High-level Political Forum gathers thousands to assess global efforts to realize Sustainable Development Goals

Are we on track to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030? Where are we making progress, and where do we need to step up efforts? On 9-18 July 2018, the world will come together at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to evaluate where we stand in this joint quest for a prosperous, equal and healthy future for people and planet. 47 countries stand ready to share their efforts, lessons learned and experiences to meet the globally agreed goals.

For the third consecutive year, UN Member States, business leaders, mayors, the scientific community, foundations, UN agencies and civil society organizations will assess efforts to make the global goals a reality for people and communities on the ground. More than 2000 representatives are expected to attend the meeting this year, taking place under the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”.

To help guide the debate, new data showing our performance on the 17 SDGs, have just been released and presented in the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 (SDGs Report 2018). While the report shows that more people are living better; it paints a picture of mounting challenges for countries to overcome to realize the goals. Climate change, conflicts, inequality, poverty, rapid urbanization, rising trade tensions, elevated debt levels and a rise in hunger are among those hurdles.

At this year’s HLPF, the spotlight will shine especially bright on six goals and world leaders will agree on further actions to achieve them: Water and sanitation (Goal 6); affordable and clean energy (Goal 7); sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11); responsible consumption and production (Goal 12); life on land (Goal 15); and strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development (Goal 17).

Making every drop count
Water is life; and it is a basic human right. Yet today, 3 in 10 people lack safely managed drinking water and a majority live without safely managed sanitation services. According to the latest SDGs Report 2018, conflict, violence and instability are factors hampering progress on water and sanitation.

“You may ask, what is the big deal about investing in provision of safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene?” wrote WaterAid’s Savio Carvalho in a recent HLPF 2018 blog post. “But these basic needs – these human rights – have huge impacts on every facet of people’s lives, and we will end neither inequalities nor poverty without ensuring they are met. Living without these essentials is holding billions of people back in poverty.”

Aiming to tackle the global water crises and moving closer to achieve Goal 6, the HLPF will kick off its annual session and programme on 9 July with this goal first on the agenda.

Ensuring access to clean energy
The international community will then debate how to achieve affordable and clean energy as outlined in Goal 7. The latest figures reveal that at the current pace, progress towards achieving this goal is too slow for a successful outcome. If we do not step up efforts, we will not be able to reach the energy targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This means that 674 million people might still live without electricity by 2030 and that a large proportion of the global population might still live without access to clean cooking fuels and technologies (the current number stands at 41 per cent).

We also need a faster uptake of modern forms of renewable energy. The share of renewables in our energy consumption increased modestly, from 17.3 per cent in 2014 to 17.5 per cent in 2015.

Resilient cities and sustainable lives
Sustainable cities and sustainable living will be other topics for discussion, with Goal 11 and 12 on the agenda on 11 and 12 July respectively.

Currently, 9 out of 10 city dwellers breathe polluted air and many countries face insufficient basic urban services and infrastructure. To ensure that all urban inhabitants have access to safe and adequate housing, clean air, sustainable transport, basic services and live in resilient and sustainable communities, efforts must be redoubled according to the latest SDGs data.

But there are positive trends as well. The data also show that 152 countries have developed national urban policies to meet these challenges and to support sustainable urbanization.

Forests crucial for healthy people and planet
The 2030 Agenda recognizes the crucial role that forests play for sustainable development. Covering 30.7 per cent of the Earth’s land, they are essential to human well-being and to the health of our planet.

However, the latest SDGs data show that forest areas continue to shrink, down from 4.1 billion hectares in 2000 to about 4 billion hectares in 2015. To halt deforestation, the full implementation of sustainable forest management plans is needed. The data also show that land degradation is increasing due to competing pressures for food, energy and shelter and that biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate.

As Goal 15 will be under review, the international forest community will showcase how sustainably managed forests provide a broad range of products, services and offer unique opportunities to promote sustainable natural resource use. UN DESA’s Forum on Forests Secretariat (UNFFS) is organizing a pre-HLPF event on 8 July on “Forest-based Transformation towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies: Lessons Learned and Success Stories,” to highlight forest-based solutions and demonstrate how implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 can leverage co-benefits and address trade-offs with other goals and commitments.

The Forum Secretariat is also teaming up with partners to present the “Forests for Fashion: for Sustainable Development Goals” exhibit during the HLPF, showcasing the role of forest products in fashion and featuring 15 mannequins each wearing unique outfits made from forest-derived materials.

Businesses and mayors join events in large numbers
In addition to the SDGs in review and 47 national presentations, UN Headquarters will be buzzing with a large number of special events during the eight days of the Forum. In keeping with tradition, the Partnership Exchange event will take place on 13 July, gathering some 300 participants to showcase, explore and scale up partnerships to realize the SDGs. On 16 July, more than 100 mayors from all regions of the world will join the Local and Regional Governments’ Forum, to discuss the role that subnational governments play to realize the goals. Business leaders and corporations will then set the stage for the SDG Business Forum on 17 July, bringing together some 580 participants to foster public-private dialogues, catalyze new partnerships and alliances, and explore innovative business solutions to accelerate the realization of the SDGs.

Voluntary National Review Labs, eight of them in total, will focus on taking stock of the experience thus far with the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) from 16 to18 July. Several sessions of the VNR Lab will focus on a specific cross cutting theme related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. They will allow a few countries having conducted a VNR between 2016 and 2018 to share their progress, policies, lessons learned, and experiences at the national level. Other countries and actors will have the opportunity to share their own experience and provide advice and support in response to challenges identified by the selected VNR countries.

Film buffs will be happy to know that this year’s Forum will also feature a film festival taking place on 11 and 17 July, featuring the screening of the top six entries to the “Heroes on the Ground” SDG Film Competition, as well as of the documentary “Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste.” In addition, many interesting discussions on the goals and action on the ground to achieve them, will be streamed live from the SDG Media Zone on 16 and 17 July. Most events happening during the HLPF will also be broadcast live via UN Web TV.

The world is three years into this plan that has the potential to completely reshape our future for the better. But to achieve it by 2030, we need to do more, faster. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in the foreword to the SDGs Report 2018: “With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency. Achieving the 2030 Agenda requires immediate and accelerated actions by countries along with collaborative partnerships among governments and stakeholders at all levels.”

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