(1) Brief of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) The HLPF was called for by the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) in June 2012 in its outcome document The Future We Want, which categorically states that: We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replacing the Commission. The high-level political forum shall follow up on the implementation of sustainable development and should avoid overlap with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner. (UN Doc. A/RES/66/288, para. 84) The sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was chosen to establish the HLPF in June 2012 at Rio + 20 (UN Doc. A/RES/67/203). The sixty-seventh session of the UNGA concluded that ‘the lesson from the 20 years of the work of Commission on Sustainable Development’ should be the starting point for giving final shape to its replacement, the high-level political forum on sustainable development (UN Doc. A/67/757). As part of the institutional framework for sustainable development, the forum should have a clear niche, strongly linked to the follow-up to Rio + 20 and related reference and summits, while, at the same time, helping mainstream sustainable development in the work of the UN, including the UNGA and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (UN Doc. A/67/757). The text also called for the open working group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to report to the UNGA at its sixty-eighth session and to report regularly, taking into account the convening of the first HLPF. It further called for a special event in 2013 to follow up on efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). (A) HLPF 2013 The inaugural session of the HLPF took place on 24 September 2013 under the auspices of the UNGA at the UN headquarters in New York. The session theme was ‘building the future we want from Rio + 20 to the post-2015 development agenda.’ The session was divided into several segments that featured keynote presentations from heads of state and government and ministers and remarks from the floor on the following themes: from vision to action; global partnerships for development to create jobs and improve sustainable lifestyles; and mapping the way forward for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development (UN Doc. A/68/588). (B) HLPF 2014 The first session of the HLPF under ECOSOC was held from 30 June to 9 July 2014 at the UN headquarters in New York. The HLPF, convened under the auspices of ECOSOC, met when the sustainable development goals and the options for a financing strategy for sustainable development were being formulated (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2014/2). The forum, on the theme ‘achieving the MDGs and charting the way for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda including the SDGs,’ adopted a ministerial declaration that, inter alia, called for urgent implementation of all commitments under the global partnership for development to overcome gaps identified in the MDGs Gap Task Force reports; emphasized accelerating progress towards the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income as official development assistance by 2015; committed to establishing a strong, ambitious, inclusive, and people-centred post-2015 development agenda; reaffirmed all principles of the Rio Declaration, including common but differentiated responsibilities; reaffirmed that poverty eradication shall be central to the post-2015 development agenda; and called for a transparent intergovernmental process that will include inputs from all stakeholders (Docs E/2014/L.22 and E/HLPF/2014/L.3). (C) HLPF 2015 The second meeting of the HLPF convened under the auspices of ECOSOC included discussion on how best to prepare for the implementation of the agenda and how to shape the work of the forum to promote and review implementation. The forum was held from 26 June to 8 July 2015. The theme of this third session, the second under the auspices of ECOSOC, was ‘strengthening integration, implementation and review: the HLPF after 2015.’ The forum met as the UN negotiations to elaborate the post-2015 development agenda were reaching their final stage. It advanced the discussion on the agenda’s implementation and review and reflected on how the HLPF could organize its work once it starts to review implementation of the SDGs in 2016. A key message of the meeting was that we must urgently get started on the implementation of the ambitious and transformative development agenda that world leaders will adopt at the September summit. ‘Early starters’ explained how they were preparing for the SDGs. Participants discussed integrated planning and the policy implications of ‘leaving no one behind.’ They also debated how communication can accelerate implementation, how to mobilize business and civil society, and how to put finance and technology at the service of sustainable development—an issue also addressed in the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development. On reviewing progress towards the SDGs, the meeting concurred that reviews should be universal, voluntary, and state led and should focus on exchanging experiences. It reaffirmed the central role of the HLPF at the apex of a review architecture engaging regional organizations and many UN and other platforms. The HLPF is expected to conduct national reviews of implementation and thematic reviews of progress in specific areas beginning in 2016. Many ideas also emerged on how the HLPF could organize its work after 2016 and deliver on its mandates to review the progress of SDGs; promote implementation of the post-2015 development agenda and conferences on small island developing states and other special situation countries; and address new and emerging issues and strengthen the science policy interface (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2015/4). (2) UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015 and the 2030 Agenda The UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015 for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda was held on 25–7 September 2015 in New York and convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the UNGA. The summit decided on new global SDGs for the next fifteen years. The outcome of the summit, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Doc. A/RES/70/1), has adopted a decision on a comprehensive, far-reaching, and people-centred set of universal and transformative goals and targets for sustainable development. The agenda recognizes that eradicating poverty in all of its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development and achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions—economic, social, and environmental—in a balanced and integrated manner. The new universal agenda contains the seventeen sustainable development goals and 169 targets as follows: Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable goal Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. (UN Doc. A/RES/70/1, 14) The new goals seek to build on the success of the MDGs and complete what MDGs did not achieve. The new goals aim to go further to end all forms of poverty. The new goals are unique in that they call for action by all countries—poor, rich, and middle income—to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection. While the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the seventeen goals. Countries have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the goals, which will require quality, accessible, and timely data collection. Regional follow-up and review will be based on national-level analyses and contribute to follow-up and review at the global level. The HLPF would have a central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes of the 2030 agenda at the global level, working coherently with the UNGA, ECOSOC, and other relevant organs and forums, in accordance with existing mandates. For the purposes of the thematic reviews of progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the high-level political forum on sustainable development, the sequence of themes for each four-year cycle of the forum shall reflect the integrated, indivisible, and interlinked nature of the SDGs and the three dimensions of sustainable development, including cross-cutting issues as well as new and emerging issues, and will serve as the framework for reviewing all seventeen goals. The remainder of the current cycle of the high-level political forum under the auspices of ECOSOC is as follows: the theme for the high-level political forum in 2016 is ‘ensuring that no one is left behind,’ the theme for 2017 shall be ‘eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,’ the theme for 2018 shall be ‘transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,’ and the theme for 2019 shall be ‘empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’ The high-level political forum under the auspices of ECOSOC, without prejudice to the integrated, indivisible, and interlinked nature of the SDGs, shall discuss a set of goals and their interlinkages, including, if appropriate, with other goals, at each session representing the three dimensions of sustainable development, with a view to facilitating an in-depth review of progress made on all goals over the course of a four-year cycle, with means of implementation, including with respect to Goal 17, reviewed annually (UN Doc. A/RES/70/299, para. 5): in 2017: Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14; in 2018: Goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 15; and in 2019: Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16. ECOSOC shall also ensure the alignment of its annual main themes and the corresponding annual themes of the high-level political forum under the auspices of the council, to foster coherence. The meetings of the high-level political forum under the auspices of the UNGA and those under the auspices of ECOSOC shall be closely coordinated to ensure coherence and to provide for mutually reinforcing linkages, especially when it is deemed appropriate to convene the forum under the auspices of the council in the same year that it is convened under the auspices of the UNGA in order to provide necessary space for the conduct of voluntary national reviews and thematic reviews. This connection also decides that the forum shall have only one negotiated political declaration covering the different and complementary functions of both sessions of the forum when the forum is convened twice in the same year. (3) Implementation of the 2030 Agenda and HLPF 2016 The third meeting of the HLPF convened under auspices of ECOSOC was the first since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It included discussions on how to ensure that ‘no one is left behind,’ the means of implementation, science-policy interference, mainstreaming the SDGs, and creating ownership at the national level, as well as regional experiences, delivering the 2030 Agenda for countries in special situations, and the role of multi-stakeholder engagement for implementation. The imperative to leave no one behind is the core message of the 2030 agenda. Inclusion and inequality remain challenges for both developed and developing countries. There is a need to address multiple forms of discrimination, including against women, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, persons with disabilities, and many other groups. In order to leave no one behind, globalization must work for everyone. Economic growth is not enough to ensure inclusive societies. Investing in peace and building resilience are essential. Policies need to be designed to benefit all, and economic actors must respond to the need of vulnerable