The annual meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) took place during its originally scheduled eight days, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that other resemblances to previous HLPF sessions were limited.
During HLPF 2020, 47 countries presented VNRs, with 26 presenting for the first time, 20 for the second time, and 1 for the third time.
The annual meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) took place during its originally scheduled dates, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that other resemblances to previous HLPF sessions were limited.
IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin highlights that, while the 7-16 July 2020 HLPF session “was originally intended to initiate a new four-year cycle to review the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and assess progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda)…it ended up being a rather unusual session.”
The agenda was reoriented to focus on the pandemic and the event took place in a virtual format. By the conclusion of the eighth day, 72,000 viewers had followed the sessions online and over 240 side events had taken place, not to mention numerous special events, Voluntary National Review (VNR) “Labs” and other online discussions to address key challenges and directions forward for post-pandemic recovery.
The ENB report notes that UN Secretary-General António Guterres “put in perspective why the HLPF had to go ahead and meet even in a year when most other multilateral meetings and processes ground to a standstill.” He attributed the “devastating impact of COVID-19 to past and present failures in: taking the SDGs seriously; addressing inequalities; investing in resilience; empowering women and girls; heeding warnings about the damage to the natural environment; addressing climate change; and valuing international cooperation and solidarity.”
Echoing this theme, UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande warned that the “decade of action” has become a “decade of recovery,” and “called for the SDGs to be at the forefront of government strategies for recovery, to safeguard communities against future shocks.”
A central focus of the HLPF is the presentation of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). This year, 47 countries presented VNRs, with 26 presenting for the first time, 20 for the second time, and 1 for the third time. Countries were given the option of livestreaming their presentation, sending pre-recorded presentations, or mixing these two options. A summary of the VNRs, with links to the full documents, is here.
Among the HLPF 2020 takeaways discussed during an IISD wrap-up webinar were:
- speakers voiced strong calls for solidarity, inclusion and multilateralism;
- SDG implementation efforts should transition from a focus on individual goals to systemic responses;
- “Leave No One Behind” was emphasized, primarily with a focus on social protection;
- the pandemic’s economic consequences require attention, with speakers discussing associated debt relief and finance implications; and
- Major Groups made their voices heard, particularly women and youth.
Unlike other HLPF sessions, this meeting did not conclude with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration. A draft had been developed, but agreement had not been reached by the close of the meeting on 16 July. ECOSOC President Mona Juul reported that “an ambitious declaration was emerging, but some issues required further discussion.” On Friday, 17 July, she circulated a revised draft ministerial declaration and said that, if Member States raise no objection before 5:00 pm EDT on 22 July, the declaration will be considered as adopted. We will update this story once the silence procedure concludes.
Update: The silence was broken. Check this page for further updates.