skip to main content

SDGs wheelBLOG

High-level Political Forum 2018

9 - 18 July


The theme of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on sustainable development will be "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.” In the lead-up to the Forum, weekly blogs by representatives of Member States, UN system, and major groups and other stakeholders will be featured on this page to present various perspectives on this theme. The role of SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 will also be highlighted, as these goals will be in focus at this year’s Forum. Follow #HLPF on social media for the latest blogs and other HLPF updates.

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

ECOSOC President H.E. Ms. Marie Chatardová Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN

Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies

ECOSOC President H.E. Ms. Marie Chatardová

Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN

5 January 2018

The theme of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, to be held from 9-18 July 2018 in New York, is "Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies". Considering the current global trends that are putting stress on our interconnected societies, economies and environment, such a transformation is urgently needed.

Inequalities within and between countries continue to grow. In many places, individuals or groups confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in economic, social and political life. The rapid urbanization of the past decades has brought enormous challenges, including growing numbers of slum dwellers, increased air pollution, inadequate basic services and infrastructure, and unplanned urban sprawl. Creating more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urban spaces is a priority.

Without ensuring access to safe water and sanitation for all and sound management of freshwater ecosystems, the inequality divide will not close and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved. The advancement of sustainable energy has an equally fundamental role in attaining the SDGs, as it is crucial for eradicating poverty, advancing health, education, water supply and industrialization, and for combating climate change.

To achieve sustainable and resilient societies, we also need to establish strong national frameworks for sustainable consumption and production, sustainable business practices and consumer behavior and adherence to international norms on the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes. The ecosystem challenges that we face are also numerous, and include the decline in land productivity and the increase in biodiversity loss, poaching and trafficking of wildlife.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by Member States in 2015 has the potential to address all these challenges, but to do so its implementation needs to progress timely and effectively. Leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first is critical, including by empowering the most marginalized groups and their families so that they can lead decent and productive lives.

A solid follow-up and review framework for the Agenda’s implementation is essential to ensure that our collective efforts are on track. The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which is the global platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, gives guidance and political recommendations through its Ministerial Declaration. Countries, UN system and major groups and other stakeholders alike gather annually at the HLPF to share experiences, challenges and lessons learned in implementing this Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals thus driving and focusing our efforts.

The HLPF 2018 will review Sustainable Development Goals 6,7,11,12 and 15 and their interlinkages with all SDGs. As every year the HLPF will also review Goal 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

These goals and their interlinkages, including with other international agreements such as the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction, provide an excellent opportunity to look at our economies and societies and to discuss and define strategies and policies that will make our societies more sustainable and resilient, from circular economy to reducing the human ecological footprint.

A critical element of the HLPF’s follow-up and review mechanism are the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) by Member States on their follow-up and implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. These VNRs can also serve as important vehicles to strengthen policies and institutions and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the SDG at all levels.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to the 48 Countries that have volunteered to present Voluntary National Reviews in 2018. They are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic , Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vietnam.

I invite everyone to follow this blog series on the 2018 High-Level Political Forum. Published regularly in the lead-up to the 2018 HLPF, it will highlight different perspectives by various actors on “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” and the SDGs in focus at the 2018 Forum.

Mr. Liu Zhenmin

Intensive preparations for the 2018 High-level Political Forum are underway, featuring 48 countries to review progress towards SDGs

Mr. Liu Zhenmin

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

10 January 2018

Preparations for the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), to be held from 9 to 18 July in New York, are already underway.

As the main United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, the 2018 HLPF will carry out in-depth reviews of progress on SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17, and their inter-linkages with other Goals. A record number of 48 countries will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on the status of their implementation of the 2030 Agenda to the forum.

The 2030 Agenda is owned and driven by countries, and the progress of its implementation depends on national actions. Country-level actions that effectively translate the SDGs to the national level, and engage all sectors of society, are crucial for success. The HLPF supports such actions by providing a global space where governments, local authorities, civil society, private sector, academia, the scientific and technological community and others can all come together to share and exchange their experiences on implementing the transformative SDGs.

The eight days of the Forum in July, however, are only a culmination of numerous activities by many actors in the months leading up to it. A number of preparatory meetings will be organized at the national, regional and global levels in the months ahead. At the national level, the VNR process is becoming a consultative and participatory one, engaging multiple stakeholders. It is expected to rally support and marshal resources for implementation. It is not an end in itself, but it plays an increasingly important role in outreach, in sharing experiences, in identifying gaps and in mobilizing action.

