31 March 2021
“Non-Papers” Explain Reform Proposals on VNRs, ECOSOC Segments
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The co-facilitators for the review of the HLPF and ECOSOC issued non-papers elaborating on some of the reforms under consideration.

One non-paper addresses the voluntary national reviews, and the other explains proposals for strengthening ECOSOC.

Delegations will consider the 17 March draft resolution in informal consultations on 31 March 2021.

The co-facilitators for the review of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have issued non-papers elaborating on some of the reforms under consideration. One non-paper addresses the voluntary national review (VNR) component of the HLPF, outlining ways to strengthen its ability to advance countries’ SDG implementation. The other non-paper explains proposals for strengthening ECOSOC.

The intergovernmental review of HLPF and ECOSOC is expected to result in a UNGA resolution for adoption during the 75th session. A zero draft of the resolution was produced in February, followed by revised drafts on 9 March and 17 March 2021.

By the draft resolution, the HLPF would hold an in-depth review of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) each year.

On ECOSOC, the draft resolution introduces the idea of an ECOSOC Focus Week held each February to guide the year’s work. The ECOSOC Focus Week could have a hybrid format, combining in-person participation with a virtual component “to enable wider participation from around the world.” The Focus Week would include a one-day high-level segment, a multi-stakeholder partnership forum, and the reinstated Coordination Segment. The Coordination Segment would convene an annual discussion on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all UN policies and programmes, and on strengthening ECOSOC.

The Focus Week would be followed by three groups of meeting segments and forums. The first group includes annual meetings on Financing for Development (FfD), science, technology and innovation (STI) for the SDGs, and youth. The Development Cooperation Forum would shift to a quadrennial schedule. The second group of meetings would focus on UN system actions. A new Relief, Development, and Resilience Meeting would replace the special event on the transition from relief to development. The third group is the HLPF’s ministerial segment and general debate.

The rationale for the proposed changes are explained in the 26 March non-paper on ‘Ensuring the relevance of ECOSOC and using ECOSOC for a more effective and efficient UN system’ issued by co-facilitators Alexander Marschik, Permanent Representative of Austria, and Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal. The co-facilitators also provide an illustrated timeline for the proposed new structure and calendar of ECOSOC, along with an outline of the number of days being eliminated, repurposed, or added to the calendar.

On the HLPF, the draft resolution describes the Forum as the culmination of a year-long process of local and national analysis, reviews, and dialogues, regional consultations and peer learning at the regional forums on sustainable development, and expert and other preparatory meetings. The Forum should draw on all of these and then lead to feedback to the national and regional levels, it suggests.

By the draft resolution, the HLPF would hold an in-depth review of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) each year, as it does with SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals). The draft thus proposes adjusted sets of review Goals. In 2022, the HLPF would conduct reviews of: SDG 4 (quality education); SDG 5 (gender equality); SDG 14 (life below water); SDG 15 (life on land); SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions); and SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals). In 2023 it would 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); SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions); and SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals). 

On the VNRs, the non-paper on ‘Improving the Voluntary National Reviews while keeping their voluntary and country-led nature’ notes the desire of various governments to:

  • Allocate more time for the VNRs at the HLPF to strengthen interactive discussion with countries and stakeholders;
  • Strengthen the peer learning nature of the VNRs and make the VNRs more appealing and useful to both VNR countries and other countries;
  • Maintain the country-led and voluntary nature of the VNRs;
  • Make the VNRs data- and evidence-based; and
  • Enhance the inclusion of the Major Groups and other stakeholders in the VNR process.

The non-paper summarizes the proposals made in the draft resolution related to: VNR preparations, content of the VNR reports, discussion of the VNRs presented during the HLPF, and follow-up to the VNRs. The non-paper explains that the draft also encourages countries to enhance the engagement of stakeholders in the preparation, presentation and follow up of the VNRs, and recognizes the rapidly increasing number of Voluntary Local Reviews conducted by cities and local governments. It encourages the regional forums and the HLPF to give attention to local implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda.

The next informal consultations for the review of the HLPF and ECOSOC are scheduled for 31 March 2021. [Co-facilitators’ letter, non-papers, diagram and outline] [Draft resolution 9 March] [Draft resolution 17 March] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on 12 February zero draft

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