High Level Forum on the SDGs

It is not possible to move forward without granting universal access to basic services such as water, food, energy, health and housing for all.

Doctor at mobile health clinic in Pakistan

These have been important days for the discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. From 11-20 July the UN is hosting the first High Level Political Forum (HLPF) since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Member states, civil society and other stakeholders have been together in the main UN platform for follow-up and review of States’ implementation of the 17 goals. For this occasion, 22 member states have volunteered to present a first report on their performance vis-à-vis the SDGs, to be presented today and tomorrow.

This year the HLPF featured the topic “Ensuring that no one is left behind”. The phrase, aimed at inspiring member states for an inclusive and participatory implementation of the SDGs, has caused concerns amongst civil society, due to the amplitude and vagueness of these words.  In addition, while the so-called “Major Groups” of civil society and other stakeholders were formally organized and represented in the structure of the HLPF, the voices that did not fit one of its 9 pre-determined categories were silent in the official meetings.

Nevertheless, the HLPF sessions provided many with the opportunity to raise substantial issues. For instance, it has been reminded that to lift and empower individuals, peoples and nations it is essential to break the systemic drive of inequality. ‘Leaving no one behind’ implies on the one hand to strengthen society’s foundations by lifting those in most need, while at the same time it requires that the global environment be supportive of the countries that are vulnerable and marginalized.

For although figures have decreased, about 900 million people worldwide remain in absolute poverty and 790 million are still hungry. It is therefore critical to adopt an integrated approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – in other words, to be effective, the SDGs can only be taken as indivisible, interdependent and fundamentally inter-related.

School-girls-in-laosAs we navigate the choppy waters of the first year of SDGs’ implementation, valuable lessons have already been learned. Some things have been made clear: governments are not capable of achieving the SDGs without building strong multi-holder partnerships with civil society, private sector and other stakeholders. In this context, it is imperative that civil society be included both in the formulation and implementation of the SDGs. Additionally, it seems to be a consensus among HLPF participants that it is not possible to move forward without granting universal access to basic services such as water, food, energy, health and housing for all.

Science, Technology and Innovation for the achievement of the SDGs

As we build the way towards the realization of the SDGs, it is interesting to highlight the contribution of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) to the discussions. ST&I have brought and continue to bring instrumental tools for creative, efficient and effective solutions to global and local challenges, and to make the SDG agenda a reality. During the HLPF it has been demonstrated that scientific research can contribute to help better characterizing the problems, work for culturally sensitive policy development and ultimately help develop stronger systems. Although not the only answer, the ST&I have proven useful to help governmental and non-governmental bodies to delivering on the SDGs.

There are 17 goals to fulfill, 14 years to go, and an enormous amount of people that can no longer wait. Working together, if we can all reach our full potentials, we can accomplish extraordinary things.