Cepei suggests the HLPF create two three-year cycles (2025-2027 and 2028-2030), with themes that draw on all 17 SDGs.
To improve linkages with the regional level, the annual HLPF meeting could be moved to August instead of July, and VNR deadlines could be shifted to allow each country to present its at the regional level first and take on feedback before submitting it to the UN.
The input paper also suggests creating an SDGs counterpart to the climate action NDCs.
The think tank Cepei (Centro de Pensamiento Estratégico Internacional) has issued an input paper on the intergovernmental review of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The author provides responses to questions that the co-facilitators have posed to shape the review discussions.
Written by Javier Surasky, the paper recalls that after the 2019 SDG Summit, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) initiated an intergovernmental review of the HLPF’s working modalities to consider the experience gained during the first four-year cycle of following up on the SDGs (2016-2019).
In May 2019, the European Commission and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) had held an expert group meeting to compile lessons learned from the HLPF’s first cycle. In December 2019, another expert group meeting continued the discussion. Intergovernmental consultations to officially conduct the review began in February 2020, but were soon suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2020, the UNGA President appointed Alexander Marschik, Permanent Representative of Austria, and Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal, as co-facilitators to lead the re-launched review of the HLPF. Marschik and Niang posed several discussion questions to Member States in January 2021.
On the co-facilitators’ question about the remainder of the current four-year cycle (2020-2023), Cepei’s paper suggests rearranging this schedule. Instead, the current cycle would be extended until 2024, followed by two three-year cycles (2025-2027 and 2028-2030). This would work well in light of the 15-year timeframe of the 2030 Agenda and the “unusual situation” of the 2020 HLPF, Surasky explains.
The themes for 2022, 2023, and 2024 would all focus on linking the SDGs together, through one dimension of sustainable development each year – rather than selecting a specific sub-set of SDGs – as follows:
- Theme for HLPF 2022: Linking the SDGs by promoting the sustainable development economic dimension;
- Theme for HLPF 2023: Linking the SDGs by promoting the sustainable development environmental dimension; and
- Theme for HLPF 2024: Linking the SDGs by promoting the sustainable development social dimension.
On improving the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), the paper calls for the UN Secretary-General’s common reporting guidelines to be the cornerstone, providing the structure of each country’s report. In addition, the Group of Friends of VNRs composed of UN Member States could “institutionalize a permanent space” to help governments create synergies, build multi-stakeholder engagement at the national level, and partner with non-state actors.
On ways for the annual HLPF meetings to build better on the regional forums that precede them in March/April each year, Surasky says the problem is timing. Ideally, a draft of each government’s VNR report would be presented first at the regional level, and then revised for presentation globally. This could be achieved by holding the HLPF in August instead of July, and shifting the deadlines for submitting the VNR reports. The drafts presented regionally could replace the ‘Main Messages’ document.
On addressing the SDG targets that had a 2020 deadline and on which little progress has been made, Cepei argues that the best way forward is to present the failure to reach these targets as an illustration of what can be lost – economically, socially and environmentally – by falling short on the 2030 Agenda overall. Such wasted opportunities hamper countries’ chances of facing the needs of the COVID-19 recovery, among other costs.
On strengthening the SDG Summit held every four years under the UNGA’s auspices, Surasky suggests creating a 2030 Agenda counterpart to the Paris Agreement’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs), with world leaders called to commit to taking specific national actions towards sustainable development before the next SDG Summit.
Finally, on the modalities of the review process, Cepei says it should be as open as the 2014-2015 negotiation process that crafted the SDGs. The co-facilitators have noted their commitment to a “completely open, transparency and inclusive” process.
Following the virtual consultation on 5 February, the co-facilitators will prepare a zero draft of a resolution for discussion on 19 February. [Publication: Contributions to the High-Level Political Forum Review Debates] [Landing page]