Facing the devastating impacts of COVID-19, which is threatening decades of progress in improving people’s lives, countries are meeting at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development from 7 to 16 July to chart the best paths forward to a healthier, more equitable world.
The virtual ten-day Forum convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) takes place as the global death toll from COVID-19 has passed 500,000, and more than ten million cases have been confirmed. Economies have collapsed, unemployment is skyrocketing, and health care systems are buckling under the increased strain of the virus.
Bringing together over 1000 participants, including around 100 members of governments as well as business, finance and civil society representatives, the largest annual UN gathering to review progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will explore solutions—both domestic and multilateral—for responding to the crisis and for building a solid foundation for a sustainable recovery.
The need to build back better
Under the theme “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development,” the Forum will look at how the world can effectively respond to the pandemic and build back better by scaling up efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the blueprint adopted by world leaders in 2015 for a more equitable and sustainable world.
Immediately prior to the Forum, on 6 July, ECOSOC brought together the Council’s expert bodies and the UN System to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the SDGs and pathways forward to recover fairer and better. And following the Forum, on 17 July, a high-level conversation will take place on global solidarity and renewed multilateralism during times of crisis, especially relevant as the UN marks its 75th anniversary later this year.
“Had we been further advanced in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, we could better face this challenge – with stronger health systems, fewer people living in extreme poverty, less gender inequality, a healthier natural environment, and more resilient societies,” stated UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for us to strengthen international collaboration,” said Ambassador Mona Juul, President of ECOSOC. “We can only succeed through a coordinated multilateral response, strong political leadership, and global solidarity with those most vulnerable.”
4 Pacific country reviews
The Forum will review the current situation and examine what has been working, and where obstacles are preventing progress on the Goals. The first week of the Forum will be devoted to discussing thematic action and policy solutions that can help countries contend with the crisis and recover better. The Forum is expected to culminate in the adoption of a ministerial declaration.
This year, 47 countries – including the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Samoa and PNG – are presenting their Voluntary National Reviews – the work they are doing on the Sustainable Development Goals – with an aim of sharing experiences with the global community and accelerating implementation efforts.
For example, Micronesia has prioritized the production and use of data to monitor SDGs and inform national policies and programming through, amongst other channels, a multi-dimensional Poverty Index and a national SDG dashboard based on assessment of the SDGs in 2017.
The Solomon Islands reports that, through its free education initiative, primary and secondary school enrolment rates have increased and improved gender parity, while in the healthcare sector, the country continues working towards achieving universal health coverage.
“While countries have taken temporary measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 through stimulus packages, tax cuts and expansion of social protection measures, these will not be sufficient in the long term,” said UN Resident Coordinator for ten countries in the Pacific, Sanaka Samarasinha. “Building back better requires a systemic shift toward a more sustainable economy that works for people and the planet. Bold steps that ensure resilience to future shocks including climate change, optimizing digitalization and ensuring inclusion when reinvigorating economies can steer the world back on track towards the SDGs.”
204 virtual side events and an online exhibit, featuring Member States, the UN system and civil society will take place during the HLPF.
About the High-Level Political Forum
The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is the central global forum for providing political leadership, guidance and recommendations on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs, which were unanimously adopted by world leaders in September 2015. The Forum provides an opportunity for countries, civil society and businesses to highlight the efforts they are taking to achieve the SDGs, exchange ideas and best practices.