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In our monthly forecast for July, we highlighted that all eyes will soon turn to the fourth meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), especially since it will be the first meeting of the HLPF after governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In our monthly forecast for July, we highlighted that all eyes will soon turn to the fourth meeting of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), especially since it will be the first meeting of the HLPF after governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Introduction to HLPF

As governments exchange views during these two weeks in July, they will reveal elements of their vision for how the HLPF should play its role as the “central platform” for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.

The HLPF was called for in the outcome of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and was established to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). For the previous 20 years, the CSD had been the central focus for sustainable development policy and follow-up within the UN system, and it had attracted a number of side events and partnership building and networking opportunities for stakeholders. The CSD was a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), however, which many thought impeded its ability to achieve its mandate. Subsequent to the Rio+20 decision to create the HLPF, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) decided that the Forum would meet annually for eight days under the auspices of ECOSOC and at a high level every four years under the auspices of the UNGA, in an effort to elevate the authority of the UN body charged with following up on global sustainable development agreements.

As agreed in the 2030 Agenda, the HLPF’s mandate is to: provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and follow-up; keep track of progress on the SDGs; spur coherent policies informed by evidence, science and country experiences; and address new and emerging issues. The 2016 session also will include presentations of the first governments to volunteer for national reviews of their progress in implementing the SDGs. If having 22 countries volunteer to present the first national reports is any indication, delegates gathering in New York for HLPF 2016 have considerable interest in showcasing “first movers” and learning from examples of how countries are embracing the challenge to implement the still-new Global Goals.

The HLPF session this year is taking place under the auspices of the ECOSOC. A segment of the ECOSOC session overlaps with the HLPF, and this has created a complicated calendar for the July proceedings. The following table offers an overview of the July events.

A detailed programme for the HLPF is available here and concept notes for each of its sessions are available here.

11-15 July

18-20 July

21-22 July

HLPF 2016

Theme: Ensuring that no one is left behind

ECOSOC High-level Segment

Theme: Implementing the post-2015 development agenda: moving from commitments to results

HLPF General Segment

  • Overall assessment of progress on 2030 Agenda, informed by (first-ever) SDG Progress Report and other inputs.
  • Sessions on theme (‘Ensuring that No One is Left Behind’)

Additional Sessions on:

  • Science-policy interface
  • Ownership at national level
  • Mainstreaming SDGs into national policies
  • Local authorities and national government working together for implementation of the SDGs
  • Challenges in mobilizing means of implementation (MOI) at the national level;
  • National mechanisms for monitoring progress and reporting on implementation;
  • Small island developing States (SIDS) and the SAMOA Pathway;
  • Countries in special situations; Multi-stakeholder engagement for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs; and
  • Regional experiences and dialogues with chairs of regional forums and Executive Secretaries of UN Regional Commissions.

HLPF Ministerial Segment

  • Main messages from the HLPF general segment
  • Sessions on the theme (‘Ensuring that No One is Left Behind’)
  • Voluntary national reviews: Countries who volunteered to present national reviews will present their initial steps for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and other countries and stakeholders will be engaged as discussants.
  • Prospects for the future (projections, scenarios and new and emerging issues).

Thematic Discussion

Fifth Biennial High-level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF)

  • Six sessions will address the potential of development cooperation as a lever for effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
  • The topics include: supporting national efforts; South-South cooperation; private sector and blended development cooperation; and technology development.

Outcomes Expected from HLPF

Delegates at the HLPF are expected to adopt a Ministerial Declaration. Negotiations on this document are currently under way in informal consultations co-facilitated by Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia, and Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru.

A final draft was circulated to governments on 30 June, and consultations resume on 7 July. The draft addresses: responding to infrastructure gaps; means of implementation for achieving the SDGs and ensuring that no one is left behind; participation and inclusiveness in implementation; the role of disaggregated date in identifying inequalities; and other elements. An intergovernmental agreement on the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) is included as an annex to the Declaration, and covers the GSDR’s scope, frequency, methodology, and relationship with the annual SDG Progress Report.

Governments are expected to adopt the same Ministerial Declaration during the ECOSOC High-level Segment.

An additional output from the HLPF meetings will be a summary of the HLPF produced by the President of ECOSOC. In this document, Oh Joon, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea and 2016 ECOSOC President, will seek to capture the major themes of the discussions.

Special Events and Side Events during the HLPF

Over 230 official meetings, special events, side events and learning sessions will take place during HLPF 2016, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The number of special events and side events that are being organized attest to the importance that the international community is giving to this relatively new UN body.

Many of the events taking place around the HLPF meeting will focus on fostering high-level discussions on key elements of the 2030 Agenda. Among these are: the NOVUS Summit, which will seek to unite the science, technology and innovation community around the world; the first-ever Partnership Exchange, which will review contributions from multi-stakeholder partnerships in supporting the SDGs; and the one-day SDG Business Forum, during which the private sector has been invited to share its support for the new 2030 Agenda.

Follow the Debates at HLPF

Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin team will be reporting on the debates during HLPF 2016, from start to finish. We will also report on HLPF side events and the ECOSOC HLS on our Sustainable Development Policy & Practice knowledgebase.

As the first session of the HLPF after the SDGs were adopted, this meeting will be watched closely for emerging directions, leadership, recommendations and examples of implementation. Through our reporting, we will seek to raise the transparency of this process, helping to ensure the accountability and policy coherence that the sustainable development community gathering in New York will insist upon.

The author wishes to thank Nathalie Risse and Lynn Wagner for their valuable comments.

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