At the regional and global levels, there are similar engagements. These include a series of preparatory meetings organized by UN DESA, in close collaboration with Regional Commissions and other UN entities, for the countries that will present VNRs at the HLPF in 2018.

A snapshot of general characteristics of early implementation of the 2030 Agenda can be found in the Synthesis Report 2017 prepared by DESA. The report identifies challenges and examples of implementation from the countries that presented VNRs to the HLPF in 2017. It looks at a range of actions and policy measures relating to implementation, including ownership and involving stakeholders, institutional mechanisms, incorporation of the SDGs into national frameworks, means of implementation and an overview of how countries addressed goals and targets in the VNRs.

Additionally, with UN system-wide support, regional preparatory meetings (Regional Forum on Sustainable Development) will be organized by the five UN Regional Economic Commissions this Spring.

A number of thematic expert group meetings on SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17 and on the interlinkages between the SDGs will also be held in the lead-up to the HLPF.

As in past years, I am certain that the 2018 HLPF will again benefit from active multi-stakeholder engagement throughout the preparatory process. During the 2018 HLPF, an SDG Business Forum, a multi-stakeholder Partnership Exchange, a gathering of Mayors and other local and regional authorities, SDGs Learning, Training and Practice sessions and many other events will be organized, allowing for a sharing of diverse perspectives on SDGs implementation.

I invite you to visit the website of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development for further information on this year’s session. Please join us in this global gathering for SDGs, in our global effort to leave no one behind.

Robert Glasser, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction

We have an opportunity like never before to avoid the creation of new disaster risk and apply the brakes to economic losses

Robert Glasser

UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction

16 January 2018

In recent days, world headlines have been dominated by the mudslides in California which at the time of writing have claimed 17 lives and injured many more. The economic losses triggered by the sudden flows of earth, rocks and debris from hillsides stripped bare by last year’s wildfires will add further to the US$300 billion of economic losses suffered by the US in the last year.

Last August, Sierra Leone had a similar environmental disaster but the death toll was enormous. Hundreds died when a nighttime mudslide destroyed, without warning, whole neighborhoods in Freetown as torrential rain swept down hillsides stripped bare to provide fuel and farmland for impoverished households.

It’s a stark illustration of the fact that disaster fatalities are more influenced by socio-economic vulnerability, and exposure or lack of protection from the elements, than by the hazard itself.

Since 1990 almost 90% of mortality recorded in major internationally reported disasters has occurred in low and middle income countries.

Poverty and Inequality are major obstacles to reducing disaster losses and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nothing lays bare the resilience gap in today’s world like a disaster triggered by a flood, a storm, an earthquake or a heatwave.

Some 220,000 people died in the 2010 earthquake which rocked Haiti reducing the capital Port-au-Prince to rubble with economic losses equivalent to 120% GDP, setting back the country’s development efforts by many years.

In least developed countries particularly, the inadequacy of the built environment is often exposed by major disasters and underlines the importance of taking specific steps to upgrade slums which house more than 800 million people and turn them into sustainable cities and towns with thriving communities which are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Economic losses ensuing from disasters devour a much greater proportion of GDP in countries at the lower end of the Human Development Index than among those at the top despite the great difference in terms of absolute economic losses. Average annual disaster losses are equivalent to 22% of social expenditure in low-income countries.

The World Bank estimates that disasters force 26 million people into poverty every year. An ODI briefing paper for the World Humanitarian Summit calculated that as many as 325 million extremely poor people could be living in the 49 most hazard-prone countries by 2030.

The Sisyphean nature of the task ahead, if we do not step up investment in disaster risk reduction, is further emphasized by the fact that disasters contributed to a rise in world hunger of 38 million people in 2016 and the displacement of over 20 million people.

The good news though is that we have an opportunity like never before to avoid the creation of new disaster risk and apply the brakes to economic losses.

It is estimated that US$6 trillion will have to be invested annually in infrastructure (urban, land-use and energy systems) by 2030. This unprecedented drive towards urbanization can come as a great boon to many if it is carried through in a manner which avoids the creation of disaster risk and seeks to reduce existing levels of risk.

According to analysis in UNISDR’s 2015 Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction, typical benefit to cost ratios for prospective disaster risk management lies in the range of 3:1 to 15:1. If indirect benefits for these new towns and cities are factored in then the dividends of risk informed investment will pay off in many positive ways beyond simply avoiding future disaster losses.

