SDG Thematic Reviews for Integrated Implementation: What We Learned from a Review Pilot

Story Highlights

  • It is becoming increasingly clear that the interconnected nature of the SDGs requires an appropriate cross-cutting review and follow-up at all levels.

  • Here, we want to share the outcomes of a pilot that looked at the SDGs reviewed at the HLPF 2017 with a soil and land lens.

  • We provide a plan to conduct a follow-up exercise, from the perspective of nutrition.

‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’ was the theme of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2017, where 44 countries presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also this year and for the first time, a thematic review was conducted for SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, and 14 (see background document).

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The HLPF We Need

An opinion post by Patrick Lanouette

Disclaimer: The views and opinions presented here are entirely personal and do not reflect the views of the author’s organization.

As a young researcher in the field of sustainable development and environmental protection, I was very excited to participate for the first time at this year’s High Level Political Forum in New York City. Going in to this event, I definitely had very high expectations and imagined it as being the space where local progress and insights on SDG implementation could be shared and capitalized upon at the global level. After a very insightful first week, filled with numerous official sessions and side events, I am left with many questions and uncertainties regarding its true purpose and its effectiveness in bringing together information for efficient follow up and review to track progress as we approach our collective 2030 deadline. Below I offer my opinions on how the HLPF can become #theHLPFweNeed…

The Thematic Reviews we Need

It is clear from the ongoing official meetings, especially after listening in on several “Thematic Review’’ sessions, that the current method of presenting information to track progress and review SDG implementation is far from the most effective method possible to encourage learning and exchange. There is a lot of information to be shared and just not enough time to share it, leading to a very haphazard review of progress on individual SDGs in a few rushed minutes. Many participants that have spoken to me at the HLPF have mentioned how they are using it as an opportunity to learn from what other countries and groups are doing with regards to specific SDGs. In order to promote and ensure proper peer-to-peer learning, a better method of conducting thematic reviews, ideally ahead of the HLPF, needs to be encouraged so that various perspectives can be brought together and synthesized in advance.

The Participation we Need – in order to “Leave No One Behind” #LNOB

Bringing various perspectives together and navigating the complexity of an integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a time intensive and complex undertaking. As seen ahead of HLPF 2017, various CSOs spoke out against the delays linked to Side Event approval which resulted in several individuals being unable to make the necessary arrangements to travel to New York. Participatory and inclusive preparatory events, organized in contexts outside of the HLPF, could provide essential opportunities for all stakeholders to have their voices heard and produce less of a bureaucratic hassle for travel formalities, especially when such events are conducted in-country. Those furthest left behind need to be given the opportunity to be involved in all processes related to the global goals, since this pertains to their individual right to participate in decisions which will affect them. An enabling environment for everyone, including civil society and other stakeholders, needs to be created in the context of the HLPF, since nobody is a “guest”  when it comes to the SDGs; reaching the Global Goals is a shared undertaking. Follow up and review processes at the global level also need to reflect everyone’s collective role with regards to Agenda 2030.

The Youth Representation we Need

There is little youth representation in member state delegations at this year’s HLPF – 12 of the 15 member states with “Official UN Youth Delegates” are from Europe. In several countries (but not all), being a UN Youth Delegate is a 2-year long, (often) full-time volunteer position. Without the means to take on such a position on a voluntary basis, this position is one that is only accessible to very few people. This, in and of itself, is an important barrier for effective representation and undermines the key role of youth “leading the way and owning the 2030 Agenda”. If youth are to own the Agenda, then they should be officially represented in the delegations of ALL member states at the HLPF and their role should be one that is accessible to everyone and not just to the most privileged. Youth representation is not only essential at all stages, from SDG implementation to follow up; it is also the only way to ensure true ownership of the Agenda by young people everywhere. It’s time to get serious about youth representation and participation at the HLPF!

