Countries reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that provides a framework for sustainable development for all countries as the eight-day High Level Political Forum concluded on Wednesday.
“The 2017 HLPF has yet again reaffirmed its place as a central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. 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,” said Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, President of ECOSOC after the adoption of the 10-page ministerial declaration by consensus although there was a vote on two paragraphs, one concerning international trade and the other, on peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation.
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.”
Countries also noted that the Secretary-General’s report on the progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, found that while global progress has been evident in many cases, it has been uneven across countries and regions and also insufficient across many targets.
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 over 1000 business leaders attending 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 vowed 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.”
Participating in the High Level Political Forum were 77 ministers, cabinet secretaries, or deputy ministers and 2458 registered stakeholders. The Forum consisted of 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 goals—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, as was Goal 17 on means of implementing the Goals, which will be considered each year.
Noting that there were more and global challenges that no country can solve them by themselves, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks to the Forum, said, “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 globalisation. 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.”
The Goals, as part of the unanimously adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, have prompted governments to rethink their priorities and align policies and budgets to achieve the 17 goals by 2030. The process also mobilized the unprecedented engagement from civil society and business sector. The annual Forum follows-up and reviews the implementation of the Goals.
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.” At the Forum, during the ministerial meeting, 43 countries, both developed and developing, presented their Voluntary National Reviews on how they are implementing the SDGs. The reviews consisted of presentations by high-level officials on the progress in achieving the SDGs followed by questions from other countries and from civil society representatives.
They 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, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), noted that the Forum provides space for inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue and opportunities for peer-learning and exchange.
Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Social and Economic Affairs, stressed that going forward, the SDGs had to be owned by all of society, not just the government.
“Having heard 43 voluntary national reviews, I am truly impressed with the political leadership and national commitments. And I am equally encouraged by the integration of the SDGs into national legislation, national plans and indeed national conscience,” he said as the Forum concluded. “Not only does this all show political will at the highest level, but also national ownership and engagement of all stakeholders.”