More than 40 countries report progress on SDGs but stronger partnerships still needed
A total of 43 countries reported on their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the second High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which concluded in New York on 19 July.
Each country’s Voluntary National Review was followed by questions from other countries and from civil society representatives, in a unique process introduced by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Having heard 43 voluntary national reviews, I am truly impressed with the political leadership and national commitments,” said Wu Hongbo, UN DESA’s former Under-Secretary-General.
“And I am equally encouraged by the integration of the SDGs into national legislation, national plans and indeed national conscience. Not only does this all show political will at the highest level, but also national ownership and engagement of all stakeholders.”
In a Ministerial Declaration issued at the forum, countries reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the landmark 2030 Agenda. The 10-page ministerial declaration was adopted by consensus except for two paragraphs – on international trade and on peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation – which required a vote.
“The 2017 HLPF has yet again reaffirmed its place as a central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda,” said Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, former President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
“The Ministerial Declaration set forth important recommendations and political guidance on all seven SDGs under discussion as well as on the voluntary national reviews and cross-cutting issues,” he added.
Countries recognized that after almost two years of implementation “our individual and collective efforts have yielded encouraging results in many areas.” But they acknowledged “that the pace of implementation must be accelerated as the tasks facing us are urgent.”
The Declaration commits “to ending poverty and hunger and ensuring healthy lives,” and to “combating inequalities within and among the countries; and healing and securing our planet”. It also stresses “that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and its widespread, unprecedented impacts disproportionately burden the poorest and most vulnerable.”
While the Declaration represents an early indication of the global resolve to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, many countries also expressed disappointment that various issues were not fully represented, or that certain issues were not represented as strongly as they wished.
The UN Secretary-General’s report submitted to the Forum found that the progress towards achieving the SDGs has been evident in many cases, but uneven across countries and regions and insufficient across many targets.
Over 1000 business leaders who attended the SDG Business Forum also issued a declaration, stating that business supports the SDGs as a framework of universally applicable goals to tackle the world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges, and vowing to step up action.
“Business drives innovation, provides a source of finance and constitutes an engine for economic development and employment. Strong and visionary business leadership is therefore essential to achieving the transformation required by the SDGs,” they wrote.
Participating in the High Level Political Forum were 77 ministers, cabinet secretaries, or deputy ministers and 2458 registered stakeholders. The Forum hosted 36 meetings, 147 side events, a partnership exchange event, and 10 learning courses and workshops.
The Forum takes place every year under the auspices of ECOSOC and every four years it also meets under the auspices of the General Assembly at the level of Heads of State and Government. The next forum at that level will be held in September 2019.
This year’s Forum focused on eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world. A set of SDGs—Goal 1 on poverty, Goal 2 on hunger, Goal 3 on health, Goal 5 on gender equality, Goal 9 on infrastructure and industrialization and Goal 14 on the oceans—were reviewed in depth, along with Goal 17 on means of implementing the Goals, which will be considered each year.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said in his remarks to the Forum: “We need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms. And we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that, in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030–because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalization. It’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again—in not only political systems, but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.”
Countries to assess their progress
The Forum allows countries to demonstrate how they are meeting their commitments to achieve the 17 Goals and ensure that “no one is left behind.”
The 43 countries that presented their Voluntary National Reviews were: Afghanistan, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.
Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, former President of ECOSOC, noted that the Forum provides space for inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue and opportunities for peer-learning and exchange.
Wu Hongbo, UN DESA’s former Under-Secretary-General, stressed that going forward, the SDGs had to be owned by all of society, not just the government.
For more information: High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development