HLPF 2020

HLPF 2020: Accelerated action and transformative pathways for the decade of action on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

HLPF 2020

“High Level Political Forum 2020, 17 global goals and a promise: to leave no one behind” – Goals banner displayed across Dublin’s Rosie Hackett Bridge (photo: Shutterstock)

By María Victoria Espada – This year once again, the United Nations (UN) High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) met to carry out the monitoring and revision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

From the 7th to 17th July 2020, on the theme of “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”, the participants discussed the progress made in implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in light of the impacts and adversities created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they agreed on new courses of action to try to accelerate and ensure the achievement of these goals during the decade of action.

Original format

However, this edition of the HLPF was original in its format and content. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and expected limitations on in-person meetings and international travel, all the official sessions were held virtually, inluding all side  and special events, as well as the voluntary national reviews (VNRs), where 47 countries presented the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In addition, the programme was accessible online via UN Tv Live.

Moreover, following the 2016 HLPF agreement, the analysis of progress in the SDGs were not carried out individually, goal by goal, as in previous years, but under the first four-year Global Sustainable Development Report prepared by an independent group of scientists, titled The future is now. Science for achieving sustainable development.

Global Sustainable Development Report

The report highlights that, in spite of the efforts made in the last four years, the world is not on track to meet the aims of the SDGs in 2030, unless the rate of their implementation is drastically increased under the principles of inclusion and sustainability. After a scientific analysis, the report identifies six key entry points that will allow the synergies created by the interconnections between the 17 SDGs to be taken advantage of, and which will accelerate progress:

  1. Improve human well-being and capabilities
  2. Redirection towards sustainable and fair economies
  3. Create sustainable food systems and standards for healthy nutrition
  4. Achieve the decarbonization of energy and universal access to energy
  5. Promote sustainable urban and peri-urban development
  6. Secure global environmental common values

2030 Agenda: universal, indivisible, and integrated

The focus of the report reflects the universal, indivisible and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda, and the previous actions are the result of the interconnections between the different SDGs and their individual aims. Only by recognizing this systemic focus is it possible to identify and manage the inequalities produced by prioritizing certain SDGs over others, whilst maximizing their benefits as a whole.

4 cornerstones to achieve transformations

The report also identifies four cornerstones that may help to achieve the necessary transformations: governance, economy and finances, individual and collective action, and science and technology. Each of these can contribute individually to systemic change, but only through being combined according to each country’s context will the necessary changes be made to achieve the SDGs. The six entry points and the four cornerstones are, respectively, the “accelerated action and transformative pathways” that direct the content of the 2020 HLPF.

Impact of COVID-19

Equally, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been analyzed and discussed during the HLPF. According to information from the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), whilst it is true that the impacts of the crisis may not be known with certainty for months, or even years, the initial evaluations point to huge losses of life and livelihoods as well as deepening poverty and hunger.


Each country and region must design their own solutions responding to their specific needs and priorities, and success, as emphasized by the 2030 Agenda, this will also depend on the cooperation of governments, institutions, the private sector and civil society.