8 June 2022
Expert Group Meetings Address Progress Since Last Review of SDGs 4, 5, 14, 15
Photo by IISD/ENB | Pamela Chasek
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The EGMs on Goals 4, 5, 14, and 15 considered interlinkages with other SDGs and opportunities to leverage synergies and minimize trade-offs, and suggested ways forward in terms of policies, partnerships, and coordinated actions at all levels.

Each of the four EGMs also addressed cross-cutting issues and means of implementation under SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which the HLPF reviews annually.

In preparation for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in-depth review of SDGs 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), 14 (life below water), and 15 (life on land), the Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), in collaboration with UN partners, convened a series of Expert Group Meetings (EGMs) on 2022 HLPF Thematic Review. Given that each of these SDGs is being reviewed for the second time, the EGMs focused on what has changed since the last review, including in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EGMs also: considered interlinkages with other SDGs and opportunities to leverage synergies and minimize trade-offs; shared knowledge about success stories, challenges, and best practices; identified areas of concern; and suggested ways forward in terms of policies, partnerships, and coordinated actions at all levels. Each of the four EGMs also addressed cross-cutting issues and means of implementation under SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which the HLPF reviews annually.

The EGM on SDG 4, organized with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), convened in hybrid format in Paris, France, from 17-19 May 2022. The meeting summary notes that even before the pandemic, the world was not on track to achieve SDG 4 targets by 2030, with significant regional variations. It outlines the “global education crisis” caused by COVID-19, and highlights calls for “reimagining education to fit the modern world with new platforms for cooperation, new partnerships and shared values.” The document highlights recommended policies and actions to maximize synergies, mitigate trade-offs, and drive transformation by:

  • Changing education systems, through: making technologies work for equitable and quality education; better data; leveraging social innovations; empowering students and youth; building capacity everywhere; and supporting girls and women in education and learning;
  • Making education work for equity and sustainability, through: reforming education to strengthen resilience; strengthening education for sustainable development; supporting education for skills development; enhancing trust and building peace through education; and making learning consistent with human rights norms; and
  • Leveraging mechanisms and partnerships to accelerate progress through building solidarity, supporting national benchmarking, engaging local enabling partners, and delivering finance for education.

The EGM on SDG 5, organized with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, and other partners, took place virtually from 27-28 April 2022. The meeting summary notes that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected women and girls, with direct and indirect impacts on their health and well-being. It highlights data deficits to measure progress on SDG 5 and gender-related aspects of other Goals. Among recommended policies and actions, the summary mentions:

  • Investing in the care economy and gender-responsive social protection and health systems, including sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • Integrating a gender perspective in technology and infrastructure development;
  • Reprioritizing and reforming domestic and international financing for gender equality and promoting equal access to economic resources and inclusive, equitable trade;
  • Supporting gender-responsive approaches and women’s leadership in decision making in protecting natural resources and biodiversity and promoting climate resilience; and
  • Accelerating efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls and harmful practices, including through emergency response plans.

The EGM on SDG 15, organized with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), convened in virtual format from 17-18 May 2022. Participants acknowledged that many global goals for the protection of life on Earth and for halting the degradation of land and oceans are “trending in the wrong direction,” including those on species extinction, forests, land, and ecosystems. They recognized the need to “reimagine the relationship between people and nature” reconfirmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for SDG 15 progress to “shift from incremental to transformative change, with multi-sector, multi-stakeholder collaboration.” To maximize synergies, mitigate trade-offs, and drive such transformation, the EGM recommended, among other policies and actions:

  • Transforming global food systems, by promoting systems thinking, utilizing integrated land-use plans, tackling perverse subsidies, revitalizing indigenous and local food systems, and developing inclusive stakeholder processes;
  • Fostering the One Health approach;
  • Tackling the root causes of biodiversity loss, through integrated actions across land use, forest management, climate action, health systems, fisheries and oceans management, and urban development;
  • Putting a value on our natural capital, including by addressing financing gaps; and
  • Tackling corruption and strengthening legal frameworks.

Some of the key enablers highlighted by participants include fair access to scientific and technical data and knowledge, stable financing, transparency, quality education, capacity building, nature-based policies, and long-term political will. A summary of EGM discussions on SDG 15 will be made available here.

The EGM on SDG 14, convened by DESA with partners, was held virtually from 10-11 May 2022. The meeting took stock of the status of SDG 14 targets and means of implementation, including “reenergizing the momentum” at the UN Ocean Conference and beyond, and discussed the next steps in support of a “blue recovery.” Participants acknowledged progress, evidenced by the increased number of marine protected areas (MPAs) globally and increased attention to the ocean-climate nexus, marine plastic pollution, and overfishing, but noted that none of the SDG 14 targets have been reached. The EGM highlighted the intensifying multiple pressures driving the decline in ocean health, including climate change, unsustainable fishing, the introduction of invasive species, acidification and eutrophication, and plastic pollution. It considered gaps in ocean science, and discussed COVID-19 impacts on ocean health and coastal communities. Recommended solutions include green technology, innovative financing mechanisms, and innovative uses of marine resources to address the threats to health, ecology, economy, and governance of the ocean from acidification, marine litter and pollution, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the loss of habitats and biodiversity.

The 2022 session of the HLPF will convene under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under the theme, ‘Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ The meeting will take place from 5-15 July 2022 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. [Expert Group Meetings on 2022 HLPF Thematic Review] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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