John Samuel, an executive director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development of Thailand, is the guest and expert of the XII International Festival of Human Rights Documentary Films Fest-2018, said that civil society plays three key roles in achieving Sustainable development goals (SDG):

Firstly it is the Public Education and Campaign. The most important among them is to make people aware about the SDGs, and its implications for them and how is to going to make a difference. All 17 SDGS have specific significance to a particular section of people. For instance SDG 5 on Gender equality may be used to educate and empower women and girls on their rights and also advocate for policy change to ensure women's rights. Then there are SDGs on water and sanitation, or urban issue, inequality issue- and environment. Then there is SDG 16 on peace and justice. These SDGs can also be used for human rights education, with particular stress on social and economic rights

Secondly, this is Policy and Budget Advocacy.

Civil Society can do specific policy advocacy making use of the SDG goals and specific targets and indicators. This will CSOs legitimacy as SDGs are agreed up on by every member country and governments. Despite the broad claims, governments often fail to deliver to the most marginalized and often governments may not have robust policy framework or system to deliver it. Hence specific policy advocacy is important. Most of the government fails to deliver on SDGs because they do not allocated adequate budget- or may not have system deliver or both. Hence it is important to do advocacy for more budget allocation and ensure there is a good system to deliver it to the most marginalized

Third is transparency, accountability and participatory monitoring. Often government is less transparent about the way they spent money or the way decision are taken and the exact kind of delivery. This is also often due to corruption and diversion of funds. Hence Civil Society can play a very important role in advocating for transparency, credible dis-aggregated data, and participatory monitoring such as social audit. 

What should be the political space for CSOs?

Civil society needs to have space to do advocacy, public education and freedom of expression and assembly. These are important conditions for advocacy. The political space for CSOs is to ensure a) Freedom of Expression, Freedom of assembly and freedom of association- and  and political space for CSO include  human rights for all, enabling legal and financial conditions for CSOs to function including accessing funds from national and international sources.

What are the tools for this?

There are number of tools for this :

a) People Centred Advocacy

b) Economic Literacy and Budget Accountability for Governance ( ELBAG). I have introduced this methodology - and now it is used all over the world- made popular by Actionaid- and I have introduced this when I was the International Director for Policy and Governance at Actionaid International

c) Social Audit- and Public Hearing.

d) SDG monitoring assessment framework - and perception surveys.

John is the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, and has more than 25 years of experience in strengthening democratic governance, human rights advocacy and sustainable development in India, Asia and internationally. His work combines policy research, capacity building, strategic leadership and social mobilisation across the world.

The article was prepared by the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia as part of the media campaign of the XII International Festival of Human Rights Films Fest-2018.