HLPF Side Event Discusses Complexity in SDG Implementation
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During an HLPF side event, participants shared insights from a thematic review simulation exercise at Global Soil Week 2017 (GSW 17) in May 2017, as well as the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on SDG 2 (zero hunger) in June 2017.

Speakers highlighted interconnections among land, soil, health, food, and environmental sustainability targets, observing that food and agriculture can be powerful drivers for health and sustainable development.

10 July 2017: The high-level event on the theme, ‘Nutrition and Soils in the 2030 Agenda: A Contribution to HLPF Thematic Reviews,’ discussed key policy messages emerging from preparatory events organized by land, soil and nutrition stakeholders ahead of the 2017 session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Participants shared insights from a thematic review simulation exercise at Global Soil Week 2017 (GSW 17) in May 2017, as well as during the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on SDG 2 (zero hunger), which assessed progress on SDG 2 targets, identified challenges at national and international levels and produced key political messages and policy recommendations in advance of the HLPF.

The high-level event, which was organized by TMG Thinktank for Sustainability and hosted by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, took place on 10 July 2017, on the sidelines of the HLPF. The GSW 17 report finds that, despite the adoption of the three-pronged cyclical review system at HLPF 2016, “very few aspects related to the method of these reviews were covered.” The report explains that by exploring the sub-set of SDGs under review at HLPF 2017 from the perspective of land and soil, the simulation exercise aimed to offer more clarity for HLPF delegates on how to undertake meaningful cross-sectoral reviews “in the space of just one week.”

In introductory remarks, Chair Alexander Müller, TMG ThinkTank for Sustainability, said the high-level event aimed to draw insights from multi-stakeholder processes, such as GSW, on how to achieve the ambition and complexity embedded in the SDGs. He expressed hope that the meeting would contribute towards “finding a language to explain what we are doing” and what it means to leave no one behind in implementing the SDGs.

Reflecting on how the HLPF can benefit from thematic reviews, Thomas Gass, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), stressed that the 2030 Agenda “is too huge, too comprehensive and too ambitious” to be dealt with through traditional structures. Noting the need to move away from a mindset of control and coordination towards one of mobilization and empowerment, he said spaces like the GSW contribute towards such a shift by testing how to deal with such a large set of goals, indicators and targets in a manageable way.

Various speakers highlighted the multiple interconnections among land, soil, health, food, and environmental sustainability targets, noting the need to address these targets as an integrated package. On indigenous communities, Joan Carling, Tebtebba Foundation, said human rights are a prerequisite for leaving no one behind and called for coordinated efforts that recognize the “right to participate,” especially for those groups that are most marginalized from global and national discussions. She highlighted the outcome of a GSW 17 workshop that addressed the right to defend land and strengthen accountability at the local level. The workshop developed a set of 12 reporting guidelines intended to complement existing guidelines proposed by the UN and the UN Development Group by providing a tool to support national governments in their SDG follow-up and review process.

Other issues highlighted included, inter alia: the link between healthy soils and people and agro-biodiverse production systems; the need to measure both monetary and non-monetary externalities in production systems; incorporating results from other inclusive multi-stakeholder processes, such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in thematic reviews, especially at national and regional levels; and learning from indigenous communities on how to practice regenerative agriculture and other sustainable land management practices.

Anke Niederhaus, BMEL, said that realizing the transformative change needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda will require transforming food systems so they are more sustainable, inclusive and resilient to climate change.

Discussing links to SDG 2 and the way forward towards future HLPF sessions, Anke Niederhaus, German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), stressed food and agriculture “can be part of the solution” as a powerful driver for health and sustainable development. Recalling two key policy messages that emerged from the EGM on SDG 2, she noted that realizing the transformative change needed to reach the 2030 Agenda will require transforming food systems so they are more sustainable, inclusive and resilient to climate change, which will require moving beyond the current focus on production towards building inclusive and accountable food governance systems at all levels. Niederhaus concluded that thematic review processes can be used to encourage more partnerships and sharing of resources in implementing the SDGs. She reaffirmed BMEL’s commitment to working with partners on thematic reviews for nutrition within the 2030 Agenda, modeled on the GSW17 thematic review.

Wrapping up the discussions, Müller summarized the five policy messages from the high-level event, namely: the HLPF should be a trigger for change and create space for transformation; complex systems, such as agriculture, will require systemic solutions; global solutions need to be translated to where the action is; shrinking spaces for civil society to engage are counterproductive to SDG success; and preparatory events should complement and support the HLPF. [Global Soil Week Summary of High-Level Side Event Discussions] [GSW17 Final Report & Policy Messages for HLPF 2017] [GSW17 Reporting Guidelines for strengthening accountability at the local level through thematic reviews] [Web page of the EGM on SDG2] [Global Soil Week 2017 Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on EGMs for HLPF 2017] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on GSW 17] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on EGMs]


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