October 2017 begins on the tails of a General Debate at the opening of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that highlighted the global support accorded to multilateral sustainable development approaches, with 140 of the 196 speakers mentioning sustainable development. This debate, which was addressed by every UN Member State, was accompanied by a full week of deliberations on innovations and opportunities to pursue climate action and implement the Global Goals. As we move fully into the third year since the adoption of the SDGs, the international policy community will continue identifying synergies among, and ways to advance implementation across, the 17 SDGs and 169 targets.

In his statements during the opening weeks of UNGA 72, the incoming UNGA President noted that migration will be “very visible and dominating the work of the 72nd session of the General Assembly,” given the Assembly’s mandate to prepare the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration for adoption in September 2018. A number of the final events in the informal negotiation phase will take place in October, including the Sixth Informal Thematic Session on Irregular Migration, which will focus on ‘Irregular migration and regular pathways, including decent work, labour mobility, recognition of skills and qualifications and other relevant measures.’ The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) is expected to produce a consolidated report on migration in Africa, based on six background papers, and UNECA will also hold a regional preparatory conference to discuss its draft outcome document. A stocktaking process will take place in December, and intergovernmental negotiations will begin in early 2018.

October is known by the SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) stakeholders as ‘Urban October,’ a month of citizen engagement and celebration on urban life around the world. Urban October kicked off with World Habitat Day celebrations focused on the 2017 theme, ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes.’ The Day also marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the New Urban Agenda.

On SDG 13 and climate action, in a recent op-ed, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa identified the present as “a unique moment of optimism.” She called for “full participation, action and common understanding” by governments, states, cities, business, investors and citizens to achieve the future we want by looking at how the Paris Agreement dovetails across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The next four weeks will see a great deal of effort to that end.

Preparations for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UNFCCC are expected to intensify. The UNFCCC Secretariat, the incoming Fijian Presidency, and the Presiding Officers of the Subsidiary Bodies and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) will continue to actively engage with Parties to pave the way for the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Bonn, Germany, from 6-17 November 2017. In particular, meetings of a number of UNFCCC constituted bodies, including the Executive Committee (ExCom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board, will convene in preparation for COP 23.

Climate will be among the issues under consideration at the fourth ‘Our Ocean’ Conference, which is convening the first week of October in Malta. The event is expected to also address SDG 14 (life below water) themes related to marine pollution, sustainable fishing, and sustainable blue growth, including tidal and wave technology. It will review implementation of the pledges made at previous ‘Our Ocean’ Conferences as well as encourage new commitments. Later in the month, the fourth Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) will convene in Bali, Indonesia, to review the status of GPA implementation and decide future action. This intergovernmental review occurs every five years.

Under the umbrella of SDG 15 (life on land), the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) will convene in Manila, the Philippines. It will be the first time that a CMS COP has taken place in Asia. The theme for the COP – ‘Their Future is Our Future: Sustainable Development for Wildlife & People’ – will emphasize that migratory animals provide vital services that satisfy people’s everyday needs, serving for instance, as a source of food, medicine, as pollinators and seed dispersers. It will encourage global efforts to reach SDGs that are beneficial for people and wildlife.

On forests, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will organize Las2017 – a joint session of the 39th session of the FAO European Forestry Commission and the 74th session of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry. The meeting will bring together forestry experts and decision-makers from the region and serve as a policy and technical forum for countries to discuss and address forest issues on a regional basis. In conjunction with Las2017, the 4th European Forest Week will be celebrated in Europe, under the theme, ‘Forests, our common good’. FAO will also convene the 27th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, to bring together forestry experts and decision-makers from that region.

On SDG 2 (zero hunger), the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 44) will convene under the theme, ‘Making a Difference in Food Security and Nutrition.’ The agenda of the session will cover links to the SDGs, nutrition, policy convergence and critical and emerging issues for food security. The meeting will also provide an opportunity to discuss the 2017 Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2017), which found that the number of people suffering from hunger increased in 2016 for the first time, after ten years of continuous decline. SOFI 2017 as well as other reports published in September highlight conflict and natural disasters as main drivers of a recent surge in food crises.

Towards the end of the month, the seventh session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) will launch negotiations on the possible expansion of the Treaty’s scope by adding new crop species to its Multilateral System for Access and Benefit Sharing. The meeting also includes a session on the theme, ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.’

Issues related to SDG 12 (responsible production and consumption), among other SDGs, will be under consideration at two October events in Geneva: the 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) and the World Resources Forum (WRF) 2017.

Other meetings that we will be watching for their contributions to the SDG debate include the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will discuss issues related to the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness. Among other discussions expected on the sidelines of this meeting will be deliberations on the ‘Invest4Climate’ platform, which aims to connect investors with “high-impact opportunities” in developing countries, including large-scale development of battery storage, electric cars, and low-emission air conditioning. Discussions on the platform’s shape will continue on the sidelines of COP 23 in November; an announcement of its first initiatives is expected to be made at the Climate Summit that will take place in Paris, France, in December 2017.

Elena Kosolapova, Lauren Anderson, Stefan Jungcurt, Lynn Wagner and Catherine Wahlén