HLPF 2018 held six thematic reviews related to the event's theme on transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.
Sessions addressed: resilience; science, technology and innovation for the SDGs; perspectives of SIDS; perspectives of LDCs, LLDCs and MICs; lessons from the UN Regional Commissions; and perspectives of major groups and other stakeholders.
Thematic reviews offered an opportunity for panelists to highlight challenges and progress and for countries to share experiences and lessons learned.
13 July 2018: The 2018 meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) included a series of “thematic reviews,” in addition to the in-depth reviews of several SDGs and the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The thematic reviews addressed the HLPF’s 2018 theme of ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’ from several angles: Building resilience, Small island developing States (SIDS) perspective, Perspectives of the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and middle-income countries (MICs), and Perspectives of society: Session organized with major groups and other stakeholders (MGOS). Another thematic review focused on ‘Implementing the SDGs: Lessons from the regions,’ and another addressed ‘Advancing science, technology and innovation (STI) for SDGs.’
On building resilience in vulnerable contexts, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), recommended better infrastructure, debt forgiveness and technology. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) identified investments in educating the young; tackling gender-based violence; strengthening health systems; and understanding population data as building blocks for resilience. Participants also supported, inter alia: building synergies and coherence between national and sub-national responses; integrating disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures into national development plans; promoting synergies with the Paris Agreement on climate change’s loss and damage and adaptation provisions; and investing in human capital. Countries also shared their experience with disasters and building sustainable, resilient societies.
On transformation and SIDS, panelists highlighted challenges faced by SIDS, including water and energy challenges, fragmented governance and short-term policies. To promote energy security, panelists recommended political leadership, an investment-friendly environment, the diversification of energy sources and increased citizen participation in energy issues. To support an enabling environment for effective water governance for SIDS, participants suggested support for the role of women, capacity-development and knowledge sharing between SIDS.
On transformation and LDCs, LLDCs and MICs, participants reflected on urbanization challenges, such as governance issues, pollution, inequality and heightened vulnerability to disaster. Panelist Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, UN High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, prioritized issues for addressing higher poverty levels and vulnerability to climate change in LDCs and LLDCs, including: sustained economic growth; access to reliable and sustainable energy; cellular and broadband connectivity; technology and innovation; inclusion; access to finance; capacity building; and sustainable foreign direct investment. Countries shared national efforts to move towards sustainable and resilient societies, including through implementing a climate resilient green economy strategy through decentralized governance (Ethiopia); addressing water stress through rainwater harvesting (Oman); and increasing official development assistance (ODA) and debt relief for LDCs (Bangladesh). The Philippines called attention to preparedness for worst-case scenarios during the graduation of countries from different categories, to enhance resilience to shocks. Several countries suggested addressing specific challenges of LDCs, LLDCs and MICs at the HLPF, with El Salvador recommending meetings on MICs’ progress towards the SDGs at the HLPF.
In the session organized with MGOS, representatives called for, inter alia: a review of stakeholder engagement modalities during the upcoming HLPF review; a stock-taking of public-private partnerships; efforts to make Member States’ reporting on SDGs more accountable; and engagement of women at the grassroots level to implement DRR efforts. Participants also discussed: the importance of multi-stakeholder participation in HLPF delegations; protection of indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources and their full participation in SDG implementation; and evidence and data for sustainable development.
On regional lessons for SDG implementation, panelists from the UN Regional Commissions reflected on challenges and shared progress. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), noted the return of economic growth in the Africa region alongside increasing inequality and absolute poverty. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), underlined regional challenges including: gender inequality; a youthful population in a region of slow economic growth; exposure to fluctuating oil prices; shrinking access to international finance; inequality; and coastal urbanization. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), described: economic inequalities; water scarcity; significant levels of youth unemployment; and worsening environmental trends in the region. Panelist Kaveh Zahedi, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the region’s best efforts to achieve the SDGs are falling short, with the exception of education, and highlighted: the deterioration of ocean health; high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and inequalities exacerbated by environmental degradation and disasters. Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), highlighted the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda at a time of weakening multilateralism, emerging protectionism, fiscal consolidation, public mistrust in institutions, political fragmentation, rising inequalities and a looming trade war. In the discussion, participants welcomed the role of the regional fora on sustainable development (RFSDs) as an opportunity to create partnerships, and supported the regional commissions’ role in providing common implementation and monitoring frameworks and building capacity.
On advancing STI for the SDGs, the session reflected on the third annual meeting of the STI Forum, held in June 2018, highlighting: engaging youth in sustainable consumption and production (SCP); the regulation of agriculture; and the critical role of roadmaps as tracking tools for governments. Endah Murniningtyas, Co-Chair of the group of scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), described four main STI issues to be explored in the 2019 GSDR: the role of STI in understanding the complexity of SDGs, interlinkages and trade-offs; the need to improve the link between science and policy; science’s contribution to SDG monitoring; and increasing the interdisciplinarity of science for sustainable development. Participants reflected on the relationship between STI and inequalities and called for efforts to address the inequalities brought about by rapid technological change, STI policies to support transformations towards inclusive and equitable societies and the use of STI to reach vulnerable groups, among other actions.