The 2022 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) opened on 5 July 2022 with expressions of concern over the setbacks the global community has faced since the last in-person session of the HLPF in 2019. Nevertheless, speakers expressed optimism that we can improve the resilience of our socioeconomic and health systems.

As reported in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), speakers highlighted challenges that were unforeseen when the SDGs were adopted in 2015, including the global pandemic, conflicts, and the resulting food crisis and setbacks in education, as “reasons we are losing ground on SDG implementation.”

Collen Vixen Kelapile, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President, opened HLPF 2022, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reversed progress on many SDGs. At the same time, he said, the pandemic had served as a “wake-up call” to tackle fundamental problems facing societies, and highlighted the opportunity to build back better using the 2030 Agenda as a blueprint for recovery.

Summarizing main messages from the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) being presented at this year’s HLPF, Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General noted that many countries have begun to introduce innovative policies to build back better, including through national resilience plans, strengthened social protection measures, and expansion of the digital economy.

Suriya Chindawongse, ECOSOC Vice President, called for equity and empowerment, sustainability and synergy, a balance between people and planet, and a harmonized UN architecture to achieve the mutually reinforcing SDGs.

Kaylash Satiyarti, SDG Advocate and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, India, condemned the increase in child laborers and the loss of access to education by children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a townhall meeting on ‘Building Back Better and Advancing the SDGs,’ delegates considered the Secretary-General’s report on SDG progress. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized the need to: address vaccine inequality; prioritize low-carbon recovery; reform the international financial and debt architecture; renew the social contract between governments and their people to deliver global public goods; and generate and use robust data.

During discussion, participants shared solutions to enable recovery from the pandemic. Li Andersson, Minister for Education, Finland, stressed the need to invest in education, foster the potential of innovation, and enhance efforts towards gender parity. Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, stressed economic benefits of education and investing in children from an early age.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), underscored prioritizing primary healthcare, promoting a global architecture for emergency healthcare, and enhancing early warning healthcare systems.

During the session themed, ‘SDGs in Focus: SDG 17 and Interlinkages with Other Goals,’ panels convened on:

  • Financing a robust crisis response and investing in the SDGs, during which Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University, called for negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine, “truly global cooperation” to end the pandemic, and a dramatic increase in official development financing;
  • Mobilizing and sharing science, technology, and innovation for an SDG-driven recovery, where Ambassador Kennedy Gastorn, Tanzania, Co-Chair of the 2022 STI Forum, highlighted, among other recommendations from the Forum, improving international cooperation to facilitate benefit-sharing and data access, demonetizing knowledge generation, and increasing solidarity to bridge the digital divide; and
  • Capacity development and partnerships to maximize the benefits of science, technology, and knowledge for sustainable development, which included a fireside chat where speakers touched on the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in relieving SDG financing pressures and the importance of engaging “other stakeholders,” especially youth.

Read daily coverage of the 2022 HLPF by IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin here.