One obvious area is the reduced cost of response and recovery in an era when climate change is already having an impact on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. This can leave more money to be spent in vital areas such as eradicating poverty and hunger, and providing health and education for all.

Dr. Lisa Guppy, United Nations University

A Starting Point to Solve the Global Water Crisis

Dr. Lisa Guppy

United Nations University

1 February 2018

In 2010, the United Nations declared access to safe, clean drinking water and sanitation to be a human right. Five years later, UN Member States reaffirmed their commitment to this human right in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and through the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all".

As we move into the third year of the 2030 Agenda, it might seem too early to expect substantial progress. However, with the latest SDG report UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that "implementation has begun, but the clock is ticking". There is already a sense that the pace of progress is too slow to meet targets by 2030.

But much of this early anxiety is rooted in limited country baseline data and underdeveloped statistical capacity . Compounding the challenges of initial SDG assessments is that, while indicators have been determined for all SDGs, clear methods of measuring indicators have not. Without a standardised and confident way to determine progress, ongoing implementation becomes clouded.

Water - specifically SDG 6 - is a perfect example of this dilemma.

Each of the 169 SDG targets will be measured through one or two indicators, and for SDG 6 nine core indicators have been agreed and accepted. The next step is to agree on how to measure these nine indicators. So far, methods have been established to measure four, but the practicality of measuring these four indicators to build reliable baseline data is difficult for many countries. As a result, official country progress reports have been rudimentary so far.

A fundamental reason for this is because most countries, from both high- and low-income brackets, are still working to realign their political, institutional and planning mechanisms to deal with expectations of the SDGs. In 2017, 43 countries voluntarily reported on progress against a small number of SDGs. Among the range of challenges and advances each country reported, the action group 'Together 2030' concluded that the weakest area was in reporting concrete actions taken for SDG implementation.

And SDG 6 is no exception. It is uncertain how each nation will decide their water priorities and paths. So far, there is only one universal agreement: 'business as usual' will mean we all fail.

Changing the 'business as usual' approach will require evidence-based decision making - and evidence in the water sector is hard to come by. The sector is characterised by multiple stakeholders; conflict between environmental, social and economic agendas; and complex science, with a level of uncertainty under changing environmental conditions. National water agendas are difficult to manage even by experts, which leads to difficulties in using data to develop policy that can lead to ambitious action under SDG 6.

To overcome this, UN agencies, non-government organisations and governments around the world are working to improve evidence building and then linking that to a better understanding of water management solutions. One strong example is the SDG Policy Support System ( SDG PSS) developed by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health in partnership with the UN Office for Sustainable Development, the Korean Ministry of Environment, and the Korean Environment Corporation . The system enables national governments to leverage existing and emerging national and international data, to automatically build robust and dynamic evidence that is fit for policymaking and planning around SDG 6.

The SDG PSS has been designed to encourage one agreed, and therefore authoritative, evidence base for policy use. As data are collated into the SDG PSS, the system automatically synthesises and evaluates the data against SDG 6 targets and indicators. In this way, users can view strengths, gaps and needs for SDG indicators in one summary.

The SDG PSS is currently being trialled in five countries, but it is freely available for trial use and review by policymakers, international organisations and water experts. The goal is to offer a completed version globally by mid-2018.

The ambition of the SDG 6 targets reflects the urgency and scale of the global water crisis. However, the scale of challenges we need to face and solve are daunting. Initiatives like the SDG PSS provide a simple starting point - a way for national governments to effectively formulate implementation plans and policies from a reliable baseline of evidence that can guide us to real SDG progress.

Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

SDG 11: Building the World’s Smart Sustainable Cities Together

Malcolm Johnson

ITU Deputy Secretary-General

12 February 2018

More than 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, it will be nearly 70%. This raises huge challenges for municipalities and city planners. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) offer the solution to many of these challenges. At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs, we are working to develop the tremendous potential ICTs have to help build smarter, more sustainable cities.

Indeed, many cities across the world are already utilizing Big Data analytics gathered from smart sensors and connected devices to manage traffic, reduce energy usage – and improve a wide range of urban operations and services.

If we want to reach the targets set out by the UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 11 (SDG 11), we need to work together to develop the tools that will help cities become truly smart and sustainable.

To succeed, international organizations, national governments, municipalities and local partners from civil society, academia and the private sector need to join forces.

Taking action

Thankfully, there are encouraging signs of such collaboration.

ITU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) launched "United for Smart Sustainable Cities" (U4SSC) in 2016. U4SSC is now supported by 16 United Nations bodies, and over 50 cities have now joined ITU’s pilot project.

