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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Division for the Sustainable Development Goals within the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA/DSDG) is organizing consultations on six topics for discussion during the planned July 2020 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The six sessions comprising this year’s “thematic review” aim to enable discussion of implementation of the 2030 Agenda with a focus on synergies and trade-offs among the 17 SDGs and accelerating progress towards the aim of leaving no one behind.

A guidance note released in April 2020 explains that the theme for the 2020 HLPF – ‘Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development’ – is designed to take a systemic approach to the SDGs and account for interlinkages among the goals and targets. Such an approach is a central recommendation of the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR).

In previous HLPF sessions, participants conducted “in-depth reviews” on several individual SDGs each year. This year, no SDGs have been selected for in-depth review, but rather the GSDR’s six “entry points” for transformative action will provide a framework for thematic review. The review of each entry point will incorporate a set of closely related SDGs. All 17 SDGs are covered at least once in the course of the six sessions, and Goal 17 on means of implementation (partnership for the Goals) is covered in all six sessions.

The six thematic sessions listed in the programme (draft of 19 February 2020) are:

  • Advancing human well-being: ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions (corresponds to GSDR entry point: Human well-being and capabilities)
    • Closely related SDGs: 1, 4, 6, 16, 17 
  • Ending hunger and achieving food security for all: strengthening livelihoods of the poor, ensuring sustainable and healthy food production systems and improving the lives of all (corresponds to GSDR entry point: Sustainable food systems and nutrition patterns)  
    • Closely related SDGs: 2, 3, 17 
  • Protecting the planet and building resilience: pursuing policies, investments and innovation to address disaster risk reduction and protect the Planet from degradation (corresponds to GSDR entry point: Global environmental commons )
    • Closely related SDGs: 12, 13, 14, 15, 17
  • Ensuring access to sustainable energy: ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services for all and making energy sustainable (corresponds to GSDR entry point: Energy decarbonization with universal access)
    • Closely related SDGs: 7, 12, 17 
  • Sharing economic benefits: addressing inequality within and among countries, decoupling growth from environmental degradation, and achieving sustainable development for future generations (corresponds to GSDR entry point: Sustainable and just economies )
    • Closely related SDGs: 5, 7, 8, 10, 17 
  • Bolstering local action to accelerate implementation: empowering and supporting cities, local authorities and communities; addressing issues related to sustainable urban development, infrastructure and people-centred services (Corresponds to GSDR entry point: Urban and peri-urban development)
    • Closely related SDGs: 9, 11, 17

The concept note for the thematic reviews notes that each session will also look at an additional set of SDGs that are important to consider in terms of synergies and trade-offs with the centrally relevant SDGs.

The Secretariat notes that the review sessions also provide an opportunity to discuss impacts and responses to COVID-19.

On preparation for the 2020 thematic review, in place of the in-person Expert Group Meetings for each focus SDG that were held during the first HLPF cycle, this year’s preparatory process will entail a virtual consultation process being facilitated by DSDG/DESA.

Each of the six virtual consultations will be co-convened by DSDG/DESA and one or two other relevant UN entities. It will allow experts on the subject to: share knowledge about success stories, good practices and challenges; identify particular areas of concern; and suggest ways forward during a decade of action. Participants will be approximately 10-15 non-UN experts drawn from academia, civil society (including through the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders mechanisms), the private sector and others, as well as all interested UN entities.

The next steps in the consultation include:

  • Collecting input from consultation groups through teleconferences and written submissions, by 1 May;
  • Creating draft ten-page background papers, to be circulated by 21 May;
  • Online comment period on the papers within each consultation group;
  • Possible interactive session, early June; and
  • Finalization of papers and posting on HLPF website by mid-June.

The consultations are taking place in English only.

DESA/DSDG is also planning virtual consultations to inform the thematic session on science, technology and innovation and the SDGs, as well as the session on the SDG targets with a 2020 deadline. A detailed description of the HLPF draft programme is available here.

In the overview document on the consultation process, the Secretariat notes that virtual consultations offer a potential advantage of accommodating experts from many different regions and conflicting schedules. However, connectivity and time-zone differences could also pose limitations. Virtual consultations are also “unlikely to allow for the dynamic knowledge exchange, in-depth discussions and networking that occur through in-person meetings.” [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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