African governments and other stakeholders gathered virtually and in-person to review progress in the region towards both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The outcomes of the Seventh African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD-7) will comprise Africa’s input to the July 2021 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Forum participants endorsed the Brazzaville Declaration, which calls on African governments to develop new economic models to protect natural resources, promote renewable energy, and foster green and resilient infrastructure and inclusive digitalization.

A plenary roundtable panel on voluntary national reviews (VNRs) highlighted the 11 African countries that will present VNRs to the 2021 HLPF. Namibia is preparing its second VNR, and a representative said this report will build on lessons learned from the first review. Outcomes from the 2021 report will then be incorporated into policy frameworks and Namibia’s next national development plan.

A speaker from the Africa Regional Mechanism for Major Groups and other Stakeholders said civil society will prepare its own versions of reports for the VNRs, to ensure accountability. The panel moderator said the 2021 VNRs will inform stakeholders of the policy responses required to recover from the pandemic.

The final report of ARFSD 7 includes an agreement that countries should draw on lessons from past completed VNRs when engaging in their second, third, and fourth VNRs.

A roundtable on the VNR’s local-level counterpart, voluntary local reviews (VLRs), highlighted VLR experiences in Victoria Falls and Harare, noting a focus on increasing awareness of the SDGs through VLRs. Speakers also

  • Called on international organizations to provide assistance on data collection;
  • Stressed the need to better link the informal employment sector with VLR preparation;
  • Highlighted the UN-Habitat Global Urban Monitoring Framework as a tool to support local and regional governments to elaborate VLRs; and
  • Noted the potential of VLRs to empower cities to play a role in localizing the SDGs, and to help local governments budget activities for achieving specific SDGs.

The ARFSD 7 report urges the UN System to strengthen the capacity of Member States to produce VNRs that integrate VLRs.

In a high-level panel on ‘actions to build forward better from COVID-19,’ the Forum agreed that as the continent with the second largest carbon sink in the world, a major source of the resources needed to save the global environment, Africa should not bear alone the cost of preserving these important resources for the global commons. UN system entities should campaign for Africa to be rewarded for its contribution to protection of the global commons, the final report notes.

 The Forum also included meetings on each of the nine SDGs that will be reviewed in-depth during the 2021 HLPF session, to identify policy options to accelerate their implementation. A regional dialogue on African Food Systems, and presentations on sustainable recovery from COVID-19 also took place, as did roundtable panels on ‘Meeting Data and Statistics Needs for Recovery from COVID-19 Crisis and Realizing the Decade of Action in Africa’ and ‘Leveraging Science, Technology, Innovation and Digital Transformation.’

The Forum was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Government of the Republic of Congo in collaboration with the AU Commission, the African Development Bank, and the UN system.

The four other regional groups of UN Member States will hold sustainable development forums in the coming weeks (Latin America and the Caribbean: 15-18 March; Europe: 17-18 March; Asia-Pacific: 23-26 March; and Arab Region: 29-31 March). The outcomes of the RFSDs will form the regions’ respective input to the HLPF, which is scheduled for 6-15 July 2021 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin meeting coverage]