Along with myself, civil society, academia, as well as representatives of governments, agencies and UN institutions gathered for a special conference in Madrid last week to exchange and strategize around the upcoming UN negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals to be formulated in the framework of the so-called Post-2015 Development Agenda.

This agenda, above all, will shape worldwide development in the years to come – which is why DSW has been, and will continue to, work hard to raise awareness of the crucial importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially among German and international policy-makers who will be influencing and participating in the negotiations.

As ever, we are at our strongest together – which is why a European network of CSO’s involved in these issues was formed some years ago and now organizes strategy conferences each year. This year, 160 participants followed the call, listened, and actively engaged in a series of panel discussions with a variety of speakers from Finland, the UK, and Russia to Mexico, South Africa, Liberia, and many more.

While all agreed that issues such as gender equality, human rights of women and girls, comprehensive sexuality education and health services for all are central to sustainable development, there was not always agreement on how best to go about in achieving to include these prominently in the Post-2015 Agenda. Nonetheless, we were able to reach common understanding and discuss a number of strategies which will help in jointly and individually approaching governments around the world with important messages in the months to come.

As Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, commented in her key note speech “we face a very troubled reality”. She thus highlighted key elements that must be at the core of the next development agenda: “redistribution, reliability, accountability” while many subsequent speakers emphasised the key role of CSO’s to achieve them. Maybe the Chair of the EuroNGOs network, Serge Rabier, said it best: “It will only be possible to meet the post-2015 goals with the meaningful participation of civil society as watchdog, decision-making partners, and service providers“.