From July 11-20, the United Nations will host the High-level Forum on Sustainable Development to assess progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 connected goals to address our social, economic, and environmental challenges.
Adopted by world leaders at the UN last year, the Sustainable Development Goals are a global to-do list to end extreme poverty, protect the health of the planet, and a create a future where every person lives with opportunity and dignity – all by 2030.
To get a better understanding of what will happen at this forum and why it matters, we talked to Madeleine Oliver, the UN Foundation’s Program Officer for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
What is the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and why does it matter?
The High-level Political Forum is the main annual global moment for reviewing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s forum will be the first of its kind, and the official program is available here.
The forum provides an opportunity for governments, the UN, businesses, and civil society to come together at the global level to: assess where we are on the global goals, including where we are on track and where we need to make course corrects; share lessons and ideas on implementing the goals; address new and emerging challenges; and mobilize action and strengthen partnership to achieve the sustainable development agenda.
The forum matters for a number of reasons. One: accountability – world leaders made a commitment to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the High-level Political Forum is the annual moment to see how they’re doing. Two: sharing – the forum provides a platform to share lessons, experiences, and knowledge. Three: partnership – the forum is open to all UN member states and also convenes UN entities, businesses, and civil society groups to promote collaboration on behalf of the global goals.
Who will be there, and what will happen at this year’s forum?
Most of the High-level Political Forums, including this year’s forum, will happen at the level of government ministers, but every four years, there will be an additional forum at the Heads of State/Government level with the first one taking place in 2019. The high-level or “ministerial” segment of this year’s forum takes place from July 18-20.
The forum is organized to be inclusive, and includes many stakeholders beyond UN member states. UN entities and major groups and stakeholders will participate, and there are several events and sessions to engage the private sector and civil society.
The theme of this year’s forum is “Ensuring that no one is left behind.” The theme is meant to be the lens through which progress on each goal and country is reviewed to help focus the discussion.
The forum will include national voluntary reviews of 22 countries and thematic reviews of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. And it will have three main outcomes: (1) a negotiated “Ministerial Declaration” which provides political guidance, (2) a “President’s Summary,” which is a more detailed record of the sessions, and (3) a standard procedural report.
What other events and sessions will take place at the forum?
There are several events and sessions throughout the forum to engage the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders along with governments.
The Partnership Exchange on July 18, organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is a forum to highlight the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Representatives from multi-stakeholder partnerships will gather with government officials, policymakers, UN leaders, and members from civil society to share their expertise on how we can make progress on the goals and ensure no one is left behind.
The SDGs Learning, Training, and Practice sessions from July 11-15 are aimed at sharing knowledge and experiences, making connections, building capacity, and promoting collaboration among high-level speakers and experts on topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The SDG Business Forum on July 19 will convene leaders from business, government, and civil society to examine the important role of the private sector in achieving the global goals.
What are the National Voluntary Reviews?
A central part of the forum are sessions called “National Voluntary Reviews,” where governments come forward and present reviews of their progress of the Sustainable Development Goals. These reviews provide an opportunity for national governments to share their experiences and lessons on how to move forward on the global goals agenda.
The 22 countries that have volunteered are: China, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Madagascar, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, and Venezuela. Many of those governments have already provided reports here.
Since this is the first year of the global goals, we expect countries to focus on strategies and policies they are putting in place to set themselves up to deliver on the agenda.
For example, several countries, including Samoa, the Republic of Korea, Estonia, Georgia, Montenegro, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, have linked or are in the process of linking the Sustainable Development Goals to their national development strategies, plans, and budgets. Many have set up coordination mechanisms, such as special units in Presidents’ or Prime Ministers’ Officers, or inter ministerial commissions to direct national implementation efforts going forward. Some countries have used this as an opportunity to highlight challenges, such as identifying data as a priority area to work on.
Countries will also use their presentations to share how they plan to monitor the goals including through the global indicators, approaches at the regional and international levels, and what they hope to get out of the forum and National Voluntary Reviews going forward.
How can individuals get involved?
The Sustainable Development Goals belong to everyone, and we all have a stake in their success. Individuals have an important role to play in achieving the global goals: You can raise awareness with your networks; volunteer on an issue that you care about; and hold your leaders accountable for following through on their commitments.
To follow the forum and what leaders are saying, visit the forum website, tune it at webtv.un.org and follow the hashtag #HLPF2016. You can also follow the UN Foundation on Twitter at@unfoundation and on Facebook at facebook.com/unitednationsfoundation for more information.