA Summit, we are saddened by the persisting lack of political will & leadership to even begin to address these issues.  This is not good enough. This is failure.

We are over 300 delegates, representing 1000s of people’s movements and organisations, and millions of people across the world.We should not need a parallel People’s Assembly to UNGA, the Climate Action Summit and the SDG Summit. The UNGA and Member States should serve their people, not work to strengthen themselves. We are coming together because our voices are not heard, we are denied access and meaningful participation, our recommendations are not integrated. In some regions, we do not even have the right to information, to a free media or to express ourselves.

We live in a world of defiant brave and principled people movements and communities. Civil society will no longer tolerate this ongoing political failure and Government’s non-binding agreements prolonging business-as-usual instead of systematic transformation. While we extend the offer to work with Governments, we will call Governments out and hold them to account as we stand together for people and planet. We will not let our world burn and we will protect our children, the marginalised, and stand up for all right holders, including by protecting our right to civil space, democracy, and political participation. The voices and agency of the youth are critical to achieving these aims. Processes and political leadership need to be put at the service of people, and their resilience, now. As people read this, environmental and human rights defenders and activists are being killed, the Amazon, forests in Central Africa and Siberia – the world’s lungs, are burning. Inequalities, poverty, discriminations and exclusions stubbornly persist with over 730 million still living in extreme poverty, 1.1 billion without access to electricity and 2.7 billion still without access to clean cooking facilities and more than 820 million still going hungry every day. A furthermore than 260 million people across the world suffer daily exclusion and discrimination based on supposed caste and ethnicity.  A disproportionate number of them are women and girls who also suffer routine and normalised violence and femicide. Our global economic system is failing the majority of our populations, we demand fundamental structural and system change to serve the many, not the few and put people and the planet over corporations, greed and profit.

The world is in the midst of a climate crisis and we face the imminent danger of mass extinctions with unprecedented ecosystems and biodiversity loss. There are already irreversible and severe impacts on peoples’ lives, and livelihoods, with those most severely affected having contributed negligibly  and are already the most marginalized and impoverished, including women, Indigenous Peoples, communities of colour, young people, older people, persons with disabilities (PLWD), and people living with HIV.

Across the world right wing populists, nationalists and extremist groups are mobilising dominant populations to attack the most vulnerable. Democratic values are under strain from unaccountable strong men attacking civil society and the media in unprecedented – and often brutal ways. To improve the state of national democracy, as civil society we need to develop and advocate for new standards for electoral management, institutions that are free from political control and subject to democracy accountability, and new standards to keep election periods free from misinformation and illicit interference.

People reject the new norms of violence, discrimination and militarism

People all over the world, in every country, every day, suffer from the overlapping impacts of inequality, poverty, violence, discrimination, militarisation, environmental degradation and a shrinking of their rights. We no longer accept this as our norm. Climate change threatens our existence, and the children and young people of the world are calling on us to stand with them. We, the people’s movements, communities and civil society commit to do so. We will not reach our global commitments without addressing climate change.

The economic, financial and political systems are concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few, favouring a limited number of individuals, countries and businesses. Nature is our life support system – when it is degraded, polluted and overused there are disastrous impacts for our food security, water supply, air quality and for our economy.

We call on the Governments across the world to meet our demands with urgency and political determination. We call on Governments to meet and deliver on the global commitments made in 2015 in relation to the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, WPS Agenda (1325) and deliver on the 2030 Agenda. It is imperative that Governments address the interconnectedness of these agreements including agreements on financing.

We commit to working with our Governments to meet these demands, we commit to holding our governments to account against these demands, and we commit to calling out the differences between public commitments and domestic realities.  Our world is on fire, we commit to doing everything we can to put that fire out, so we can live in peace, dignity and within planetary boundaries.

Full declaration of People’s Assembly is available here: https://gcap.global/news/peoples-assembly-declaration/

Pradeep Baisakh is a senior journalist based in Bhubaneswar. Email: 2006pradeep@gmail.com


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