UN High Level Political Forum on SDGs 2022: Despite some optimism, participants are concerned.

The 2022 session of the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), began in New York City on Tuesday, 5 July to determine the best way forward to follow up and to review in-depth the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The eight-day session convened under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), continued this week with expressions of concern about the setbacks the global community has faced since the HLPF’s last in-person session in 2019. Nonetheless, speakers expressed optimism that the resilience of socioeconomic and health systems can be improved.

The speakers cited challenges that were unanticipated when the SDGs were adopted in 2015, such as the global pandemic, conflicts, and the resulting food crisis, as “reasons we are losing ground on SDGs implementation.”

Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), spoke at the start of the HLPF 2022, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reversed progress on many SDGs. At the same time, he stated that the pandemic had served as a “wake-up call” to address fundamental issues confronting societies, emphasizing the opportunity to rebuild better using the 2030 Agenda as a blueprint for recovery.

Summarizing the main messages from this year’s HLPF’s Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, stated that many countries have begun to implement innovative policies to rebuild better, such as national resilience plans, strengthened social protection measures, and the expansion of the budding economy of digital products. 

To achieve the mutually reinforcing SDGs, ECOSOC Vice President Suriya Chindawongse called for equity and empowerment, sustainability and synergy, a balance between people and planet, and a harmonized UN architecture.

Kaylash Satiyarti, SDG Advocate and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from India has condemned the rise in child labour and the loss of children’s access to education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Delegates considered the Secretary-report General’s on SDGs progress at a town hall meeting on ‘Building Back Better and Advancing the SDGs.’ UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin emphasized the importance of addressing vaccine inequality, prioritizing low-carbon recovery, reforming the international financial and debt architecture, renewing the social contract between governments and their people to deliver global public goods, and generating and using robust data.

During the discussion, participants shared solutions for pandemic recovery. Li Andersson, Finland’s Minister of Education, emphasized the importance of investing in education, fostering the potential of innovation, and enhancing efforts toward gender parity. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid, emphasized the economic benefits of education and investing in children from an early age.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), emphasized the importance of prioritizing primary healthcare, promoting a global emergency healthcare architecture, and improving early warning healthcare systems.

During the session titled ‘SDGs in Focus: SDG 17 and Interlinkages with Other Goals,’ panels discussed:

Financing a robust crisis response and investing in the SDGs, during which Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, called for a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine, “truly global cooperation” to end the pandemic, and a dramatic increase in official development financing;

Mobilizing and sharing science, technology, and innovation for an SDG-driven recovery, where Ambassador Kennedy Gastorn, Tanzania, Co-Chair of the 2022 STI Forum, highlighted, among other Forum recommendations, improving international cooperation to facilitate benefit-sharing and data access, demonetizing knowledge generation, and increasing solidarity to bridge the digital divide; and Capacity development and partnerships to maximize the benefits of science, technology, and innovation. At a time when the UN Secretary-General is warning of a “perfect storm” of crises and urging immediate action to put out a “five-alarm global fire” involving the COVID-19 pandemic, a morally bankrupt global financial system, the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and diminished peace and security, we must first and foremost reaffirm our commitment to truly sustainable development. What is the solution? “We need to invest in addressing the conditions that provoke these crises,” says Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Human rights require investment.

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Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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