17 February 2021
Zero Draft on HLPF Review Would Raise VNR Time, Strengthen Analytical Role
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The co-facilitators for governments’ review of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the UN Economic and Social Council have issued a zero draft resolution, outlining mandates to take effect with the 2022 HLPF and the 2021-2022 ECOSOC cycle.

Among other changes, the text would encourage countries to use the RFSDs to discuss trends and findings from voluntary local reviews, and place more attention on local SDG efforts.

Delegations will gather for a virtual informal consultation on Friday, 19 February to discuss the draft.

The co-facilitators for governments’ review of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have issued a zero draft resolution, outlining mandates to take effect with the 2022 HLPF and the 2021-2022 ECOSOC cycle. Delegations will gather for a virtual informal consultation on Friday, 19 February 2021 to discuss the draft.

The draft resolution contains two annexes, one on the review of ECOSOC and the other on the review of the HLPF. A common chapeau highlights the interlinkages between the Council and the Forum and explains that the reviews are being conducted in conjunction with each other, as mandated by UNGA resolution 74/298.

In the annex focused on strengthening ECOSOC, governments would decide to reorganize the annual calendar of ECOSOC segments and forums into a main opening part in February, followed by three other groups of meetings. The main part would include a one-day high-level opening segment of ECOSOC at the ministerial level, to provide direction for the other ECOSOC segments and subsidiary bodies, followed by a Multi-stakeholder Partnerships Forum (formerly the Partnerships Forum), and a Coordination Segment (to be reinstated, after previously being reconceived as the Integration Segment).

The three other groups of meetings would be as follows:

  • ECOSOC Forums, including the Development Cooperation Forum held every other year, the annual forum on financing for development (FfD) follow-up, the annual multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation (STI Forum) for the SDGs; and the annual Youth Forum;
  • Segments focused on UN system actions, namely the Operational Activities for Development segment, the Humanitarian Affairs segment, and a Transition Meeting (relief to development); and
  • HLPF, including the three-day ministerial segment and parallel general debate.

The text also indicates that ECOSOC will promote the active participation of NGOs, local governments, members of Parliament, other relevant major groups and stakeholders, and international and regional organizations, and will promote the integration of youth into its deliberations. 

In the annex on strengthening the HLPF, governments would decide that the HLPF’s annual sessions will include one additional day to allow for more interaction on the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and discussion of countries in special situations. 

Per the text, the HLPF should provide a stronger analysis of the interlinkages across the SDGs, including policy implications of their synergies and trade-offs. Each year it will consider the areas where SDG efforts can have “the greatest and most transformative impact across multiple goals and targets, taking inspiration from the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report” (GSDR).

The HLPF will continue to review a sub-set of the SDGs each year and all 17 Goals within a four-year cycle. In 2022, these Goals would be: SDG 4 (quality education); SDG 5 (gender equality); SDG 14 (life below water); SDG 15 (life on land); and SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals). In 2023, these Goals would be: 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).

The HLPF’s thematic reviews will continue, and should make greater use of various research, expert discussion, and data findings, such as recommendations from the Expert Group Meetings on each SDG under review and the inputs of various intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder bodies and mechanisms. The themes for 2022 and 2023 are proposed to be: (2022) Recovering better from COVID-19 while keeping SDGs implementation in focus: Improving the response to the pandemic and strengthening SDG implementation during the Decade of Action and Delivery through quality education, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and protecting and managing the natural resource base; and (2023) Consolidating the recovery from COVID-19 and accelerating SDG progress: empowering and supporting local governments, ensuring universal access to quality basic services and building resilience.

On the SDG targets with a 2020 timeline, the resolution says that at the 2022 and 2023 HLPF sessions, the Forum will “ensure continuous action” on the targets by “reviewing and adjusting their frameworks as needed, to allow updated targets to reflect a suitable level of ambition for 2030.”

The 2022 and 2023 sessions of the HLPF also should discuss implementation of the 2019 SDG Summit’s political declaration, in which world leaders committed to ten actions. The next SDG Summit – the session of the HLPF held under the UN General Assembly’s auspices with participation from Heads of State and Government – will take place in September 2023. Therefore, the July 2023 HLPF will prepare an overall review of implementation of the 2030 Agenda, for discussion at the Summit.

On the VNRs, the text calls for countries to follow up on their previous VNR, if they have conducted one, by highlighting trends, areas of progress, remaining challenges and measures they have taken, as well as the impact of those measures. Countries should involve all parts of government and major groups and other stakeholders in the preparation of the VNR, and they should report back at the national level on the outcome of the VNR presentation at the HLPF.

Regarding the regional level, the HLPF should increase attention on the outcomes of the annual regional forums on sustainable development (RFSDs). The text encourages the regional forums to submit their outcomes as early as possible to the HLPF.

Regarding the local level, the text encourages countries to use the RFSDs to discuss trends and findings from voluntary local reviews, and says the HLPF should increase attention on local efforts to implement the SDGs.

The co-facilitators for intergovernmental consultations on the HLPF and ECOSOC reviews are Alexander Marschik, Permanent Representative of Austria, and Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal. They plan to hold several additional consultations in February and March to finalize the text. [Zero draft of UNGA resolution on HLPF, ECOSOC reviews]

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