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A Look at the Past: HLPF 2017

Event Overview

On July 9th the 2018 High-Level Political Forum commenced, lasting nine days and bringing together states, U.N. entities, and various stakeholders. Every year the Economic and Social Council sponsors the forum which is responsible for reviewing and implementing collective action promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [1]. The 2030 Agenda is outlined in Resolution 70/1 (adopted by the General Assembly in September 2015) and declares the values and goals that will “stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet” [2]. Included in this resolution are the key seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a mission to promote more meaningful partnership with member-states, individuals and non-government parties. The 2016 forum was the first since the adoption of the SDGs and focused on “Ensuring that no one is left behind” [3]. Since then, the HLPF forums have focused on a different, specific set of SDGs, but always including Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). HLPF 2018 marked the second year that the forum has followed this strategy, focusing on goals 6,7,11,12,15 and 17. This post will first review the details and outcome of last year’s event.

HLPF 2017

The theme of HLPF 2017 was “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” and for eight days states and various stakeholders delved into the six goals (1,2,3,5,9,14 & 17) that most deeply relate to this theme [4]. Demonstrating the intersectionality of poverty and other world issues, objectives ranged from building resilient infrastructure and sustainable industrialization to achieving food security and improving nutrition [5]. Along learning workshops and speakers, there were 147 side events, such as the one on sustainable livestock organized by the governments of Switzerland and Ethiopia [6]. Official meetings took place every day, too, which started as reviews of SDGs implementation and ended with Voluntary National Review presentations. The Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are in accordance with paragraph 84 of the 2030 Agenda, which outlines state-led, regular reviews by developed and developing countries of their internal progress toward the SDGs; civil society, private sector, and other stakeholders are encouraged to comment and form partnerships [7]. In 2017, El Salvador, Afghanistan, and Japan were among 43 countries that volunteered to present their reviews; the United States was not [8]. After eight days, the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration marks member-states’ continued commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

2017 Outcome

During last year’s HLPF, it was unclear if all member-states would adopt the Ministerial Declaration as some states disagreed about language regarding such topics as climate change, foreign occupations and gender issues [9]. This culminated in a vote on two Paragraphs, 4 and 21. The former encouraged self-determination of “peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation” that stifled their development and harmed their environment [10]. Whereas paragraph 21 promoted a “inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization” and pushed for trade liberalization [11]. Besides abstentions, the United States was the only state to vote against retaining paragraph 21 [12]. In the end, the Ministerial Declaration included both paragraphs and text emphasizing the urgency of climate change and an unwavering dedication to ending poverty and hunger.

HLPF 2018

On July 9, the 2018 HLPF started to tackle this year’s theme: “Transformation towards sustainable development.” The SDGs (goals 6, 7, 11, 12, and 15) revolve around creating and redeveloping human systems to be more efficient, sustainable, and accessible [13]. These goals apply to our relationships with both natural ecosystems and modern energy markets. This year, 47 countries presented their VNRs, including our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, and the Netherlands, Brazil, and Palestine (which David Kirshbaum of Nonviolence-NY was a core organizer), for example [14]. One of the special events will be the third annual SDG Business Forum which works to create a culture of business for good and develop private-public partnerships [15]. With the consequences of climate change becoming impossible to ignore and having a disproportionately harsher effect on poor, more vulnerable groups, this year’s focus is all the more relevant. To read more on this year’s forum and its outcome, you can check out our website and media (

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