U4SSC has facilitated the development of internationally recognized key performance indicators (KPIs) which allow cities to set goals and measure progress on becoming smarter and more sustainable. The indicators, developed by international experts in ITU and UN bodies, fall under five overarching categories: the use of ICTs; physical infrastructure; equity and social inclusion; quality of life; and environmental sustainability.

Recently, many cities including Dubai, Singapore, Montevideo, Maldonado, Moscow, Valencia, Pully and Rimini have asked ITU for assistance in the implementation of the U4SSC KPIs. In the past few months ITU has published case studies on the efforts of Dubai and Singapore to apply smart city innovations, providing a valuable reference point to other cities pursuing greater efficiency and sustainability.

The creation of smart cities require a trusted infrastructure capable of supporting an enormous volume of ICT-based applications and services, which in turn requires coordinated adherence to common standards that ensure openness and interoperability. ITU develops international standards to enable the coordinated development of Internet of Things technologies and their application in smart cities. They also outlined how smart grids can help to build more controllable and efficient energy systems. Work on standards for smart 5G systems, which will help improve the feasibility of smart processes in large urban areas, is underway.

More efficient cities, by and for people

Standards can be powerful agents of change. Their application allows cities to reduce energy costs and emissions through more efficient buildings, electricity grids, street lights, transportation systems, and energy and water networks at a time when cities already account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

But smart, sustainable cities are about more than just reduced energy costs and emissions—they also aim for the realization of a better quality of urban life for all. New intelligent solutions, underpinned by smart sensors, can improve the safety and well-being of inhabitants.

Here are just a few examples: In Singapore, sensors and cameras build on an existing digital system to enable the government to send signals to drivers to improve traffic flow. In Kolkata, a social enterprise is using geographic information systems to map unplanned settlements, providing addresses and vital services for the inhabitants. In Quito, a mobile platform for women to report sexual harassment on the municipal public transport system is improving the way the city is policed. Digital technologies are also used to enhance citizen engagement and participation.

A radical shift for resilient and sustainable societies

The transformation towards resilient and sustainable societies requires the redesign of our cities as well as a radical shift in our patterns of production, consumption, and waste.

Digital technologies give us an opportunity to develop more intelligent and inclusive urban systems where waste, costs, and ecological impacts are minimized, and where urban operations and processes, increasingly cognizant of the multiple stakeholders involved, can enhance quality of life for all. These technologies give us an opportunity to drive success not just on SDG 11, but on several other SDGs, demonstrating the significant impact that ICTs can have on the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But the transition towards smart, sustainable cities requires collective intention and increased collaboration between citizens, businesses, and governments. Together, we can design more efficient, ecological and people-centered cities, which drive, rather than hinder, individual well-being and sustainable development.

ITU infographc

The care, protection and conservation of animals is critical to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Jack McQuibban, Jessica Bridgers and Bonnie Wyper

Members of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster of the NGO Major Group

23 February 2018

Jack McQuibban, Members of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster of the NGO Major Group
Jessica Bridgers, Member of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster of the NGO Major Group
Bonnie Wyper, Member of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster of the NGO Major Group

In the search for solutions to create sustainable and resilient societies, it is important to note the vital link between people and animals in many communities, whether for sustenance, livelihoods, health or security. When disasters strike, humans’ dependence on animals often means animal protection is a community priority. From protecting national parks whilst increasing local employment and food security in Malawi, to saving forest habitat for elephants in India through innovations that reduce the need for wood in local households, it is increasingly evident that engaging local communities in long-term sustainable development solutions simultaneously benefits communities.

However, despite these opportunities, our current commodification of animals for human use is creating barriers to the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda. Animal production uses one-third of the world’s fresh water and 45% of the world’s grain production; drives deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change; and pollutes water, air and soil. The way we treat animals is a multi-sectoral issue, deserving the attention of the sustainable development community. Without addressing the care, protection and conservation of animals, successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda will remain out of reach.

For example, to implement SDG 6 we must reduce water pollution and increase water-use efficiency. The recent Global Land Outlook from UNCCD states that a meat-based diet uses 15 times more water than a plant-based diet. In China, animal agriculture is estimated to produce 40 times the nitrogen pollution of industrial factories, polluting water resources. Without addressing animal agriculture, we will not be able to ensure availability of water and sanitation for all.

