A sense of optimism and urgency, as annual review of SDGs progress wraps up
July saw more than 2,000 representatives of governments, businesses and civil society come together to assess progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) with a record of 125 Heads of State, Deputy Heads of State and Government, Ministers and Vice-ministers. The Forum gauged our current position on the way to 2030 and identified the areas where more work needs to be done.
The event wrapped up on 18 July with a mixture of optimism and a renewed sense of urgency. The Forum found that the lives of people around the world continue to improve as we implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Decreasing maternal and child mortality rates mean that we are saving millions of lives every year. The risk of child marriage has been declining, most rapidly for girls in Southern Asia, improving their chances of receiving quality education, community participation and staying in good health.
Despite these tremendous strides, much remains to be done. Escalating conflicts and natural disasters have – for the first time in years – intensified world hunger. Over 670 million people will still live without electricity in 2030 under current trajectory and 9 out of 10 city dwellers worldwide continue to breathe polluted air. Climate change and environmental degradation are particularly alarming, as carbon emissions continue to grow and the loss of biodiversity and deforestation have not been halted.
As the meeting drew to a close, the international community and other Forum participants displayed genuine optimism and faith in the global agenda. “Multilateralism is the only way to tackle the complex inter-connected and long-term challenges we are facing,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his closing remarks.
He called on world leaders to use the transformative power of the world’s young people and emphasized the urgency of addressing the world’s refugee population. He cautioned governments that technology may be a double-edged sword, saying that it acts as a tool to deliver SDGs but can also exacerbate inequality.
In his remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General and Head of UN DESA, Liu Zhenmin, said he was “proud of the many advances we have been making. But we also emerge with a better awareness of where the gaps are. This knowledge will help us to focus efforts in the year to come,” he added.
“As we uphold the 2030 Agenda, let us not forget how we are all united around this historic agreement of unprecedented ambition and shared vision to leave no one behind,” he urged the Forum participants.
This year’s HLPF hosted a variety of special events, including the first-ever Local and Regional Governments’ Forum where sub-national actors discussed how they can contribute to the SDGs. At the SDG Business Forum, chief executives of major companies shared their experiences with including the 2030 Agenda into their business models. Meanwhile, new collaborations for the SDGs were forged and old ones strengthened at the Partnership Exchange.
The 2018 HLPF also saw record 46 countries present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), in which they detailed their actions and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Each country’s presentation was followed by questions from other states and from civil society representatives, in a unique process introduced by the 2030 Agenda.
Next year, for the first time since the adoption of the SDGs, the HLPF will meet under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, during its annual General Debate in September. Close to 40 countries have already volunteered to present their Voluntary National Reviews at the 2019 HLPF under the auspices of ECOSOC in July next year.
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