In preparation for the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Secretariat has published a synthesis of 64 voluntary submissions from UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) functional commissions and other intergovernmental bodies and forums. The document notes that despite multiple setbacks, submissions highlight the potential of multilateral cooperation to reverse negative trends and put the world back on track to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The July 2023 HLPF will focus on the theme, ‘Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels.’ It will review SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

In line with the HLPF’s theme, the 19 April 2023 note, which is available in an advance unedited edition, provides an overview of progress, challenges, and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the advancement of the five Goals, along with an overall assessment of the state of the 2030 Agenda at the mid-point in its implementation. It outlines areas where transformative actions have been successful as well as those where support is urgently needed.

On SDG 6, the document highlights that worldwide, 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 3.6 billion people lack access to safe sanitation services. It notes that the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of ensuring access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all. Citing the Water Action Agenda that emerged from the UN 2023 Water Conference, the document points to “the urgent need for partnerships and increased cooperation” to achieve SDG 6.

The note warns that at the current pace of progress, the world will not achieve SDG 7 by 2030. It emphasizes that “instability in global energy prices due to political conflict have exacerbated challenges related to financing the clean energy transition, weakened or reversed advances already made, and cast uncertainty over the direction of energy investments.”

On SDG 9, the document notes that while global manufacturing rebounded in 2021, “recovery remains incomplete and uneven.” It highlights the role of “technologies and innovation for cleaner, more productive, and competitive industrial production” in catalyzing economic growth and addressing climate change.

Noting that today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and that by 2050, seven out of ten people will likely live in urban areas, the document points to the many challenges brought about by rapid and poorly managed urbanization. The note highlights the importance of integrated and inclusive approaches to urban planning and governance in supporting sustainable urban development and achieving SDG 11.

On SDG 17, the note indicates that a transformation of the international financial and debt architecture is necessary “to avoid a ‘two-tiered’ COVID-19 recovery and find lasting solutions to global crises across the social, health, environmental, and peace and security spectrums.” It stresses that international cooperation must be scaled up to overcome inequalities intensified by the pandemic.

Among actions for recovery from COVID-19 that accelerate progress along transformative pathways, the note identifies:

  • Social protection for human well-being and capabilities;
  • A just transition for energy decarbonization and universal access;
  • Innovation around interlinked issues for inclusive and just economies; and
  • Nature-based approaches for biodiversity and health.

The note highlights selected recommendations to accelerate COVID-19 recovery and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels, spanning the areas of rights-based priorities for the furthest behind, partnerships for integrated approaches, shifting to low-carbon economies, multi-level governance, and looking ahead to 2030. [Publication: Advance Unedited Version: Synthesis of Submissions by Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council and Other Intergovernmental Bodies and Forums] [HLPF 2023 Website] [ECOSOC Subsidiary Bodies]