SDG Overview and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and HLPF are components of the United Nations’ policy on sustainable development. Each SDG has specific targets, and within each target several indicators in order to identify progress and achievement. A report is released annually that evaluates the progress of each goal in the last year. The HLPF replaced the Commission on Sustainable Development in 2012 through a mandate that emerged from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The body meets annually under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and quadrennially under the General Assembly (heads of state and government). Its main function is the follow-up and review of the SDGs which were established in 2015 to be achieved by 2030. In 2019 the HLPF met under the auspices of ECOSOC and the General Assembly. ECOSOC addressed SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, 17. The overarching goal was to promote and empower people and ensure inclusiveness and equality. The General Assembly was held under the theme “Accelerating the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agenda.” This was the first time the body had met since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015. It was a significant step in acknowledging the urgency of sustainable development.

Overall, the SDGs are more inclusive than their predecessor (MDGs). There are several more mentions of persons with disabilities in the SDGs. The goals at the center of the last annual conference incorporate persons with disabilities into several indicators or targets. For example, SDG 4 (Inclusive Education) focuses on equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, and upgraded education facilities that are disability sensitive. The HLPF also strongly encourages all members and representatives to participate in the annual forums. It stresses that the forum is the most inclusive and accessible body within the United Nations. However, the accessibility of the building in which the annual conferences are held must be significant as well.

The SDG Summit held under the General Assembly in 2019 produced the Political Declaration. The document outlines initiatives to accelerate sustainable development in the next decade. More than 100 accelerations emerged from the summit. The document reestablishes the ambitions goals of the 2030 Agenda, expresses concerns that progress is slow, launches targets for an accelerated decade of action, and pledges to strengthen the effective and participatory character of the HLPF. This summit was important because progress and international cooperation concerning the 2030 Agenda has been slow. Environmental threats such as climate change will not be overcome unless aggressive action is taken.