The SDG Champions we Need

The SDGs should be viewed as complementary, interconnected and universal. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that the SDGs are a culture, since they form part of a shared set of objectives that we are all striving for. If this is the case, then we need to value those amongst us who have been living in harmony with the values and ideals set forth by the SDGs for millennia before they were drafted. This means valorizing indigenous cultures and taking into account their traditional knowledge, their teachings and their wisdom with regards to many aspects of the SDGs. Many indigenous cultures have been living in harmony with their natural environment for thousands of years and are therefore the original “champions of sustainability”. Environmental defenders (often times also members of indigenous communities) are being killed at a rate of “4 per week across the world”. How can we ensure that the human rights of environmental defenders on the front line are protected and that their insights take on a more prominent role at the HLPF? Why does the HLPF not provide the proper space for such important discussions with our most important SDG allies: the original champions of sustainability?!

What are some other ways to turn the HLPF into #theHLPFweNeed ?

Let me know on twitter: @Lanz2017

GSW17 Policy Message & Final Report

The Global Soil Week 2017 was co-hosted by twenty two partners from four governments, intergovernmental and academic organizations and civil society networks. 250 distinguished participants provided valuable perspectives piloting contributions to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) Thematic Reviews.

Through all our collective inputs, we were able to address the role of soil and land linked to the six SDGs up for review this year and we were able to build bridges for the review of SDG15 in 2018, thereby working in a truly integrated manner.


Official HLPF Side Event Announced on “Nutrition and Soils in the 2030 Agenda: A Contribution to the HLPF Thematic Reviews” on 10 July from 13:15 to 14:45 at the German House in New York City


Ohne Boden kein Essen, kein Frieden

Auf der Global Soil Week suchten Experten nach Wegen, um fruchtbare Böden zu schützen. Umweltpolitiker Töpfer schlug eine UN-Bodenkonferenz vor.

BERLIN taz | Ein Mann steht in einer Küche – zuletzt fast nackt. Ihm fliegen nacheinander die Möbel weg, der Computer, der Kühlschrank, Essen und Trinken, seine Kleidung. „Alle diese Dinge würden nicht existieren ohne Boden“, klärt eine Stimme den Erschrockenen auf.

Der Kurzfilm auf der Website der Global Soil Week 2017 verdeutlicht anschaulich, warum Boden unersetzlich ist. „Es gibt kein schlimmeres Alarmzeichen für den Weltfrieden als leere Mägen“, warnte auch der „Papst der Bodenforschung“, US-Professor Rattan Lal, zum Abschluss der vierten Weltbodenwoche in Berlin vor rund 600 Teilnehmenden.

Die internationale Wissenschaftskonferenz war 2012 von Klaus Töpfer initiiert worden, damals noch Direktor des Nachhaltigkeitsinstituts IASS in Potsdam. Weil er es geschafft hatte, das Thema Boden auf die internationale Agenda zu hieven, überreichte ihm „Bodenpapst“ Lal dieses Jahr den „Nobelpreis der Bodenforschung“, die Medaille der International Union For Soil Science. Töpfers Gesichtsausdruck verriet, dass ihm die Ehrung nicht das Angenehmste auf der Welt war. Read more

GSW17 A Recap

‘Catalyzing SDG Implementation through a Land and Soil Review’ #ThemeSoil Read more

Global Soil Week Discusses Integrative Review Approach for HLPF 2017

This post was originally posted on IISD SDG Knowledge Hub

24 May 2017: The fourth Global Soil Week (GSW 2017) convened in Berlin, Germany, from 22-24 May 2017, on the theme, ‘Catalysing SDG Implementation through a Land and Soil Review.’ The meeting aimed to contribute to the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by looking at the subset of SDGs that are under review by the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2017 through the lens of land and soils. The discussions were informed by experiences of some of the 44 countries that will present voluntary national reviews at this year’s HLPF. Read more

Land and Soil Actors Pilot Methodology for Global SDG Thematic Reviews

This post was originally posted on IISD SDG Knowledge Hub

9 May 2017: Participants at this year’s Global Soil Week (GSW) will convene a series of “Thematic Review LABs,” using an integrative land and soil perspective, as a contribution to thematic reviews to be undertaken at this year’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July. Meanwhile, a High-Level Event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought held at UN headquarters in New York, US on 1 May 2017, underscored the role of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality (LDN) in “connect[ing] the dots between many of the SDG’s goals and targets.” Related research and policy discussions convened by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its partners further explored some practical challenges in SDG implementation, especially in drought-stricken Sub-Saharan African countries. Read more