26 July 2023
Silence Broken on Political Declaration Amid Preparations for SDG Summit
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

According to the co-facilitators, the current draft of the political declaration is “ambitious, balanced and action oriented,” and represents “best effort to reach a consensus document”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged world leaders to announce national and global commitments that will help drive SDG transformation.

Twelve high-impact initiatives will serve as anchors of SDG acceleration going forward.

Consensus remains elusive in government efforts to agree on the political declaration of the SDG Summit as several delegations broke silence on the draft. According to the co-facilitators for consultations, the revised draft document “constitutes the best basis on which to” achieve consensus. The political declaration is expected to be adopted during the opening segment of the Summit, followed by announcements of national and global commitments to drive transformative SDG progress.

Every four years, the HLPF convenes twice: under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July; and as the SDG Summit at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September. When the HLPF convenes twice in the same year, the Forum shall adopt “only one negotiated political declaration, covering the different and complementary functions of both sessions of the forum.” 

Political declaration: No consensus yet

In October 2022, UNGA President Csaba Kőrösi appointed Permanent Representative of Ireland Fergal Mythen and Permanent Representative of Qatar Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani as co-facilitators to lead consultations on the political declaration for the SDG Summit, convening from 18-19 September 2023, during the High-level Week of the 77th session of the General Assembly.

The co-facilitators conducted eight rounds of informal consultations with Member States and heard the views of major groups and other stakeholders. “[G]uided by the imperative of delivering a text that is fitting for adoption by … Heads of State and Government,” they strove to find consensus.

During the first week of the July session of the HLPF, the co-facilitators shared with Member States a revised draft document. Describing the revised draft as “ambitious, balanced and action oriented,” the co-facilitators announced their intention to place it under a 24-hour silence procedure, from 5 p.m. on 19 July until 5 p.m. on 21 July.

On 19 July, the co-facilitators circulated a “final draft,” amended following further engagement with Member States, placing it under silence procedure.

On 21 July, the co-facilitators informed Member States that “silence was broken on the draft political declaration by a number of delegations.” Having exhausted “all possible efforts within [their] mandate,” the co-facilitators submitted the text to the UNGA President as their “best effort to reach a consensus document.”

National and global commitments to drive transformative progress

Responding to the impact of multiple and interlocking crises facing the world, the SDG Summit is expected to “mark the beginning of a new phase of accelerated progress towards the [SDGs]” and “reignite a sense of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm for the 2030 Agenda.” To this end, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged world leaders to announce national and global commitments that will help drive SDG transformation.

National commitments could include: priority transitions and areas for investment that will help maximize progress across the SDGs; a national benchmark for reducing poverty and inequality by 2027; and steps towards strengthened national planning and institutional frameworks to support progress in these areas. In addition to national commitments, countries are encouraged “to put forward time-bound global and regional commitments to strengthen international cooperation and support for developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable countries.”

To demonstrate that transformative action is possible and to mobilize and scale further leadership, investment, and support for maximum impact, the Secretary-General identified twelve high-impact initiatives that will serve as anchors of SDG acceleration going forward.

Six high-impact initiatives drive transitions in the areas of energy, biodiversity, education, social protection, food systems, and digital public infrastructure. They are:

  • From Billions to Trillions: Delivering on SDG7 Through Energy Compacts;
  • The Nature Transition: Valuing Biodiversity as the Foundation for Sustainable Development;
  • High Impact Initiative on Transforming Education;
  • Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transition;
  • Food Systems Pathways; and
  • Inclusive and Responsible Digital Public Infrastructure for SDGs.

Five initiatives address enablers to drive progress on the SDGs: the SDG Stimulus; fostering productive capacities and structural economic transformation through trade; SDG localization; engagement facility for public sector capacities for the future; and unleashing the data dividend for the SDGs. Eliminating violence against women appears as a cross-cutting topic.

What to expect

The programme the UNGA President circulated on 17 July describes the SDG Summit as “the centerpiece of the UN’s work in 2023 and of the General Assembly’s High-level week this September” that will provide political leadership on the implementation of the SDGs. The Summit will consist of:

  • an opening segment that will adopt the political declaration;
  • a ‘Setting the Stage’ segment, with the participation of stakeholders, “to provide a clear picture on what has been achieved, where we are lagging behind, and what needs to be done to restore credibility on the promise of a sustainable transformation”;
  • a plenary segment, “to hear the actions and commitments delivered on behalf of groups of States”;
  • six Leaders’ Dialogues for Heads of State and Government to announce concrete national commitments to SDG transformation; and
  • a closing segment.

The Leaders’ Dialogues will focus on:

  • Scaling up actions on key transitions to accelerate SDG progress;
  • Building resilience and leaving no one behind;
  • Game-changers: Applying science, technology, innovation, and data for transformative action;
  • Strengthening integrated policies and public institutions for achieving the SDGs;
  • Unity and solidarity: Strengthening the multilateral system for enhanced support, cooperation, follow-up, and review; and
  • Mobilizing finance and investments and the means of implementation for SDG achievement.

The Summit of the Future in 2024 will build upon the outcomes of the SDG Summit and “turbocharge the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.” [SDG Summit Website]

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