The United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was held in New York from 5-18 July 2022. The HLPF is the main UN platform for sustainable development. It has a central role in the follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All UN Member States and representatives from civil society organizations participate in the HLPF, which meets under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
As the world is struggling to recover from COVID-19 amidst ongoing crises, the HLPF reflected on how recovery policies can reverse the negative impacts of the pandemic on the SDGs and move countries on a path to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda. Therefore, the 2022 HLPF highlighted the theme: Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Besides reflecting on the priority theme, the HLPF also reviewed five Sustainable Development Goals. These include quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), life below water (SDG 14), life on land (SDG 15), and partnership for the Goals (SDG 17).
The outcome of the HLPF process is the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration (https://hlpf.un.org/2022/outcome). It is a political statement by UN member States to implement the goals and commitments regarding sustainable development internationally. Civil Societies organizations and other major groups can contribute to drafting the ministerial declaration.
Building Back Better and Advancing the SDGs
“Dream big, speak loud,” sang a children’s chorus from New York City at the opening session of the Ministerial Segment of the 2022 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. “And implement your commitments,” urged many civil society representatives who gathered for the annual event.
The 2022 HLPF took place in a setting of the continuing global pandemic, geopolitical tensions, open conflicts, and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the 2030 Agenda implementation and reversed progress on many SDGs. But the pandemic had served as a “wake-up call” to tackle fundamental problems facing societies and an opportunity to build back better using the 2030 Agenda as a blueprint for recovery.
In introducing the theme of 2022 HLPF, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the need to address vaccine inequality, prioritize low-carbon recovery, and reform the international financial and debt architecture. He also urged renewing the social contract between governments and their people to deliver global public goods and generate and use robust data.
The Voluntary National Reviews
As part of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the UN member states conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These national reviews are expected to serve as a basis for periodic reviews by the high-level political forum (HLPF), meeting under the auspices of ECOSOC.
The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) aim to facilitate sharing experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned, to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The VNRs also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for implementing Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2022, forty-four countries, including the Philippines and Greece, conducted Voluntary National Reviews to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
VIVAT International participated in the HLPF process. Fr. Ben Beltran, SVD, contributed to the consultative process of the SDGs under review, giving input on SDG 4 in particular. He shared his knowledge, insights, and best practices from Sandiwaan Learning for Learning (SCL) in connection with critical thinking and digital transformation for learning.
Sr. Carmen Elisa Bandeo, SSpS, and Raquel Verdasco contributed to the VNR of the Hellenic Republic in collaboration with Greece’s civil societies organizations. Some members of the VIVAT Philippines also participated in their country’s VNR. Fr. Ian Nercua, SVD, Coordinator of VIVAT Philippines, attended the ASPAC Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. He also shared best practices in addressing climate change through the one-billion bamboo project at the SDG Lab Program organized by Justice Coalition for Religious (JCoR).
At the High-Level Political Forum sessions, VIVAT International submitted a written statement on Transformative digital learning for out-of-school youth displaced by Covid 19, using digital devices and a new methodology for critical, collaborative, and innovative thinking. VIVAT also co-sponsored a side event emphasizing Quality Education and Gender Equality: Keys for Building forward to Achieving the SDGs. Two girls from Uganda and the Philippines were invited to speak at the online webinar. They shared inspirational stories of their struggles and untired efforts to achieve a better job through higher education.
Paul Rahmat and Fr. Maxwell Wullar, SVD, attended the opening sessions and some conferences during the High-Level Political Forum in person. Maxwell, an intern at the VIVAT International Office from July-September 2022, intervened and spoke at the session of the High-level Dialogue on Sustainable Development in Africa entitled “Africa They Want: Reconfirming Africa’s Development as a Priority for the United Nations System.”