The COVID-19 crisis is taking a grim toll on human lives across the globe. Although the complete impact is yet to be fully comprehended, the risk the pandemic is exposing for gains made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is becoming evident. What this global emergency is also revealing, is that these 17 goals are, in fact, our best option to recover better and to overcome similar crises in the future.
“Progress towards the SDGs now could serve as a ‘policy vaccine’ that would soften the worst effects of the virus, the full, devastating scale of which we are yet to learn,” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin in a recent opinion piece. “With all this havoc, achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is more urgent than ever.”
This year’s virtual High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 7-16 July, thus takes place at a critical juncture in history.
“We should discuss how to build back better, greener and fairer. We must get back on track,” said the President of the Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) Mona Juul, as she briefed about the Forum. “The HLPF will be a moment to demonstrate our commitment to a multilateral response, international cooperation and solidarity. […] Let us be innovative and ambitious!”
The Forum will discuss ways to address the impacts of COVID-19 in a way that puts us back on track to accelerate progress towards the SDGs during the decade of action. It will focus on the pandemic’s impact on the SDGs, acceleration measures, including local action, efforts to leave no one behind, countries in special situation and finance, as well as technology and innovation.
The Economic and Social Council, for its part, will bring together UN system key messages on leaving no one behind through efforts to overcome the COVID-19 human crisis and build back better. It will meet on 6 July as part of its Integration Segment, to produce policy recommendations, which will feed into the HLPF thematic reviews.
As one of the Charter organs of the UN, ECOSOC will also make a substantive contribution to the 75th Anniversary commemoration by holding a dedicated high-level leaders dialogue on 17 July, during its High-Level Segment, on the topic of multilateralism and the United Nations of the future. This meeting will reflect on the kind of multilateralism needed today to deliver an effective response to global crises such as COVID-19 and long-term challenges such as climate change. Another one-hour session will focus on the vision and scenarios for the future of the SDGs following the COVID-19 crisis.
The second week (14-17 July) will conclude with the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration, which will provide political guidance on the review and implementation of the SDGs.
Countries encouraged to register new SDG Acceleration Actions
This year, 47 countries will present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the HLPF, sharing efforts to work towards realizing the goals while responding to the pandemic.
Ahead of the Forum, the ECOSOC President has also called for countries and other international actors to commit to new SDG Acceleration Actions and to announce them at the event, adding on to the more than 150 commitments registered so far on the online SDG Accelerations Actions platform set up by UN DESA to capture new, ambitious initiatives and actions voluntarily undertaken by governments and any other non-state actors – individually or in partnership.
Any new action, or an action that builds on existing efforts related to the achievement of one or more of the 17 SDGs, or addressing the interlinked nature of the 2030 Agenda, could be considered as an SDG Acceleration Action.
Special events at virtual HLPF
During the HLPF, 204 virtual side-events and an online exhibit, featuring Member States, the UN system and Civil Society will take place. At the same time, 17 VNR Labs will provide an informal platform for experience-sharing and reflection on themes cutting across the Voluntary National Reviews and allowing to dig further into the VNRs of three countries. A virtual SDG Media Zone will moreover be bringing together influencers, policy experts and other personalities to engage the public in the important discussions taking place at the Forum.
As in previous years, UN DESA is also partnering with agencies and entities, organizing a number of virtual special events to spur SDG action, including the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) event on “Learning back better to support the green recovery” on 8 July; the third Local and Regional Governments Forum on 13 July; an event with the Chief Sustainability Officers on “Building back better: navigating business risks and opportunities in a post COVID-19 world” on 14 July; and a new event to highlight SDG Acceleration Actions, “SDG Acceleration Actions to build back better” on 14 July.
In addition, UN-Water will host a high-level launch of the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework on 9 July. UN DESA and UNITAR are also organizing a series of SDG Learning, Training and Practice Capacity-Building sessions from 7 to 13 July. FAO and the Interparliamentary Union will also be holding virtual side events.
For more information:
The 2020 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development takes place under the theme “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”
ECOSOC Integration Segment
ECOSOC High-level Segment
SDG Acceleration Actions
Special events at HLPF