Increased community-based engagement seen as critical to build climate action and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

With reports indicating that current efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals are being undermined by climate change and sharply rising inequalities, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development concluded yesterday with calls for an increased critical role for local communities and civil society in getting the world back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The eight-day Forum, which brought together more than 2000 participants, including 125 heads and deputy heads of state and government, ministers, vice-ministers and other ministerial level officials. During the Forum, 47 countries presented their voluntary national reviews on their progress so far.

The Forum, which focused on progress on specific goals relating to education, economic growth and decent jobs, climate change, good governance and justice, and partnership, recognized that action on the local level was of paramount importance.

“The 2030 Agenda has inspired an impressive response from governments, the private sector, local authorities, civil society, the scientific community and many more” stressed UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Inga Rhonda King. “We need to recognize and give space for the actions of the multiple actors who are embracing the SDGs”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that development must focus on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. “The evidence is clear,” he said.  “Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive– and rising inequality hinders long-term growth.”

He added that there was a need for the “Inclusion Imperative” to ensure that all countries and communities benefit from the successful implementation of the SDGs.  This would include more public and private investments for the SDGs; shifting to a greener economy; ensuring that global migration is safe and orderly and strengthening global commitment to end conflict and displacements.

More than 142 countries have now presented the work they are doing to achieve the SDGs at the Forum.

“Many countries have been mainstreaming the SDGs into their planning documents or sustainable development policies.  Many local governments have taken the initiative to implement the SDGs systematically, in some cases going further than national governments,” noted Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The Forum also showed that communities are driving change.  New York City, under its OneNYC 2050, is mobilizing efforts to combat climate change, fight injustice and ensure a safer, healthier city for all of its constituents. Bristol of the United Kingdom established the Bristol SDG Alliance which is working to raise awareness about the SDGs in the city. Under the Helsinki City Strategy 2017-2021, the city seeks to create a more agile and service-oriented environment for its people.

ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King stressed that “We understand the strategic importance of achieving the SDGs and halting climate change. But to deliver, we need to move out of our comfort zones in pursuing new ways of collective action”.

The High-Level Political Forum is the forerunner to the SDGs Summit that will take place on 24 and 25 September where heads of government and state are expected to announce accelerated actions to achieve the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind.

UN President of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés said the SDGs Summit in September is more than a two-day High-Level event. “It is the outcome of many years of our efforts that began even before 2015, at local, national and multilateral levels”. “Indeed, it is the greatest milestone since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, and the best opportunity to reaffirm and fulfill our commitments to our people,” she added.

In that context, Mr. Guterres also called on “leaders to come to the September summits not with beautiful speeches, but with concrete actions, plans and commitments to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change”.

The SDGs Summit is part of the High-Level Week at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly that will see countries and individuals take decisive action to improve conditions for people and planet.  It will culminate in a political declaration.  That week will also feature the Climate Action Summit and High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage on 23 September, the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development on 26 September and the High-Level Midterm Review of the Samoa Pathway on 27 September.

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