21 June 2019: During a meeting of the Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development, participants discussed elements to advance implementation of the 2030 Agenda and accelerate progress in the next few years. Topics included key findings of the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), preparations for the 2020 review of the global SDG indicator framework, and ways in which the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) could better identify and address emerging issues.

The meeting was organized by the Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development in cooperation with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (DESA) Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development (OISC), and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Morocco. It took place on 21 June 2019, in New York, US, under Chatam House Rules.

Introducing the meeting, a speaker noted that the 2030 Agenda will reach its “midterm” in 2023, and therefore a dialogue should start now to accelerate implementation and put the global community in a stronger place on SDG implementation by that year. A participant remarked that worldwide, there is an increasing sense of urgency that the current pace and scale of action will not suffice to achieve the SDGs. Another observed room for optimism, however, given several examples of initiatives that have resulted in SDG progress in countries.

A presentation of the GSDR highlighted six entry points to accelerate transformation, including food and nutrition, and energy decarbonization.

On the 2019 edition of the GSDR, it was noted that the report makes an assessment of the status of SDG implementation, identifies the most suitable areas for action, suggests ways to “concretize” actions, and ends with a call to action addressed to governments and stakeholders. The presenter of the report indicated that while some countries perform well on the social dimension of sustainable development, including on ensuring a good quality of life, the same countries often do not rank well on the environmental dimension.

He also said the report identifies six “entry points” that can help accelerate transformation towards sustainable development. These entry points correspond to areas of particularly strong interconnection across SDG goals and targets. The entry points relate to:

  • human well-being and capabilities;
  • energy decarbonization and access;
  • food and nutrition;
  • urban and peri-urban development;
  • global environmental commons; and
  • sustainable and just economies.

Participants then discussed the 2020 review of the global SDG indicator framework, called by UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 71/313. A participant said the review is an opportunity to improve the indicator framework, and will consist of replacing, refining, adjusting and deleting indicators. It aims to maintain the same approximate number of indicators as the current framework. She reported that the IAEG-SDGs accepted proposals for replacements, refinements, adjustments and additional indicators until 14 June, and will consider the proposals in June-July. An open consultation on a preliminary list of revisions will take place from late to July to August, following which the Group will develop a second list, finalize its proposal by November 2019, and submit it to the UN Statistical Commission for consideration at the 51st session in March 2020.

A participant referred to additional indicators that could be useful for monitoring SDG implementation, such as the indicators contained in the Indigenous Navigator to measure implementation of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

On new and emerging issues, a participant noted the relevance of strategic foresight – an organized and systematic process to engage with uncertainty – to build preparedness and manage risks, and to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue on how to achieve the SDGs. In order to address new and emerging issues at the global level, she suggested, inter alia: the organization of a major conference on trends and emerging issues affecting the 2030 future; a major 2020 launch event on published, accessible scenarios on a roadmap towards 2030; recognizing and supporting new commitments and innovations within the UN; and supporting partnerships with external, non-UN organizations.

Participants noted the challenge of planning for the long term, and discussed ways to make an uncertain future more concrete so it is easier to address. An expert noted that policy-makers realize increasingly that they need to plan for the future, adding there are several existing projections and scenarios that help to understand what could happen in the long term. Some also suggested to involve experts and stakeholders, including the private sector, to work on scenarios.

Finally, participants discussed the Rome SDG 16 Conference, which served as the Expert Group Meeting on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), one of the six SDGs that will be reviewed at the July 2019 session of the HLPF. The Conference, organized by DESA, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the government of Italy from 27-29 May 2019, considered peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and the rule of law, and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, among other topics. A summary of the event will serve as a background note for the July HLPF. A participant noted that 60 events related to SDG 16 will take place during the July HLPF.

Participants reported that a Civil Society Day took place directly before the SDG 16 Conference, and issued the Rome Civil Society Declaration on SDG 16+. The Declaration notes that the world is off track in realizing the 2030 Agenda and inclusive and peaceful societies. It includes recommendations, a call for action and a collective commitment from civil society organizations working on SDG16+. More details on the Conference and the Civil Society Day are available in this SDG Knowledge Hub story.

Also on SDG 16+, a speaker said the Global Alliance for Reporting Progress on Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies has prepared a report titled, ‘Implementing SDG 16+ for more peaceful, just and inclusive societies,’ which is expected to be available before the HLPF. Key elements and recommendations from the report address the need for: policy coherence for SDG implementation; involving sub-national stakeholders; engaging stakeholders through consultations and partnerships; SDG 16+ data and statistics; political leadership and financing for SDG 16+ implementation; and utilizing human rights mechanisms.

The Friends of Governance is chaired by the governments of Germany, Morocco, Nigeria, Korea and Romania. Over the past years, it has hosted a series of workshops and published books based on papers presented at the workshops. It is supported by ARTICLE 19 as the secretariat. [Friends of Governance for Sustainable Development Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]