Eckhard Volkmann stressed that only inclusive societies can implement political reforms in a way that will last. Participation means increasing the degree to which decisions can be influenced. Young people’s inclusion in these processes is central. And, according to Gwendolyn Myers, if we want them to make a meaningful contribution, young people have to be given far more encouragement. Habib Mayar stressed that many interventions carried out by the EU or UN resulted – often unintentionally – in greater societal fragmentation and that dependency on aid funds should not undermine local social initiatives. He also added that ‘fragile-to-fragile’ initiatives were an especially good option for generating ownership at society level.

Whole-of-society approaches and processes

Christine Chan emphasised that responsibility for implementing the SDGs cannot be assigned to a specific national institution. Instead, we need approaches and processes that encompass the whole of society. This is because, in volatile political situations with frequent changes of government, civil society is one of the few constants and for that reason alone must be systematically included from an early stage in the long-term SDG implementation process.

Oliver Meinecke stated that German development cooperation has numerous projects that foster societal groups’ participation in political processes and SDG implementation. Activities include supporting inclusive dialogue processes via the Civil Peace Service and empowering social forces to participate in political processes. Inclusive political processes are also on the agenda of the OECD’s International Network on Context and Fragility (INCAF), which BMZ currently co-chairs.

Civil society’s shrinking space for action

The panellists agreed that civil society groups must play a key role both in implementing and reviewing the SDGs. By contrast, having certain groups feel excluded from SDG implementation processes can further exacerbate conflicts. However, many fragile and conflict-affected states face a series of hurdles and challenges. For example, the global trend of shrinking and closing civic spaces is an obstacle to Agenda 2030’s inclusive approach and the international community must do more to address the problem. Conflict-sensitive action must also be taken to ensure the inclusion of formerly conflicting parties. Also, common strategies must be put in place to deal with spoilers.

CSPPS is an amalgamation of various civil society organisations and experts from fragile countries and what are known as the G7+ countries, as well as from international partner countries. It provides a central platform designed to incorporate the views and voices of civil society actors into the IDPS and into the implementation of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. It also provides a North-South learning and exchange forum for dialogue and consultation on international processes over and above the New Deal.