To implement SDG 12 we must, at minimum, halve global food waste. According to the World Economic Forum, the largest loss in the food supply chain is from animal feed, amounting to a net 20% of the calories produced per person per day. We must also ensure environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes. Beyond the food sector, the use of animals in research is a significant source of chemical and biohazardous waste resulting in air, water and soil pollution, despite the fact that non-animal alternatives are now often more reliable, cheaper, faster, and less wasteful, as well as offering better models and end results. Without replacing animal tests, meat and dairy production with humane and innovative non-animal alternatives, we will not ensure societies’ necessary transformation towards greater sustainable consumption and production patterns.

To implement SDG 15, we must halt deforestation, degradation of habitats, and loss of biodiversity. It is widely recognized that cattle production is a leading deforestation driver and a recent international conference co-hosted by Worldwide Fund for Nature and Compassion in World Farming explored the irrefutable link between animal agriculture and biodiversity loss. Without addressing animal agriculture and land use, we will not achieve SDG 15.

The closer we look, the more obvious the link between our wellbeing and the wellbeing of animals becomes. The World Organisation for Animal Health has recognized this, and there are now 181 countries which have agreed to implement animal welfare standards. Ahead of this year’s HLPF, it is imperative that we begin to address the care, protection and conservation of animals within the 2030 Agenda. World leaders, businesses and the NGO sector must recognise that taking this multi-sectoral approach, including animals in all decisions and policies related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, can accelerate the creation of sustainable and resilient societies worldwide.

Responding to this need is a new Animal Issues Thematic Cluster within the NGO Major Group. This Cluster brings together experts on these issues from around the world who are ready and willing to form partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders to raise awareness about the urgency of addressing the care, protection and conservation of animals to meet the goals of the 2030 agenda. Together, we can ensure the implementation of the SDGs and enjoy truly resilient and sustainable societies for the environment, people and animals.

By Jack McQuibban, Cruelty Free International; Jessica Bridgers, World Animal Net; and Bonnie Wyper, Thinking Animals United - Members of the Animal Issues Thematic Cluster of the NGO Major Group

Mirna Ines Fernández, Global Youth Biodiversity Network, Global Youth Biodiversity Network Steering Committee Member

Sustainable Development Goal 15 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Mirna Ines Fernández, Global Youth Biodiversity Network

Global Youth Biodiversity Network Steering Committee Member

8 March 2018

The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted under the Convention on Biological Diversity is a ten-year framework for action by all countries and stakeholders to safeguard biodiversity and the benefits it provides to people, and the implementation of its 20 ambitious but realistic targets is on its way at the national levels. Now, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed by the 193 States Members of the United Nations, seem to add new challenges to the development and implementation of national policies for Sustainable Development, but after a closer analysis of the full scope of these goals and targets many synergies appear.

The achievement of the SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss – will not be possible without taking into account the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. According to the Technical Note developed by the CBD, FAO, The World Bank, UNEP and UNDP titled Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDG 15 is related to half of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15 & 16).

It is easy to point out how related are the indicators of this goal with some of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. For example, the indicator 15.1.2 - proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas, by ecosystem type – is directly related to the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which seeks that by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water will be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. Another examples is the SDG target 15.9 - By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts – which has the same objective as the Aichi Biodiversity Target 2, and its indicator is the progress towards national targets established in accordance with this Aichi Biodiversity Target of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

The annual progress report of the Secretary-General on SDGs shows that despite improvements towards a sustainable management of forests and protected areas, the declining trends in land productivity, degradation, biodiversity loss, poaching and trafficking of wildlife are still concerning.

The challenges identified by countries on their Voluntary National Reviews with regards to the SDG 15 are related to habitat loss, invasive alien species, poaching and trafficking of endangered species and products, lack of expertise and knowledge on complex issues such as Access and Benefit Sharing, integration and mainstreaming of ecosystem and biodiversity conservation into sectoral plans, land degradation, threats to mountain ecosystems and pollinators, to mention some of them. All of these challenges are also addressed within the full scope of the Aichi Biodiversity targets. When it comes to implementation, the challenges that have been repeatedly identified by countries include inadequate institutional capacities and the lack of participatory coordination frameworks in land and forestry management. These are quite common in countries with small teams in charge of the implementation of multiple environmental related commitments, and will need multi-stakeholder collaboration to succeed.

Given the challenges of implementation that countries face, especially when the most biodiverse countries have also great challenges in the fight against poverty, it is essential to tackle these connected goals and targets with an integrated approach. The design of the SDGs has been done in a way that ensures that these and the Strategic Plan are mutually supportive and reinforcing, so the teams in charge of the development of national policies to ensure the achievement of this goal can be sure that their actions will support the advances on the related Biodiversity Targets.

