on 21st September 2017

Civil society in Ghana unites around SDG13: Global Goals Week

In Ghana, civil society organizations are uniting around a civil society SDG platform for climate advocacy. Today, we are celebrating the second anniversary of the adoption of the SDGs and this is an opportunity for us to share our experience of Ghana’s “SDG13 CSO Platform.”

Ghana’s civil society has been uniting around platforms for each of the SDGs, defying what many outside observers coined as a “fragmented” civil society, often characterized by internal competition rather than cooperation. In contrast, the platforms provide open spaces for learning, dialogue and advocacy.

“Government had an excuse not to engage with civil society. In the past, we tended to be shouting from each of our corners, providing no alternatives. With the SDG platforms, more than 200 civil society organisations are rallying around the 2030 Agenda. It’s a one stop shop for government,” says Peter Clausen, Policy Adviser with CARE International in Ghana.

The platform on SDG13 (“Climate Action”) is no exception. At least once every quarter, the 66 civil society member organisations of the SDG13 platform meet to discuss what changes they wish to see – and how to get there. The purpose of the platform is not to come to agreement on everything but to have rewarding discussions that embrace different coalitions, alliances, and partnerships: it is an open, organic space for civil society cooperation and dialogue.

The Kasa civil society platform presently convenes the SDG13 platform, and as coordinator of the Kasa Environment and Climate Change Working Group, Chibeze Ezekiel has been one of the driving forces of this platform.

“The SDG13 platform is a learning and sharing forum for individuals and CSOs in Ghana working on Climate Change. It provides also opportunity to make inputs and contributions into climate change related issues in Ghana,” Chibeze Ezekiel says.

Facing issues

Unsustainable policy has a distinct impact on the climate and this affects local livelihoods.

“The change in weather patterns affects the lives of people – particularly the poor and vulnerable,” Chibeze Ezekiel says.

According to him, the poor and vulnerable must be represented in the discussions around the national climate policies that affect their lives. To be able to have a voice in the national and international climate discussions, it is important to have spaces such as the SDG13 platform. Though Chibeze Ezekiel points out that the members do not always have the needed information for them to get involved in the discussion on equal terms.

“Inadequate knowledge or capacity of members on climate change technical issues has been one of the main issues we have been facing,” he says.

SDG13 and the Green Climate Fund

One of the burning questions discussed at the platform has been when, how and why civil society should engage the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Ghana. GCF holds the potential to promote the transformation towards low-carbon, resilient economies across the continent and this is why the fund is an evident focal point for the Ghanaian climate players.

On the face of it, progress is slow and resources are yet to be disbursed for Ghana. However, the first steps have been taken; the government has received acknowledgement for setting up the mechanisms necessary for inclusive and transparent stakeholder engagements. One example is the Technical Advisory Committee, which advises on what proposals the country should submit to the GCF. The Committee includes both civil society and private sector representatives, giving Ghanaian civil society a clear advantage.

Civil engagement

According to Chibeze Ezekiel it is important to engage civil society in the process of hitting a low-emission and climate-resilient development path:

“There is a need to know the important role of CSOs in the planning and execution of national programs on climate change. Even though government is the main actor, other stakeholders are also expected to complement through the contribution of expertise and experiences,” he explains.

The inclusion of civil society in those processes is supported by CARE International in Ghana who, together with Kasa Initiative Ghana, are working towards strengthening civil society readiness to the GCF.

The project aims to strengthen the capacity of civil society in Ghana, and a series of other African countries, ensuring that national and global climate policies reflect the demands of civil society everywhere: this is particularly important in the case of the GCF. From joint stakeholder discussions facilitated by CARE at the sidelines of last year’s climate summit in Marrakech, it was evident that few CSOs in Africa have the resources and capacity to engage.
However, Chibeze Ezekiel also points out that civil society itself is responsible for making themselves heard.

“Civil societies must learn to demonstrate that they are a force to reckon with in designing and prosecuting national development programs. They must invest in research in their respective relevant areas of work,” he says.

Progress and future plans

When it comes to measuring the progress Ghana has made two years after the SDG summit, the picture is not yet very clear.

“Some progress has been made but it is difficult to monitor as interventions by relevant stakeholders are fragmented,” Chibeze Ezekiel tells.

However, when it comes to the next key things that has to be worked on at the SDG13 platform, Chibeze Ezekiel is very clear in his answer.

“We must contribute to the development of Government’s Voluntary report on SDGs to the UN and engage government and project proponents in the planning and development of project proposals to the GCF,” he says.

If the members of the SDG13 platform have it their way, Ghana’s development will henceforth be a lot more sustainable.

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