The Role of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) “has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs,” according to the Sustainable Development Goals site page dedicated to the HLPF. The HLPF meets annually under the Economic and Social Council and meets every four years under the General Assembly (“High-Level Political Forum”). Notably, the Forum asks member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (“High-Level Political Forum”). These national reviews are used by the HLPF when they conduct their review process (“High-Level Political Forum”). The HLPF works well in the sense that it allows countries to conduct their own, voluntary reviews that are used as the basis for the Forum’s review. This allows for experts, government organizations, and civil society organizations to participate in the specific country’s Voluntary National Review. Further, this allows for the report to be grounded in the country’s specific context, which is often left out in development discourse that traditionally imposes the West’s perception of global development. Country context is essential to assessing the progress of the SDGs. The HLPF could be improved to promote inclusive sustainable development by implementing accountability measures for those members on the Forum. How are these members chosen for the Forum? Do these members represent the diversity of both the SDGs (including experts on poverty, education, water, energy, etc.) and the member states (including representation from different countries in different regions)? 

It is important that the SDGs have specific targets for each goal so that the seemingly qualitative process of development can be assessed and analyzed using a set standard. Additionally, the indicators that measure the progress of each target provide further numerical standards for assessing the achievements of a given component of the goal. For example, target 3.1 centers around maternal mortality and has specific indicators such as the maternal mortality ratio and proportion of institutional deliveries that help identify progress in a certain area of health and well-being. The indicators have national target values for 2030, which serve as goals to be met under the particular SDG.

For my capstone, SDG 3, which aims to ensure the health and well-being for all at all ages, is most relevant as I intend to examine 1) how disability was included/excluded in both the crafting and implementation of SDG 3 in India and 2) what further steps India can take to include disability and sustainability in their health development programs. I will likely look at five different indicators and eight different targets while studying SDG 3. This is because these specific indicators have been chosen as focal points in the SDG India Index, an index developed under the Government of India that assesses India’s achievements against the SDGs. The SDG India Index chose eight targets from the SDG’s global targets and then chose certain indicators that were of increasing importance to address in India. I am focused on targets 3.1 (maternal mortality), 3.2 (child mortality), 3.3 (disease), 3.7 (sexual and reproductive health), and 3.c (health finance and workforce). Building off of targets 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, and 3.7, Sen writes that the issue of high birth rates decreases women’s freedoms, as they are forced to engage in consistent child bearing and child rearing (198). Sen argues that agency is important for the reduction of fertility rates and, subsequently, for women’s freedom (198). These arguments will help tie in my conceptual framework of development as freedom with specific targets relevant to the region of India.

There may be a role for my project at the annual HLPF as I intend to 1) analyze the role of disability in the crafting and implementation of SDG 3 in India and 2) provide future ideas for how India can incorporate disability into their health development. Professor Cogburn mentioned how my ideas align with the format of a shadow, or alternative, report, and I feel that this could be a useful format to consider for the final paper and for any opportunities that arise at the HLPF. 

The Sumner and Tribe chapters for this week helped me understand that analysis and theoretical/methodological grounding is often left out of overly-descriptive development literature (154). Therefore, when conducting research for my project, I really need to focus on where analysis is appropriate and how my chosen framework, Sen’s development as freedom approach, can help situate my findings.