14 July 2023
HLPF 2023 Reviews SDGs 6, 7, 9, 11, and 17, Begins Discussion of VNRs
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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During week one, thematic sessions focused on locally-driven transformation, considered stakeholder perspectives, and discussed challenges specific to SIDS and middle-income countries, as well as to African countries, LDCs, and LLDCs.

On 14 July, nine countries presented their VNRs.

The first week of the 2023 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) included reviews of progress on the five Goals undergoing in-depth review this year, as well as consideration of the interlinkages with other SDGs. Countries also began presentations of their voluntary national reviews (VNRs). A townhall discussion was held on 10 July on overcoming the crises the world currently faces, driving transformation for the SDGs, and leaving no one behind.

Among other inputs, the special edition of the UN Secretary-General’s report titled, ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet,’ and the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) 2023 informed the discussions.

During week one, thematic sessions focused on locally-driven transformation, considered stakeholder perspectives, and discussed challenges specific to small island developing States (SIDS) and middle-income countries (MICs), as well as to African countries, least developed countries (LDCs), and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs).

The Report on the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) was also introduced.

On 10 July, governments focused on SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which is reviewed every year. Delegates discussed financing crisis response and investing in the SDGs, and the role of science, technology, and innovation (STI) in triggering transformation and sustaining a science-driven recovery.

On finance, Jason Rosario Braganza, African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, highlighted rising public debt and increasing poverty “because debt servicing is prioritized above addressing crises or improving socioeconomic conditions.” Country representatives discussed, among other issues, the need for reform of multilateral financial institutions (MFIs), ways to secure additional pledges beyond the USD 100 million climate finance target; and the need for new ideas on how to stem “financial leakages.”

With respect to STI, delegates considered messages from the 2023 Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI Forum). They called for, inter alia: STI for SDGs roadmaps; efforts to counter science skepticism; the reorganization of STI infrastructure around major societal challenges; and the possible contribution of nuclear power and neutron fusion energy to net-zero transitions.

On 11 July, SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) underwent in-depth review. Jaap Slootmaker, Vice Minister, Infrastructure and Water Management, the Netherlands, reported the UN 2023 Water Conference produced a concrete action agenda, one-fourth of which, he said, could be considered “game changing.”

Many lauded the outcomes of the recent UN 2023 Water Conference and welcomed the appointment of a Special Envoy, noting “it would raise the profile of water issues in the UN system.” Calls were also heard for: a UN system-wide water strategy; launching a process towards a UN Water Convention; establishing regional science and technology centers to strengthen knowledge sharing; and strengthening the inclusion of local communities and authorities in multilateral processes.

On 12 July, governments reviewed global progress on SDGs 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).

On SDG 7, Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Co-Chair, UN Energy, noted lagging progress towards SDG 7, but said “we have the opportunity and obligation to reverse this trend.” She stressed that “energy is linked to achieving two-thirds of the 169 SDG targets,” and underscored its crucial role in sustainable development.

Delegates focused on: the need for democratization and diversification; the creation of new jobs in the green energy sector; the need for safeguards against greenwashing; and the need to promote energy efficiency and manage energy demand, among other issues. They also stressed the need to recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in achieving a just energy transition, and strengthen multilateral cooperation and scale up support to ensure adequate, predictable, sustainable, and fit-for-purpose finance.

On SDG 9, speakers “underlined the breadth of sectors that require integrated, optimized, and innovative infrastructure, from transport to broadband to food production.” Many acknowledged “the central role of the private sector in driving innovative and resilient infrastructure development, with governments’ parallel role in creating enabling environments.”

Among key takeaways from the discussions, delegates highlighted the role of “governance innovation” to realize transformations on the supply and demand sides, and “the need to be aware of both risks and opportunities, including how a fast-changing global environment is impacting on competition and exacerbating exclusion.”

On 13 July, countries reviewed SDG 11. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat, highlighted “evidence of a growing urban divide that requires rethinking how we plan and manage our human settlements.” She stressed the New Urban Agenda (NUA) provides a clear vision, targets, and commitments, and urged stakeholders to adopt high-impact solutions.

Delegates highlighted “multi-governance level strategies, programmes and partnerships,” with many outlining the realized benefits of and needs for localized action. Some called for “more opportunities for local governments to participate in multilateral processes.” Among numerous other recommendations, speakers suggested: upgrading informal urban settlements; mobilizing the political will to ensure equal access to basic services such as clean water, energy, and decent housing; and mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into local-level planning.

On 14 July, nine countries presented their VNRs. 

Meeting under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the July session of the HLPF runs through 19 July. It is being held under 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.’

In September, the HLPF will convene at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to carry out a comprehensive review of the state of the SDGs, respond to the impact of multiple and interlocking crises facing the world, and provide high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions leading up to the 2030 deadline for achieving the SDGs. The outcome of the Summit will be a negotiated political declaration. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) Coverage on HLPF 2023]

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