Synthesis of Voluntary National Reviews 2017: Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) United Nations
Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Report of the Secretary-General
Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Technical Note from CBD, FAO, The World Bank, UNEP and UNDP.

Water and Migration: Implications for Policy Makers

Eva Mach, Environmental Sustainability Programme Officer;
Christopher Richter, Migration Policy Officer

20 March 2018

Eva Mach, Environmental Sustainability Programme Officer
Christopher Richter, Migration Policy Officer,

The international community has, for good reason, sought to emphasize the importance of migration as a global public policy issue.

With heightened awareness of the multiple implications of poorly managed migration, and with the international community focused on developing a new global compact to address it, the opportunity for a more nuanced, more sophisticated approach to migration has presented itself.

With this has come the opportunity to better understand migration and its links with other policy issues that at first thought might seem unrelated.

Take, for example, the issue of water.

Itself an issue of great significance – owing to its centrality to sustainable development and, indeed, to life as we know it – water, and its relationship to migration is an emerging field of study that requires attention and action.

Although the links are not always straightforward, researchers have nonetheless begun to delve deeper into the issue in order to better chart the implications of these two policy domains and their intersections. It is an important part of the broader analysis of the links between migration, environment and climate change .

So, what are the links between migration and water, and what can policymakers do to take account of them?

In general, most analyses of migration and water issues focus on two separate factors. The first of these are the potential impacts of water scarcity on migration patterns. Simply put, a lack of water – whether as a result of drought, the most severe outcome of water scarcity – or other causes, is sometimes considered a factor that drives migration, in particular within countries or in some cases within regions.

However, it is often difficult to pinpoint water scarcity as being a sole, or even a direct factor, driving migration. A range of other socio-economic, political and environmental issues, acting cumulatively, are more easily identifiable as being decisive than any single factor acting alone.

Nevertheless, lack of water security does significantly increase the potential for migration, largely because of its impact on well-being and livelihoods.

Already, the World Water Development Report (WWDR) 2016 has reported that water scarcity resulting from drought and groundwater depletion has led to increased rural to urban migration in parts of the Arab region, with potential for similar movements in Africa. Water stress was also identified as one of the key driving factors in Asia as well, with research available from Iraq , Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal .

Quantitative data from IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has similarly begun to demonstrate the migratory impacts of drought in parts of Africa. The latest drought induced displacement figures collected by DTM during 2017 estimated more than 475,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ethiopia (December 2017), over 1.2 million individuals in Somalia (November 2016 - November 2017) and more than 14,000 in Madagascar (November 2017).

In addition to the current levels of migration linked to water, climate change predictions suggest that people might also be forced to move because of changes in the hydrological cycle and as a result of increasing global temperatures .

The second issue that is most commonly addressed in discussions on the migration and water nexus is the impact of migration on freshwater resources. This involves looking at both the environmental challenges of population growth attributable to migration, especially in the context of urbanization, and the environmental footprint of forced migration (displacement).

The SDGs provide several entry points to address the links between migration and water in line with the 2030 Agenda’s overall ambition of leaving no one behind. First, a number of the SDGs provide guidance to address environmental migration related to water scarcity by building resilience in the face of environmental changes and ensuring human right to water, including:

  • Ending poverty by building resilience of vulnerable populations to extreme events under Goal 1.
  • Achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture and strengthening capacity for adaptation to environmental changes under Goal 2.
  • Reducing the number of people suffering from water scarcity under Goal 6.
  • Promoting the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies under Goal 10.
  • Reducing the number of deaths and people affected by disasters through effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices and strengthening development planning for resilient cities and settlements under Goal 11.
  • Building adaptive capacity in the face of climate change and integrating climate change measures in policies under Goal 13.

Second, the environment related Sustainable Development Goals, and especially SDG 6 on sustainable management of water and sanitation can help align migration management and governance with an environmentally sensitive approach to ensure freshwater resources are sustainably managed.

Such environmentally conscious migration policymaking and migration conscious water policymaking are key in a world in which urbanization rates keep rising, where levels of displacement are at their highest in decades and where the impacts of climate change on the water cycle have just started manifesting themselves.

Policymakers have the power to act proactively to manage migration in the context of water scarcity as well as look after freshwater resources where migration takes place. This requires working across ministries and institutional silos in the way the 2030 Agenda requires.