The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs organized the consultation between Sheila Carey (Bahamas) and Olof Skoog (Sweden) who serve as co-facilitators for the political declaration of the Summit, and representatives from the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders.
Informal consultations with Member States are expected to begin in May or June, and to conclude ahead of the July session of the HLPF.
12 April 2019: The co-facilitators for the outcome of the 2019 SDG Summit held a consultation with civil society members, discussing preparations for the political declaration and noting that “what we do in September will set our work for the next ten years.”
The SDG Summit is the first meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) taking place at the level of heads of state and government since the SDGs have been in effect. The SDG Summit, as UN officials and governments call the meeting, will take place on 24-25 September 2019, during the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level week.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized the consultation between Sheila Carey, Permanent Representative of the Bahamas, and Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden, who serve as co-facilitators for the political declaration of the Summit, and representatives from the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders. Ruben Escalante Hasbun, Permanent Representative of El Salvador and the facilitator for the modalities of the SDG Summit, also participated in the exchange.
MGOS representatives made use of the consultation to share their priorities and suggestions for the Summit’s outcome, call for adequate engagement and participation opportunities in the Summit’s official proceedings and its preparations, and gather information regarding the co-facilitators’ process and expectations from the political declaration.
Skoog told participants that in the co-facilitators’ consultations to date, a frequent message is the need for a common narrative about “where we are” in implementing the SDGs, providing an agreed assessment of areas of progress and where progress is lagging. Providing indications of such an assessment, he said promising signs can be found in falling inequality between countries, in poverty reduction and access to services. However, he said emerging evidence shows the world is off track many of the SDGs, highlighting climate change, which the poorest feel the worst, low growth in real wages, inadequate safeguards, and an absence of meaningful participation and accountability. In addition, serious environmental degradation accompanies economic growth in some parts of the world, and polarization in the geopolitical context means that international agreements are being questioned.
Skoog expressed the co-facilitators’ desire for the drafting of the declaration to be as inclusive as possible, and said stakeholders will be present in the room during deliberations. In addition, he noted that DESA recently created an online platform through which stakeholders can share input on the declaration. He said a shorter outcome, compared to the ministerial declarations that result from the annual HLPF sessions held under ECOSOC auspices each July, would make the declaration more relevant for the broader public, and better help to promote the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Carey added that “what we do in September will set our work for the next ten years.”
Responding to questions from the MGOS representatives attending the meeting in person and virtually, Carey said that every group with whom the co-facilitators meets has different expectations for the declaration, and it will be a negotiated document. She expressed determination that consensus will not come at the expense of a “tangible, working document to guide the process over the next ten years.”
Responding to questions about addressing specific groups or issues at risk of being left behind, such as refugees, Skoog said the declaration may contain an action-oriented section of ways to remedy shortfalls and lacks in progress, rather than highlighting specific issues. He explained that “we are not looking to reopen the SDGs,” and the process must uphold the indivisibility and universality of the 2030 Agenda. In this context, it could be challenging to highlight certain issues or groups above others. Carey noted that there is also a desire for the Summit to highlight issues that may not receive needed attention during the July session.
The discussion also addressed a “conundrum” regarding how the Summit’s outcome will reflect the proceedings of the July 2019 HLPF session. By UNGA resolution 70/299, Member States decided that when the Forum convenes under both the UNGA and ECOSOC in the same year, it shall have “only one negotiated political declaration, covering the different and complementary functions” of both the ECOSOC’s and UNGA’s sessions of the Forum. Therefore, this July’s session will not result in a ministerial declaration, but instead the ECOSOC president plans to create a detailed summary of discussions.
The co-facilitators explained that the September document must address all four years, all Goals are important and interlinked, and this year’s July meeting is just as important as in other years. But it is not yet known how the 2019 session will be captured, or whether the SDGs reviewed in July 2019 will have a special emphasis in the political declaration.
MGOS representatives inquired about linkages between the SDG Summit and other high-level events taking place during the same week in September. Skoog said that the SDG Summit could be considered the “lynchpin” with all of the other events feeding into it: the Climate Action Summit, the high-level dialogue on Financing for Development (FfD), the high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC), and the mid-term review of the SAMOA Pathway on sustainable development in small island developing States (SIDS). “It all comes together logistically, but it’s a logistical challenge,” he remarked.
On the modalities of the Summit meeting, Escalante responded to questions on speaking opportunities for civil society groups, stressing that individual NGOs will not be able to speak, but rather will be asked to cluster their views. He said Member States also will be asked to present their views in clusters based on the topic of discussion. Moreover, the discussion will not focus on issues behind individual Goals, but rather messages that “hit across the Agenda.” He said that while the July HLPF meeting will take care of the SDG-specific “building blocks,” the September summit will take a higher view.
Escalante is scheduled to provide a briefing on modalities for the Summit on 18 April 2019. Informal consultations on the political declaration are expected to begin in May or June, and to conclude ahead of the July session of the HLPF. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]