Governments adopted the outcome of the 2021 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 15 July, ending a four-month negotiation process on commitments to advance the 2030 Agenda. The meeting took place in a hybrid format, which enabled delegates attending in person to vote on proposed amendments to the Ministerial Declaration. They then adopted the final draft by acclamation.
The HLPF convened from 6-15 July 2021. The 2021 HLPF Ministerial Declaration, which was developed through consultations facilitated by the Permanent Representatives of Finland and Iraq, reaffirms the 2030 Agenda as a plan of action and global blueprint to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, build back better, and prevent future pandemics.
It also: reaffirms the importance of addressing regional challenges and welcomes contributions of regional multi-stakeholder platforms to the voluntary national reviews (VNRs); commits to involving and empowering local authorities to ensure local ownership of SDGs, noting voluntary local reviews (VLRs) as a useful tool; and emphasizes the importance of the participation of youth in implementation, follow-up, and review of the 2030 Agenda.
On the nine SDGs reviewed in 2021, the Declaration:
- SDG 1: calls for nationally appropriate social protection systems and notes the need for a multidimensional approach to eradicate poverty.
- SDG 2: reaffirms the right to adequate food; and emphasizes the need to ensure inclusive, resilient and sustainable food systems;
- SDG 3: calls for increased action to achieve universal health coverage and reduce premature mortality from non-communicable disease (NCDs), and assist low-and middle-income countries with NCDs;
- SDG 8: promotes decent work for all, including in the informal economy, and structural economic transformation, including expanding digital and mobile banking services; supports and facilitates access to finance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to continue operations and help restore jobs and incomes; and supports the prohibition and elimination of child labor.
- SDG 10: calls for gender-responsive national responses to COVID-19; calls for the leadership and full, effective and equal participation of women in decision-making; commits to stepping up efforts to fight against racism and other intolerance; and calls upon Member States to take steps to support the full inclusion of migrants in the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
- SDG 12: calls for enhanced efforts to improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production, and decouple economic growth from environmental degradation; and supports developing countries to ensure that people have relevant information and awareness for sustainable consumption and production patterns;
- SDG 13: reaffirms commitment to strengthening the implementation of the Paris Agreement and finalizing outstanding issues of its work programme; urges countries to institute sustainable, inclusive and climate responsive economic recovery policies from the COVID-19 crisis as an important element of a sustainable growth strategy and an immediate investment in climate-resilient, inclusive and just transitions, and urges parties to communicate or update ambitious NDCs.
- SDG 16: commits to intensify concerted global efforts to prevent and combat crime by making criminal justice systems more effective, accountable, transparent, inclusive and responsive, and by facilitating and strengthening international cooperation in criminal matters; and
- SDG 17: commits to promoting public engagement and innovative partnerships through a whole-of-government approach, regional and local mobilization and actions, and meaningful participation and involvement of communities, people, civil society, volunteers, academia, and the private sector; commits to strengthening cooperation to close the digital divide within and among countries; and stresses the urgency of fulfilling ODA commitments.
For SDG targets with a 2020 end date, the Declaration supports accounting for ongoing intergovernmental processes that relate to those targets, and refers to updated targets with a suitable level of ambition for 2030.
Russia introduced three amendments (E/HLPF/2021/CRPs.1-3), which were voted on but not approved. The proposed amendments: would have weakened the importance of focusing on climate change; opposed a reference on gender equality in line with Russia’s historic opposition to the language used; and opposed text on cooperation between the human-animal-plant sectors, nature-based solutions, biodiversity-health interlinkages, and coherence between biodiversity and climate policies on the grounds of economic interference. Speaking against the proposed amendments, the EU and others said recovery strategies and investment decisions must promote, rather than undermine, the Paris Agreement, and global biodiversity goals can achieve long-term prosperity. The UK, also on behalf of many others, said the language in the text reflected growing international acknowledgement of the inseparability of the climate change and biodiversity crises.
Israel proposed deleting language on the right to self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation. Governments voted to reject the proposal. The Ministerial Declaration was then adopted by acclamation.
Countries spoke on points that had not been agreed for inclusion in the document. Several lamented the lack of reference to the ”One Health’ approach, which the Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports has been “at the front and center of other international discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges.”
Some, such as the EU, stressed the need for bolder commitment for a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, with the Republic of Korea noting that a sustainable recovery requires consideration of the human-nature relationship for more ambition on gender equality. On children’s rights and participation, the Holy See said children’s rights should be considered within the context of the family, and Russia objected to the participation of children in the SDG process until they reach the age of majority. Mexico said marginalized people can be agents of change for sustainable development and should be supported with stronger efforts.
In his closing remarks, ECOSOC President Munir Akram said the COVID-19 vaccine is a global public good that must be made available to all, and identified four priorities for realizing a more equal world:
- strengthening health systems;
- financing to address all aspects of pandemic recovery, SDG achievement, arresting climate change, and the triple environmental crises;
- poverty and hunger, with attention to the most vulnerable; and
- relying on the UN system to steer the paradigm shift in methods and modalities through international cooperation.
In a statement released after the Declaration’s adoption, the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders Coordination Mechanism says the 2021 HLPF “failed to come up with bold and transformative recommendations for action … during this world crisis.” They express sadness at the lack of ambition for responding to multiple crises, and concern that the Declaration does not address “the root causes and systemic barriers to achieve a world where no one is left behind.” These causes and barriers include reliance on fossil fuels, unsustainable debt and illicit financial flows, and patriarchy as a political tool, they note.
The statement underscores the importance of universal social protection for recovery from COVID-19 and future resilience, noting that the Ministerial Declaration only refers to extending social protection coverage, which must be scaled up to reach universal coverage.
Finally, the statement explains, “leaving no one behind means absolutely no one is excluded – all people of all ages, in all their diversity, everywhere, no matter their economic or social condition must have equal rights. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary and analysis of HLPF 2021] [Documents leading to HLPF Ministerial Declaration] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]