The UN regional commissions for Asia and the Pacific and for Europe convened their respective regional forums on sustainable development (RFSDs) in preparation for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July. The meetings explored ways to accelerate the delivery of the SDGs amidst multiple crises ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine to climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

The forums brought together representatives from national governments, the UN, the private sector, youth, and civil society, “to share their experiences and mobilize regional action to rescue the SDGs.”

The Tenth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development took place in Bangkok, Thailand, from 27-30 March 2023. The Forum focused on the theme, ‘Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.’

Key messages stemming from the discussions include:

  • Multiple crises have pushed millions into poverty and increased inequalities;
  • There are many opportunities and priority actions that could be taken to accelerate progress, including strengthening partnerships for sustainable development, climate action, and resilience building;
  • Countries in Asia and the Pacific remain committed to the 2030 Agenda “as a blueprint for responding to the multiple crises and the region’s major challenges, including for transforming the energy and food systems to support a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery”;
  • Regional cooperation and partnerships, including with civil society and businesses and South-South and triangular cooperation, are important in accelerating a more inclusive and sustainable recovery and achieving the SDGs; and
  • Forward-looking voluntary national reviews (VNRs) based on disaggregated data, evidence, and inclusive processes are instrumental for accelerating SDG progress and ensuring no one is left behind.

The Forum also highlighted the importance of scaling up investments to address the food, energy, social, and environmental crises, including targeted national stimulus measures, innovative public and private sector financing, and measures to address debt sustainability concerns.

The 2023 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region took place from 29-30 March in Geneva, Switzerland. Held on the theme, ‘Ensuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the ECE Region in times of multiple crises,’ the Forum featured peer learning round tables, which highlighted key trends and regional priorities in implementing the 2030 Agenda. The round tables focused on the five SDGs to undergo in-depth review at this year’s HLPF: SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy); SDG 9 (industry. innovation and infrastructure); SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals).

Focusing on linkages among the SDGs, participants identified areas where interventions could have transformational impact, highlighting the need for suitable institutional frameworks and political will. “No matter the headwinds, change is possible,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, addressing the UNECE Forum, urging participants to “begin by building on positive examples – on the small actions that together create a snowball effect of much larger progress.” 

Focusing on the five Goals to be reviewed in depth by the HLPF in July, the Forums drew on two regional progress reports. The 2023 Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) found that based on current trends, it will take another 42 years for Asia and the Pacific to achieve the 2030 Agenda. According to UNECE’s flagship, the region will only achieve 18% of measurable targets by 2030, unless progress accelerates.

The Forums are the primary regional mechanism for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition to informing deliberations at the HLPF, the findings and recommendations from the two events will feed into the SDG Summit in September. [ESCAP Press Release] [ESCAP Draft Report of 2023 Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]