At the Nairobi Conference, the lobbies have the floor


The United Nations Summit of the Future will be held in New York next September with the goal of “reinforcing cooperation” and “bridging the gaps in world governance”. To prepare and support this summit, the United Nations convened a civil society conference on the 9th and 10th of last May in Nairobi (Kenya). Participating in this conference, the CETIM and the Rosa Luxembourg-Geneva Foundation (RLS), with the support of various local organizations, organized a workshop parallel to it.

The Nairobi conference’s aim was “to give civil society an opportunity to participate in the preparation process” of the upcoming United Nations Summit of the Future. As this area has long been a major focus of the CETIM’s commitments and activities, it supports whole-heartedly the concerns expressed by various organizations in an open letter regarding the Summit’s content and the ability of grassroots organizations to really influence its results. Given these concerns, it is imperative to denounce the corporate capture of the process.

It is noteworthy that, throughout the conference, it was mostly the European states’ representatives (European Union, Denmark and Germany) and lobbyists linked to Western transnational corporations that had the floor. Having substantial means and also sometimes being donors, they exerted considerable influence on the decision-making as well as on the financing of programs.

The United Nations Civil Society Conference was a heterogeneous gathering bringing together hundreds of independent organizations from civil society and authentic activists from social movements. The latter, who questioned the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose failure is programmed, as well as the growing inequality and the expansion of war economy, were compelled to listen to the governmental and non-governmental influence-peddlers of the Global North. In spite of their rhetoric onsustainability, these parties had no thought for challenges such as food sovereignty, health and education for all, the right to decolonized development, and the climate debt owed to the peoples of the Global South.

These crucial matters were treated during the off-site workshop co-organized by the CETIM and the RLS after the conference’s closing session, under the theme “Moving Beyond the Asymetric Configuration – Toward an Equitable Participation by Communities in the Summit of the Future”. The event, attended by 45 local and international organizations, provided an opportunity to discuss the exclusion during the conference of any critical vision of multistakeholderism. There was also the subject of corporate capture of the next summit, promoted by diplomats from Northern countries.

Published on 14 May 2024, the Conference’s final draft declaration contains only empty words and no mention of the deep underlying causes of the failure of the SDGs, nor of the absence of the implementation of economic, cultural and social rights, including the right to development, nor of the growing social and economic inequality between countries and within countries. The draft declaration repeats uncritically the claim that the current world trade system is a motor of sustainable development, without taking into account the implications of the international financial architecture. In other words, it lays bare the extent to which the objective of the New York summit to provide “multilateral solutions for a brighter future” seems compromised.

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