groups (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2016/8). International development cooperation has to respond to the transformative nature of the agenda, while drawing on lessons learned from the implementation of the MDGs. Meeting the commitments included in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda will be critical. It is important that the means of implementation at the global level are not divorced from the inter-relatedness that exists between SDGs. Financing and other actions have to recognize this inter-relatedness and utilize potential synergies. Coherence should be found among existing international financing instruments. Interventions during the HLPF showed a high awareness of the importance of considering the impacts of national actions on other countries. Some countries and groups are elaborating unified action plans and strategies for implementing the 2030 agenda (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2016/8). Science is needed more than ever to provide a complete picture and inform the implementation of the new agenda. In turn, science needs to be responsive to the questions that the new agenda puts forward. There is a need for dialogue, and the HLPF should remain a central platform for such dialogue. It was suggested that a core area of focus for the science-policy interface at the HLPF should be the inter-linkages across the SDGs. Science can provide insights that go beyond what is revealed by indicators: on the causes of ongoing trends, on the effectiveness of policies and development interventions, and on likely threats and opportunities. The HLPF should continue to seek the inputs of scientific communities worldwide (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2016/8). Implementation of the 2030 agenda will require the participation of all citizens and stakeholders. Multi-stakeholder partnerships will be a pillar of institutional arrangements for the implementation of SDGs. Efforts are required to enhance the voice of all stakeholders in decision making by engaging in active outreach and providing adequate resources for their participation in relevant fora. It is critical to ensure that public information is accessible. Participation was pointed to as being a basic need. Civil society has a critical role in pushing and delivering the agenda. Therefore, the HLPF has continued to build inclusiveness and transparency, engaging major groups and other stakeholders in its discussions and considering reports on their contribution to the implementation of the 2030 agenda. This should continue to be an integral part of the HLPF’s deliberations in the future. The role of the HLPF as the central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 agenda and SDGs is extremely important. All countries must take advantage of the forum and find new ways to report on progress. The forum’s reviews must be robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent, and integrated with other follow-up and review activities. Increasing the reporting burden of countries should be avoided, making full use of existing reporting mechanisms, including those under international conventions and treaties. Follow-up and review need to be fed back into national implementation. Sustained political attention is critical, and, in this regard, the annual SDG progress report will make a contribution (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2016/8). Twenty-two countries presented national voluntary reviews at HLPF 2016. In preparing their voluntary reviews for the HLPF, many countries used broad consultation mechanisms, ranging from inter-ministerial coordination to wider inclusion of civil society and public consultations. All reviews focused on national processes that are ongoing to ‘nationalize’ the SDGs and integrate them with national priorities and in national strategies and plans. The reviews highlighted a broad range of priority issues. The imperative to leave no one behind was mentioned in all reviews as a critical dimension in this process. All reviews mentioned the means of implementation in general, and SDG 17, in particular, as a critical aspect of the implementation of the agenda. Many countries described how they are setting up monitoring and evaluation systems at the national level, including revising or creating sets of national indicators. The need for support from the UN system to enhance data collection capacity was mentioned in many reviews. At the global level, it will be important to reflect on what has been achieved through these reviews as well as where gaps remain. Therefore, the national reviews for the HLPF should be inclusive and participatory; reflect bottom-up evaluation processes and be open to inputs produced at the sub-national level; and include disaggregated data (UN Doc. E/HLPF/2016/8). New challenges, some of which will be unforeseen, will present significant challenges to the implementation of the 2030 agenda and to leaving no one behind. Swift and coherent international action will be necessary to ensure effective response to these challenges in an integrated manner. The experience gained from this HLPF will be invaluable in the development of subsequent sessions and the achievement of the 2030 agenda. As such, it is time to strengthen political commitment by member states and to empower the HLPF in fulfilling its mandates. There must be incentives for countries to participate in the HLPF, including the sharing of experiences and the possibility of getting support from the international community. The next session of the HLPF under the auspices of the UNGA in 2019 should be a milestone. By then, significant progress should have been achieved in all countries and especially in countries in special situations. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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