MDG’s, SDG’s, the HLPF and Persons with Disabilities

The Sustainable Development Goals, an improvement on the Millennium Development Goals, are a set of seventeen goals that address the grand challenges our world society. These goals include poverty eradication, inclusive cities, zero hunger, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation, good health and well-being, quality education, etc. Because monitoring and implementation proved to be such a pertinent issue with the Millennium Development Goals, additional measures were taken for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, each of seventeen goals has a target and indicator attached to it. The targets and indicators are meant to serve as a follow-up and review mechanism for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The targets and indicators of each goal allow stakeholders to better understand steps needed to achieve these goals and allows for increased accountability of stakeholders. While the Sustainable Development Goals are an improvement on the Millennium Development Goals, the SDG’s still face large challenges.

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was created to act as a governing body over the States. The HLPF acts as a body that oversees States and ensures that States are participating fully and taking steps toward achieving the SDG’s. It is important to note that the HLPF prides itself on being inclusive, however, there are many barriers in place that make the HLPF rather exclusive. In order to participate at the HLPF, you must be a representative of a member state or accredited by ECOSOC to participate. If you are not a representative of a member state, participation at the HLPF is limited to the participation of the nine major groups. These major groups include women, children, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, businesses, civil society, and workers and trade unions. This is increasingly challenging because key stakeholders are left out of the conversation. For example, persons with disabilities do not constitute a major group and therefore do not have direct access to the HLPF. Groups that are not included in the major groups framework are unable to make recommendations, submit documents, attend meetings, access official information and documents, and organize round tables related to the implementation of the SDG’s. This is problematic because key voices and expertise are left behind.

Specifically, in regards to persons with disabilities, while the SDG’s did improve by including 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities, the highly politicized mechanisms in place for implementation of the SDG’s falls short of ensuring that these explicit references will actually be implemented. The HLPF should follow suit of the Third UN World Conference of Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) that took place in Sendai, Japan. This conference was the first conference that was not only accessible to both participants and speakers with disabilities, but also allowed for a tenth major group to participate – persons with disabilities. It is essential that the HLPF incorporate persons with disabilities because they are the experts in this field – they are the only ones who can truly speak to the challenges they face and the importance of incorporating these challenges into the movement toward inclusive sustainable development.