Expert Voices Vol 25, No. 07 - July 2021

Nations come together to showcase actions for a better future

On 6-15 July, countries will gather at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. 43 of them will report on efforts to achieve the global goals, while dealing with one of the worst health crises in recent history. We spoke with Irena Zubčević in UN DESA’s Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination, about what to expect and how countries are working to get back on track.

43 countries will share their actions for the SDGs this year. What can we learn from these actions? How have they been responding to the COVID-19 crisis this past year and a half?

“The HLPF will be interested to know more about the national plans and strategies for a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19. We already saw last year that countries reported a regression on the SDGs. This is even more evident now, especially on goals related to health, education, unemployment, and inequality. Most countries have reported on their national response to the pandemic, with main actions focusing on social protection, health care, vaccination, economic recovery, food security, education, mental health, employment, debt relief, disaster resilience, data collection, monitoring digitalization, and systems approaches.”

With less than 10 years left to the 2030 deadline, do you sense that countries are addressing the goals with more urgency now?

“Yes, I think so, because many countries have realized that had they been more advanced in the SDG implementation before the pandemic, they would have been better prepared to cope with it. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed all the weak points of societies and nations have understood that if they accelerate actions, they will be able to achieve a sustainable recovery and be better equipped to deal with future crises.”

What do you want to tell the people who call for scaling down the ambition of the SDGs? Is there still hope for achieving the goals?

“It is our only hope to achieve societies that will share benefits more equally, be inclusive and preserve the environment. The SDGs cover all spheres of our lives and by achieving them, lives of all of us will improve, but for this to happen transformative changes are essential as well as engagement of all.”

Which actions by the countries presenting this year inspire you the most?

“I am most inspired by countries who have stepped up to the challenge and provided healthcare, economic and social measures to protect their citizens. Many of these countries are in the global south, which shows that steps in the right direction are not linked only to resources. I am also inspired by many countries who have shown solidarity with other countries and people, by providing assistance to those who need it most including access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Countries have also shared in their VNR reports new and emerging challenges such as discrimination and social justice. Finally, I would like to mention a trend toward sub-national reporting, which has been proven to enhance and support the VNR process and SDG implementation.”

Learn more about the countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews here.

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