Ready? Set. Go! SDG decision-making processes hit high gear at the start of June 2017, and will gather momentum as the sustainable development community prepares for the July meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The HLPF will convene under the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.’


SDG 14 on life below water is among the seven Goals the HLPF will consider in 2017. Its implementation was also the focus of the first-ever global Ocean Conference co-hosted by Sweden and Fiji. The event resulted in more than 1,300 voluntary commitments and a 14-point Call for Action focused on improving ocean health. The Conference succeeded in raising awareness of ocean issues across all stakeholders, as well as in highlighting the linkages between ocean health and other challenges such as land-based pollution, food insecurity and climate change.

The 27th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) convenes immediately after the Ocean Conference, and we will be watching for how the SDG 14 themes are incorporated into these discussions.

Also related to SDG 14, the 46 Parties to Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA) met for the first time at the end of May. This UN treaty is focused on stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and country parties discussed the start of its implementation since its entry into force about one year ago. SDG target 14.4 addresses IUU fishing.


In addition to bringing global attention to oceans, the sustainable development community announced another milestone in early June. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted the set of indicators prepared by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and agreed to by the UN Statistical Commission in March 2017. The indicators are the third and final mandated element of the SDG framework. They identify the elements to be globally measured to track progress in achieving the 169 targets set under the 17 SDGs.

Further on monitoring, the Secretary-General’s second SDG Progress Report was released in early June. This annual report, which draws on data for the global indicators available as of April 2017, will be closely examined as the most comprehensive assessment-to-date of initial efforts to achieve the SDGs. Later in June, the Conference of European Statisticians will discuss a regional roadmap developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Steering Group on Statistics for SDGs. This roadmap closely links with the Cape Town Global Action Plan, while providing additional guidance for UNECE region countries on strengthening their SDG statistical systems.

In preparation for the July session of the HLPF, the 44 countries that will be presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are circulating the main messages of their reports. Assessments of the 22 VNRs submitted in July 2016 to the HLPF identify elements that some will be looking for in the second round of submissions.

IISD has released an evaluation of the indicators that nine countries selected for use in the first round of VNRs, finding that 87% of the indicators reported were the same as or similar to those suggested by the SDG framework. The remaining 13% were different from the indicators suggested by the SDG indicator framework. IISD’s analysts note that, “the use of indicators is itself an indicator of the degree of policy commitment to implementing the SDGs.” This theme – the degree of commitment to the SDGs – is likely to pervade many of the discussions and publications in the coming month, as the reality of the operational requirements and challenges in implementing an integrated set of 17 goals become clearer.

Climate Change

Newton’s third law of physics says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. June kicked off with US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The decision has triggered considerable reaction from a wide range of UN constituted bodies, international and non-governmental organizations, local authorities and high-level officials, from expressions of “deep regret” and “major disappointment” to reaffirmations of commitment to “tackle the climate challenge.”

On the wave of these responses, the eighth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8) meeting took place in Beijing, China, from 6-8 June 2017, to review the latest advances in clean energy technology and discuss ways to advance the global clean energy transition. On the CEM8’s sidelines, REN21 released its ‘Renewables 2017 Global Status Report,’ which reveals that a global energy transition is well underway, with record new additions of installed renewable energy capacity, rapidly falling costs, and the decoupling of economic growth and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the third consecutive year.

Further, opening the 106th session of the International Labour Conference, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, presented the report ‘Work in a changing climate: the Green Initiative,’ which highlights the potential for greening of production to be “a powerful engine for decent work creation and strong and balanced growth and development.” The Conference will conclude in Geneva on 17 June.

Another event to watch this month will be Climate Week 2017 in Santiago, Chile – a city that speakers at the SDG Innovation event highlighted as an incubator of innovation that could be emulated in other countries and regions. Further, several climate-related meetings will focus on Africa. The G20 Conference on Africa, taking place from 12-13 June in Berlin, Germany, will address the German G20 presidency’s priorities, including implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, climate and energy policies. The Africa Carbon Forum, organized by the Nairobi Framework partners, will take place at the end of June in Cotonou, Benin, to provide an opportunity and platform for African policymakers and practitioners to discuss the latest developments related to climate change policy, carbon markets and finance.

Beyond the Hotspots of Climate, Oceans and Monitoring

Policymakers in other arenas are looking to incorporate the SDGs and 2030 Agenda into other processes to broaden the number of actors and build policy coherence into governing processes. In this light, European Development Days (7-8 June) contributed to the acceleration of attention to the opportunities and challenges for implementing the 2030 Agenda. And we will be watching the proceedings of the 16th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) later this month, which will convene under the theme, ‘Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions to accelerate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 in Africa.’

Alice Bisiaux, Lynn Wagner, Faye Leone and Lauren Anderson