Participants in the side event ‘Stakeholder Engagement in the HLPF and its Review in 2019’ exchanged views on the HLPF, including on mechanisms put in place to review progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and on Major Group and Other Stakeholder participation in the Forum.
Resolution 70/299 notes that progress in its implementation and in the implementation of UNGA resolution 67/290 on the format and organizational aspects of the HLPF will be reviewed by the UNGA at its 74th session (2019-2020) “to benefit from lessons learned in the first cycle” of the HLPF.
9 July 2018: On the sidelines of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), participants exchanged views on the value, role and future of the HLPF, including an upcoming process to review its format and organizational aspects. The side event titled, ‘Stakeholder Engagement in the HLPF and its Review in 2019,’ was organized by the Major Groups and Other Stakeholder (MGOS), and took place on the first day of the HLPF.
Opening the event, Jeffery Huffines, CIVICUS, noted that in 2019, the UN will hold two sessions of the HLPF: one under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and another one at the level of the UNGA. In addition, beginning in September 2019, he said governments will begin a process of reviewing the HLPF’s format and organizational aspects.
The HLPF was established in 2013, through UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 67/290, in accordance with paragraph 84 of ‘The Future We Want,’ the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Resolution 67/290 was followed by the adoption of UNGA resolution 70/299 in July 2016 that clarifies various elements related to the follow-up and review functions of the HLPF, including the specific themes of the Forum for 2017, 2018 and 2019, as well as the set of SDGs to be reviewed in depth in those years. Resolution 70/299 also notes that progress in its implementation and in the implementation of UNGA resolution 67/290 will be reviewed by the UNGA at its 74th session (2019-2020) “to benefit from lessons learned in the first cycle” of the HLPF.
In the context of this upcoming review process, panelists at the side event highlighted concerns and suggestions with regard to MGOS participation in the HLPF. Stefano Prato, Society for International Development, noted that despite a “significant shrinking” of space for civic engagement, there is capacity to “bridge democratic and bureaucratic deficit.” He called on MGOS to take concrete steps to ensure the participation of “right-holders” (such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, migrants and refugees), in the Forum. He also called on MGOS to “connect the dots” by linking engagement mechanisms between various thematic platforms, such as financing for development (FfD) or the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). He underlined the need to better organize, engage more closely with the regional level, and change the nature of the HLPF in a way that allows taking “collective” decisions on issues that need to be addressed.
Mohammed Ali Loutfy, Disabled Peoples International (DPI), said: coalitions composed of civil society and stakeholders should be better supported and recognized as part of SDG reviews; more stakeholders should be involved in SDG implementation at the national level; and there should be increased engagement with local authorities and grassroot groups, and improved coordination between UN agencies and civil society. He called for bringing different participatory processes together, and suggested to have stakeholders represented in the office(s) in charge of SDG implementation at the national level.
Beisheim noted that the thematic reviews lack guidelines, have difficult-to-follow preparatory processes, and lack actionable results.
Marianne Beisheim, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, characterized the HLPF as “the institutional home” of the SDGs, recalling that one of its roles is to follow up on and review progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. She said there are complementary components of the follow-up and review process, such as the thematic reviews, regional reviews, voluntary national reviews (VNRs), the SDG progress report issued by the UN Secretary-General, and the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR). On issues with the thematic reviews, she noted, inter alia, the absence of guidelines, the difficulty to follow preparatory processes, and the lack of actionable results. On VNRs, she remarked that quality of national preparatory processes and reports vary, national reviews often lack analysis of good practices and challenges, and there is limited room for critical questions from MGOS. She underlined the limited time for in-depth discussions at the HLPF, and the need to secure actionable results for both the thematic reviews and the VNRs.
Among other suggestions, Beisheim called for guidelines and for including policy recommendations from thematic reviews and VNRs in HLPF outcome documents. She also proposed that designated custodian institutions publish a roadmap on preparatory and follow-up process for thematic reviews “in good time,” and that the HLPF makes more room for debates related to VNRs.
Rebecca Malay, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, GCAP, noted that most thematic reviews and VNRs do not frame the SDGs based on a human rights approach. She remarked that the SDG indicators are often “confined” to technocrats, without civil society involvement. She also observed that the many independent reports prepared by civil society organizations on SDG national implementation (“shadow reports”) are not available on the HLPF’s VNR website.
On lessons learned regarding the HLPF so far, Sachini Perera, International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), RESURJ, said the review of the HLPF in 2019 should take into account the ongoing UN reform, and should examine how human rights can be incorporated in the Forum, adding that human rights processes are currently overlooked when assessing SDG progress.
Discussing stakeholder engagement in the HLPF and its review in 2019, Jan-Gustav Strandenaes, Stakeholder Forum, said paragraph 15 of resolution 67/290 defines civil society’s rights and privileges at the HLPF. This paragraph allows MGOS to: attend all official meetings of the forum; have access to all official information and documents; intervene in official meetings; submit documents and present written and oral contributions; make recommendations; and organize side events and round tables, in cooperation with UN Member States and the UN Secretariat. Compared to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) that preceded the establishment of the HLPF, however, Strandenaes noted that some privileges have been lost, including the access and participation to all negotiations, access to all rooms and participation in all meetings, and access to all delegates on the floor. He also underscored the “enormous” mandate of the HLPF, as defined in resolution 67/290 and the 2030 Agenda, and identified elements that should be improved, including on emerging issues, the science-policy interface, stakeholder engagement, and on developing and negotiating the Ministerial Declaration.