HLPF 2020: The Pandemic at the Heart of Debates

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Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the priority theme of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), as will be the case next year

Act now for people and planet

For the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to be durable and resilient, a return to ‘business as usual’ and environmentally destructive investment patterns and activities must be avoided – Photo: HLPF ‘Act Now for People and for Planet’

Despite the lack of consensus on the HLPF 2020 Ministerial Declaration on the actions to be implemented in the 2030 Agenda, the HLPF 2021 theme is already approved with the pandemic at the center of discussions on development.

By María Victoria Espada – Last August, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) approved the theme of the next High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF), to be held in July 2021. The HLPF is the main global platform for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also one of the UN meetings with the greatest attendance and participation of Member States, civil society and the business sector.

A sustainable recovery from the pandemic

The HLPF 2021 sessions and discussions will revolve around a “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while promoting the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path to achieve the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and results for sustainable development“.

In addition, and considering the integrated, indivisible and interrelated nature of the goals, the following SDGs will be discussed in detail 1: End poverty, 2: Zero hunger, 3: Health and well-being, 8: Decent work and economic growth, 10: Reducing inequalities, 12: Responsible consumption and production, 13: Climate action, 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions and 17: Partnerships to achieve the goals. Likewise, those goals whose compliance deadline is at the end of this year 2020 will be reviewed.

Build back better

Although compliance with the 2030 Agenda was already threatened by uneven development in recent years, the pandemic has negatively impacted the implementation of the SDGs. Thus, the analysis of its effects and the actions to Build Back Better” will continue to be at the center of the debates on sustainable development in the framework of HLPF 2021.


Also, in job creation and digital connectivity, in green industries that promote a circular economy, and in the protection of the environment and biodiversity, among others.  In short, it means reinventing and reshaping the way people live, work, learn and consume.

Ensuring gender equality

Likewise, ensuring gender equality and the participation of women, as well as the protection and promotion of their rights, will be essential to overcome the pandemic and achieve compliance with the SDGs. No less important will be access to timely and reliable statistics and data to support the implementation and targeting of development policies towards the most vulnerable people, as well as immediate recovery from the pandemic so as to cement development over the long run.

Protecting official development aid budgets, exploring new forms of lending to ease the debt burden of the least developed countries, and increasing investment in multilateral development banks will also undoubtedly contribute to a faster global recovery down the road towards the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Involving the private sector and civil society as key participants

During the HLPF 2020 sessions, the importance of the private sector as a fundamental actor in promoting development through sustainable investments and the reorientation of the relationship between man and nature was recalled.

Likewise, involving local communities and civil society in the search for solutions to development challenges is crucial, as is investing in strong institutions that ensure the continued provision of goods and services.

Participants in the political forum also highlighted the need for greater international cooperation and investing in inclusive multilateralism that facilitates networking with the UN at the center.

Lack of consensus

Paradoxically, despite agreeing on the need to redouble actions to achieve the goals of the SDGs, the UN Member States were unable to reach a consensus on a Ministerial Declaration at the end of the HLPF.Each annual session of the forum must close with a political document adopted by consensus at the ministerial level that establishes actions for the way forward in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

If consensus is not possible, it must be adopted by vote, as has happened in previous years.
As a report by the Cepei research center points out, a tense international context, the need to negotiate content virtually and the impossibility of voting on it virtually, and the weakness of the facilitating team to negotiate the final text would explain the absence of an agreement on the HLPF 2020 Ministerial Declaration.

The 2030 Agenda must not be another victim of the pandemic

Considering that the critical situation in which we find ourselves requires joint actions and global solutions, the absence of an agreement between countries is, to say the least, disappointing.
Civil society, through the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS), of which Dianova International is a part, has long been calling for the HLPF to be strengthened or replaced by a larger, more competent body, that is up to the challenges that face us.

As was heard numerous times during the forum, “let’s not let the 2030 Agenda be another victim of the pandemic“. Further, let’s not let HLPF 2021 be a missed opportunity for better and greater multilateralism, just when it is most needed.