HLPF 2023 will “set the scene” for the SDG Summit in September 2023 and the Summit of the Future in 2024.
Deliberations at the HLPF will be informed by the findings of GSDR 2023, available in an advance, unedited version, and the report by the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective and Inclusive Global Governance, among other inputs.
Twelve special high-level events, 17 VNR labs, and 197 in-person side events will amplify opportunities for engagement on the 2030 Agenda.
An informal virtual briefing provided an overview of the main expectations for the 2023 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), reviewed key findings from the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), and highlighted linkages with the 2023 SDG Summit and the 2024 Summit of the Future.
The webinar took place on 6 July, ahead of the HLPF session convening under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York, US, from 10-20 July. It was hosted by the SDG Lab, Cepei, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
Philipp Schönrock, Cepei Director, moderated the discussion. He highlighted that HLPF 2023 will “set the scene” for the SDG Summit in September 2023 and the Summit of the Future in 2024 and indicated that deliberations at the HLPF will be informed by the findings of GSDR 2023, available in an advance, unedited version, and the report by the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective and Inclusive Global Governance (HLAB).
Friedrich Soltau, Senior Sustainable Development Officer, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said HLPF 2023 will be held on the theme, ‘Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels.’ This theme, he said, is “a little out of step with the current crises,” but the programme has been “tweaked” to make up for this.
Soltau confirmed that the Forum will conduct in-depth review of SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 17 (partnerships for the Goals). He noted thematic sessions that will focus on advancing the SDGs in: African countries, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs); small island developing States (SIDS); and, for the first time, middle-income countries (MICs). Other sessions, he said, will discuss SDG finance, science, and local action, among other themes.
Soltau stressed that 197 in-person side events, 17 VNR labs, and 12 special high-level events, including the Local and Regional Governments Forum, Science Day, and the Global Climate & SDG Synergy Conference, will amplify opportunities for engagement on the 2030 Agenda. He said some 2,700 civil society representatives have registered to attend the HLPF in person and that every panel will include a youth representative. He drew attention to HLPF inputs provided by stakeholders and Major Groups.
Among other reports that will inform deliberations, he highlighted:
- Special edition of the UN Secretary-General’s SDG progress report;
- Report of the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) Follow-up; and
- Inputs from ECOSOC subsidiary bodies.
Soltau said 39 countries and the EU will present their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) at the HLPF in July.
“We’re really at the mid-point” of SDG implementation, Soltau underscored. Describing the July session of the HLPF as a “pre-Summit,” he said it is important to identify challenges and ways forward and build momentum for work on the political declaration to be adopted by Heads of State and Government at the SDG Summit in September. He indicated there will be opportunities for civil society to engage in the week prior to the Summit.
Providing practical information, Soltau said the HLPF will be held fully in person, but all formal sessions will be webcast. The ECOSOC President’s summary of key points will also be made available.
Norichika Kanie, Professor, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University, Japan, and member of the Independent Group of Scientists appointed to prepare GSDR 2023, previewed the main findings from the report, which will be formally launched during the SDG Summit in September. He said the GSDR’s main message is that “transformation is possible, and inevitable.”
Kanie underscored that halfway to 2030, there is stagnation in the face of multiple crises, and while there are some positive trends, progress has been slowing down or reversing since 2019, and negative trends are observed for environment-related goals. Kanie further noted that while SDG commitments, partnerships, and institutional mechanisms have been increasing, they have had no visible impact on SDG performance. He identified financing and budgeting, international cooperation, and accountability as “weak links,” and pointed to the need for transformation and game-changing interventions.
Kanie presented the Sustainable Development Pathway (SDP-1.5°C), according to which most of the Goals have made progress by 2030 and most have been achieved by 2050. He then outlined entry points and levers to enable transformation towards sustainable solutions, which, he said, goes through the phases of emergence, acceleration, and stabilization. Among the GSDR’s calls to action, Kanie highlighted the need to:
- Establish an SDG Transformation Framework for Accelerated Action;
- Build capacities for transformation;
- Drive transformation through its phases and manage interlinkages;
- Improve critical underlying conditions for SDG implementation; and
- Work with science.
Oezge Aydogan, Director, SDG Lab at UN Geneva, introduced SDG Lab as “a multi-stakeholder innovation space for the SDGs and long-term sustainability.” She underlined the importance of overcoming short-termism by taking into account future generations in policymaking and implementation. Aydogan said decisions we take today must be future-proofed and aligned with a sustainable future for people and the planet.
Welcoming the HLPF’s focus on youth engagement, Aydogan called for greater accountability for intergenerational impact. She said instead of “upgrading” the system, we need to change the system for a sustainable world where current and future generations thrive.
Stefan Jungcurt, Lead II, SDG Indicators and Data, IISD, said the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises necessitated short-term thinking to address immediate needs, prompting some to think that the SDGs need to be aligned with responses to such crises. He said thinking too far ahead might prompt others to discard the SDGs and invited participants to engage in “mid-term thinking” by focusing on what can be done in the remaining seven years.
Jungcurt said through the HLPF, “we’re gathering an incredible amount of knowledge” on how to activate linkages among the SDGs and enable transformative change that is inclusive and does not leave anyone behind. He highlighted SDG localization efforts reflected in voluntary local reviews (VLRs), which, he said, are improving in terms of quality and geographical distribution. He said because local governments work closest to people, they can support better understanding of SDG linkages, and outlined the challenge of including their experiences in VNRs.
Ensuing discussion focused on: barriers to progress, including failure by some actors to fully embrace the SDGs as a universal framework to solve interlinked problems; accountability; and the role of second and third VNRs in enabling more meaningful follow-up and review. [Webinar Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]