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High-level Political Forum 2018

9 - 18 July


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.