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)? 

Continue reading


The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is a United Nations platform created in 2013 to deal exclusively with sustainable development. Under the Economic and Social Council, the HLPF meets every year to assess the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 grand challenges that are time-bound and overarching for our world to achieve. According to the UN, the SDGs were created to proceed with the 8 Millennium Development Goals that lacked more modern inclusivity measures and resiliency aspects for a world charged in addressing the negative impacts of climate change for instances. The expansive, inclusive, and resilient SDGs are categorized by People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships which address all forms of development – inclusive, universal, integrated, locally-focused, and technology-driven development. The goal-based planning approached that the SDGs are created on, claim that well-crafted goals are able to accomplish guiding the public’s understanding of complex challenges, unite the global community, promote integrated thinking, support long-term approaches, and define responsibilities as well as foster accountability. The SDGs are meant to have positive impacts and to turn our world for the better however multiple critiques have come out against the intent or potential impact of the SDGs. One London School of Economics posts critiqued the SDG framework for creating this agenda on a failing economic model. A Quartz article claimed that the SDGs undermine democracy due to the dictatorship governed countries apart of working groups created to monitoring and implementing of the SDGs. Lastly, Dr. Michelle M.L. Lim of the University of Adelaide claims that the SDGs goals approach should shift from goals to an integrative approach to prevent “cherry-picking” components of the SDGs in countries. Many critiques raised rank respectively in merit and in concern. However, it is my thought that only time will either confirm or deny these concerns raised against the SDGs. I think it is better to have some overarching global framework for sustainable development in place than none at all and the buy-in from nations to willingly want sustainable development for their nations, their citizens, our collective future generations is what will make the difference outside of the SDGs and the HLPF. By the year 2030, the HLPF will assess whether the SDGs were met globally and whether these concerns and the intention of every nation for wanting sustainable development will be revealed.


In 2000, the United Nations implemented the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which consisted of eight broad goals to address major issues in international development to be accomplished by 2015. Although the MDGs received their fair share of criticism from around the world, they were important for creating a blueprint for international actors to follow to work together towards common development goals. When the MDGs expired in 2015, the United Nations implemented its successor, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include 17 goals that focus both on improving human lives and addressing environmental issues. The SDGs have the same 15-year time frame as the MDGs, which puts the end date in 2030. 

A discussion of the SDGs would not be complete without addressing the UN body in charge of sustainable development: the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The HLPF is in charge of overseeing the follow-up and review of the SDGs on the global level. Each year, the HLPF convenes in New York to discuss the progress made towards achieving the SDGs and the challenges that must be overcome to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The HLPF is also responsible for voluntary national reviews that are provided to the HLPF by nations themselves to review their progress in sustainable development.

When comparing the MDGs and SDGs, it is clear that many of the problems with the MDGs were considered and improved upon when creating the SDGs. One example of this is the greater emphasis on environmental sustainability in the SDGs compared to the MDGs. The SDGs also use significantly more indicators than the MDGs, which is critical to tracking the success of the goals. Finally, the SDGs apply equally to all countries, whereas the MDGs were mostly focused on developing nations. I believe that the SDGs are a great improvement upon the MDGs and that governments, the private sector, and civil society should continue collaborating and focusing their efforts on achieving these 17 goals set out in the SDGs. 

However, by far one of the most important aspects of the development and implementation of the SDGs is the inclusion of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS). This includes the 9 Major Groups established at the 1992 Earth Summit, as well as 4 more stakeholder groups. These 13 sectors all have a significant role to play in achieving inclusive sustainable development, so including MGoS in the HLPF and the creation and implementation of the SDGs, the SDGs have a higher chance of achieving success in improving sustainable development.


The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner developed the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) as a framework for the first human rights convention of this time.The CRPD provisions are supported by human rights indicators as well as a list of articles. When we think about CRPD as a framework for development, the implementation of human rights indications are clearly sought out for, especially in regards to CRPD linkage to the SDGs. This type of consultation supports the “Bridging of Gaps” as a means of strength

ening the rights of persons with disabilities in mutual consultation with the CRPD and the SDGs. The cool thing about the CRPDs is that these indicators are closely linked to the SDGs. Additionally, they specify the importance of monitoring, reporting, and implementing the targets and indicators listed in each of the SDGs. Then, how are SDGs relevant?

Continue reading


The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play a critical part in the international conversation on development and global interactions. In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 17 goals, “which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.” The goals cover a variety of issues from education to life below sea; all equally important to the betterment of the planet in both an environmental and human context. Further, what is significant about the SDGs is that they are intended to overlap as all issues are interconnected on some level.

Continue reading

The SDGs, HLPF, and Sen’s Approach to Development

Developed from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the target year 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have made tremendous strides in emphasizing inclusivity. As discussed in our first two class sessions, the MDGs had a one-size-fits-all approach to development that lacked consideration of cultural, political, and historical contexts as well as the lack of inclusivity in its goals, targets, and indicators. Ultimately, the MDGs did not specifically consider the almost one billion people in the world with disabilities in the conversation regarding development.

The SDGs, however, have expanded from 8 goals to 17 goals that include persons with disabilities. This expansion allows countries to customize their focus depending on their own needs and goals, which essentially allows more space for the expertise and engagement of non-profits and NGOs to enter the development conversation. With clearly defined goals, targets, and indicators that work to include persons with disabilities in development, the SDGs have been crafted with articulate language that can be easily read and understood by all persons.

This language is developed through the High-Level Political Forum with actors such as NGOs and interest groups of member states, national institutions, and the major groups. The UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which was formed in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 is a highly inclusive and participatory forum of the UN that is responsible for overseeing the progress of the SDGs around the world. The HLPF meets annually for eight days under the Economic and Social Council and every four years under the UN General Assembly, which convenes with the heads of state.

Through these forums, the voices of the major groups are pushed to the fore front of the discussion. The major groups include women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, civil society, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, and the scientific and technological groups. Similar to Amartya Sen (1999) in his work Development as Freedom, the HLPF and the SDGs emphasize the importance of empowering the voices and agency of marginalized groups. The work of Sen (1999) has helped shift development approaches from a focus on GDP to a humanistic and inclusive approach that considers a person’s opportunity to live a long and healthy life, obtain knowledge, and have a decent standard of living. Without the individual at the center of development, it is difficult to truly understand whether development practices are aiding a country in an inclusive manner.



Sen, A. (1999). Freedom as Development. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

SDGs, HLPF, y más

The United Nation’s created the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were not as successful as originally intended by the UN. The SDGs have specific targets and indicators that have made them much more impactful. They also have language about persons with disabilities that the MDGs did not, making them more inclusive and holistic.  Continue reading

The SDGs and the High Level Political Forum

The creation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marked a groundbreaking moment for the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in global development goals. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), where no language surrounding persons with disabilities was included, the SDGs were a crucial step in identifying the importance of inclusive sustainable development.  Continue reading

SDGs, HLPF, and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

The transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was an incredible leap towards effective development that includes persons with disabilities. The identification of actors and their roles in inclusive sustainable development along with the conceptual formalization of development studies provides refection and evaluation on the effectives of development as we understand it now.

Continue reading