Stakeholders in the SDGs and HLPF

The Sustainable Development Goals define themselves on the official United Nations website as an official agenda intended to serve as a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, which the UN has announced, demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. It also seeks to improve the reach and quality of peace through many kinds of enhanced freedoms. The makers of the Goals note in that eliminating poverty is the “greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”. Similarly lofty goals in the Goals are the elimination of violence and bringing perfect access to justice for every person in every country. The Goals seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and to bring into existence what the MDGs worked for. The Goals advertise themselves are integrated and inseparable in that they balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

The Goals count every country as a stakeholder and also frequently refer to “all stakeholders” as an umbrella group. The stakeholders are those entities that will collaborate to implement the SDGs. This implies that even if everyone’s input is not equally heard, everyone will have a voice in the satisfaction of these goals. The meeting of the high-level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development in 2017 convened under the authority of the Economic and Social Council from Monday, 10 July, to Wednesday, 19 July 2017 as the first attempt to integrate the countless voices that the SDGs purport to need. Many of the other posts on this blog go into considerable depth on the details of the HLPF, so this post will explore a pessimistic, tangentially related idea. The HLPF has scheduled meetings from this year to the year 2030. 2030 is the deadline that the SDGs have given themselves. The HLPF’s official website says that its most frequently employed review mechanism will be to encourage member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (paragraph 79)”. The site says that these national reviews are expected to serve as a basis for the regular reviews conducted by the (HLPF). As written by the 2030 Agenda, “regular reviews by the HLPF are to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and involve multiple stakeholders”. This initially sounds positive, but the intentionally expansive definition of “stakeholders” could allow the accounts and opinions of local-level bureaucrat’s to be the false global perception of a development issue in a remote region.