Apr 22




Non-State Actor Engagement to Mainstream Development

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight a range of challenges facing the global community and policy makers in particular, spanning from the eradication of poverty and inequality to the attainment of sustainable economic growth. These issues are massive in scale and are felt around the world, both in developing and developed countries. The policy apparatus targeting these areas at national, regional, and international levels cannot succeed effectively or sustainably without the inclusion and input of non-state actors (NSA) who are directly involved in, as well as greatly affected by these challenges. NSA include a variety of stakeholders and groups including, civil society organisations (CSOs), academics, citizens/consumers, businesses (both large and small) and women-owned enterprises.


NSA engagement can allow for the inclusion of various stakeholder views, particularly grassroots input, in the decision-making processes of various challenging policy areas. This enables a government to take decisions that incorporate the concerns of all affected groups, which ultimately impact the overall welfare and development of its citizens and society at large.


A fruitful engagement requires an inclusive and ‘bottom-up’ approach to identify relevant challenges to understand the vital perceptions and needs of NSA in preparation of policies and practices. Engaging with NSA at the grassroots level, including building formal and informal networks, also plays an important role in gaining support for policies and testing ideas with those who are most vulnerable to global crises as well as government interventions. This in turn enhances accountability of the decision makers. It is thus imperative that NSA engage in decision-making at all levels of governance, namely, local, national, regional and international.


NSA engagement to mainstream development essentially comprises of three distinct steps- outreach, dialogue and partnership. At the outset, outreach requires NSA to be armed with information. A demand for information and transparency then feeds into outreach activities like dissemination of information among other affected groups such as physical meetings, media campaigns and social media interactions.


The second step of NSA engagement demands the need for dialogue and consultation between the stakeholders and policy makers. This provides an opportunity to share views and ideas and to enable a holistic decision-making process. The third step involves an active partnership or collaboration among the stakeholders and the policy makers for greater accountability.


CSOs like Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International and its partners can play an integral role in enhancing NSA engagement and lead the path for mainstreaming NSA participation in the development process.


CSOs can engage in research and advocacy programmes and provide a platform for citizen groups and businesses to participate. NSA engagement can be in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, competition, governance and economic integration, all of which connect to the realisation of the SDGs. Effective competition regulation can be one tool to spur sustainable economic growth.


However, this depends on the extent to which the law has actually evolved in a country in tandem with socio-economic and historical developments. Simultaneously, regional trade and economic integration is undergoing a major transformation with the rise of mega-regional free trade agreements between small groups of countries. Trade touches the lives of all people and effective NSA engagement would help in achieving the SDGs by 2030.


Therefore, effective NSA engagement is marked by a number of challenges such as lack of expertise and knowledge, limited financial and human resources, informal structures, different interests etc.


The side event aims to bring together CSOs, private sector, media, governments, and other regional and international agencies to look at opportunities for NSA engagement in policy making to contribute to development. The session will focus on ways to enhance NSA participation and overcome the challenges faced by them.