SDGs and the High-Level Political Forum

This blog post discusses the creation and purpose of sustainable development goals, and the role of the high level political forum. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a series of 17 different goals set by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The premise for the document was established in June 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development working paper “The Future We Want”.  Creating the SDGs was a means of continuing and refocusing the 8 previous Millenium Development Goals that were established in 2000 to improve the quality of life around the world and set the agenda of the U.N. in the 21st century. While the title of the prior development agenda refers to the turn of the 21st century, this agenda is focused on sustainable development – that is development which meets the needs of present generations without inhibiting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In terms of changes that were made from the Millenium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, other than the increase in number, some goals were narrowed down in scope and others widened. Both sets of goals share the medium term time range of 15 years, even if they are quite ambitious grand challenges for such short periods. Among the 17 goals are the following: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry/innovation/infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace/justice/strong institutions, and a partnership for the goals.  MDG 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) became two separate SDGs and MDG 7 (ensure environmental sustainability) became 7 environmental related goals (6,7, 11-15), while health related MDGs (4,5,6) were condensed into SDG 3 (good health and well-being).

Implementation of the SDGs is done by the individual governments of the states parties and by other stakeholders, while monitoring occurs at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The HLPF meets every year in July under the UN Economic and Social Council and every four years under the General Assembly. The HLPF’s mission is to review Voluntary National Reviews prepared by countries, consider new challenges to sustainable development, provide leadership, and make recommendations among other things. In 1992 the UN Earth summit established 9 major groups (women, children and youth, NGOs, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community, and farmers) as necessary participants in the sustainable development process, and more groups (local communities, volunteer groups and foundations, migrants and families, as well as older persons and persons with disabilities) have since been given stakeholder status. The MGoS framework allows for a more integrated partnership network of international civil society and governments to make progress on the goals.