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Source: Small Island Developing States

The co-chairs and several members of the Independent Group of Scientists for the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) briefed UN Member States and civil society representatives on preliminary expectations for their expected focus and timeline.

The virtual briefing took place on 4 December 2020. The scientists were appointed by the UN Secretary-General on 19 October 2020 to write the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report. The GSDR is prepared every four years to provide evidence-based guidance on the state of global sustainable development. This report is expected to inform the UN General Assembly’s next SDG Summit, in September 2023, when Heads of States and Government will consider four years of progress towards the 2030 Agenda. 

GSDR co-chairs John Agard (Trinidad and Tobago) and Imme Scholz (Germany), along with several members of the Group and members of the UN Task Team supporting the Group, offered comments on their expectations for this second independent GSDR. 

The pandemic presents a challenge to policymakers, but not in a uniform way for all regions.

Scholz highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged since the last GSDR was released, in September 2019, and the Independent Group of Scientists has discussed how to deal with it in the 2023 Report. She noted that the pandemic has presented a challenge for policy makers to combine economic recovery with structural transformations, although she noted that it does not present a uniform challenge to all regions. 

Recalling that the GSDR is an “assessment of assessments,” Agard said it must be grounded in information from all regions, and consultations at the regional level with cross-disciplinary groups on key regional issues will be important. He said that in early 2021 the Group will call for published material to be considered for incorporation into the 2023 GSDR. Agard added that the Independent Group of Scientists wants the report to initiate action.

Additional points discussed in relation to the 2023 GSDR included the need to build on the 2019 GSDR and the identification of levers and entry points, while focusing on “actionable items in line with what is possible.” The discussion also addressed the need to identify balanced trade-offs, and the importance of identifying actionable recommendations for addressing inequalities. The opportunity to incorporate behavioral science and how new ideas are taken up was also discussed, to provide insights on how interventions can be designed. 

In addition to Agard and Scholz, the members of the Group are:

  • Kaltham Ali Al-Ghanim (Qatar);
  • Sergey N. Bobylev (Russian Federation);
  • Opha Pauline Dube (Botswana);
  • Ibrahima Hathie (Senegal);
  • Norichika Kanie (Japan);
  • Nyovani Janet Madise (Malawi);
  • Shirin Malekpour (Australia);
  • Jaime Miranda (Peru);
  • Jaime C Montoya (Philippines);
  • Jiahua Pan (China);
  • Åsa Persson (Sweden);
  • Ambuj D Sagar (India); and
  • Nancy Shackell (Canada).

The 2019 edition of the GSDR, titled ‘The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development,’ identified four “levers of change” – governance, economy and finance deployed with purpose, behavior and collective action at both individual and societal levels, and science and technology – which the authors said could trigger change in six systems, termed entry points for transformation, that underlie achievement of the SDGs. The entry points are: Strengthening human well-being and capabilities; Shifting towards sustainable and just economies; Building sustainable food systems and healthy nutrition patterns; Achieving energy decarbonization and universal access to energy; Promoting sustainable urban and peri-urban development; and Securing the global environmental commons. [2023 GSDR  webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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