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