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Coverage of Selected Side Events at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF 2018)

9-18 July 2018 | UN Headquarters, New York

Thursday, 12 July 2018 events

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HLPF 2017

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN-Habitat, said SDG 11 is about people, planet, and prosperity in urban areas

The following events were covered by IISD Reporting Services on Thursday, 12 July, 2018:

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Sanitation for Education and Health – An Integrated Approach to Human Development
Presented by Water Supply and Sanitation Collaboration Council (WSSCC), State of Qatar (Qatar Fund for Development), Global Citizen, and Education Cannot Wait



This side event focused on sanitation as a key determinant of health and education. Panelists shared examples of successful projects, celebrated effective partnerships, identified ongoing challenges, and highlighted the need for continued progress.

Moderator Madge Thomas, Global Citizen, opened the event, saying it is not possible to have transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies without addressing the crosscutting issue of sanitation. Thomas announced that Global Citizen is launching an accountability report which makes reference to and tracks sanitation, health and education commitments, and underscores what is possible through partnerships.

Rolf Luyendijk, WSSCC, highlighted the importance of safe water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), noting that 40 years ago the Alma Ata declaration on primary health care recognized the interlinkages. Emphasizing the value of multi-sectoral partnerships, he said investments in sanitation offer an overall five-to-one return in related health-care benefits. He offered concrete examples, including: improved neonatal health; a 36% reduction in diarrhea; a 23% reduction in stunting; and a 26% reduction in acute respiratory infections, which he called the “number one child killer.” On education impacts, he said access to gender-segregated sanitation facilities keeps girls in schools. Luyendijk announced WSSCC would be signing an agreement with Qatar Charity at the close of the event, representing important investments in fragile areas. The agreement will facilitate exchange of information, allow for coordination, and support sanitation and hygiene programme design and development, specifically in the Darfur Region of Sudan.

Ali Abdulla AL Dabbagh, Qatar Fund for Development, outlined his country’s commitment to and strategy for promoting peace and justice, in alignment with progress on the SDGs focused on health,  education, and sustainable economic empowerment. On financing and education, he said every dollar invested produces two dollars in economic benefit and noted that when communities are educated about the importance of sanitation, they express a higher demand for improved facilities. He also underscored the need for tangible progress on SDG 6 (water and sanitation) and its linkage with SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).

Irene Gai, Kenya Water for Health Organization, outlined her organization’s WASH initiatives, including links to education. She described the pressing need for action and offered examples: a school where enrollment jumped from 200 to 1,000 students without improving sanitation facilities; and that 6 million people still defecate in the open in Kenya, often in the rain, a situation especially challenging for women, who often must be accompanied outside. She said investment in sanitation and hygiene must also address issues of equity and human rights.

Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait, said delivery on education goals, under SDG 4, is not a stand-alone process, but must be tied to other sectors. She noted that quality learning is not possible without access to drinkable water or to sanitation facilities, saying 42% of girls in Uganda have their schooling interrupted because they have to fetch water. She stressed the role of national NGOs who know the country, problems and solutions, and emphasized the need for collaboration, such as through joint needs assessments, and for multi-year programs.  

During the ensuing discussion, panelists shared perspectives on:

  • the need to focus on those most left behind, noting that investing “in the last mile” provides the best return; 
  • giving donors confidence in their investment through good monitoring processes;
  • accountability that includes establishing clear goals and objectives;
  • investing in and working with local NGOs;
  • a tendency for investments to focus on urban areas, when small investments can have significant impacts in rural areas;
  • investments in behavior change;
  • addressing root causes, such as water scarcity;
  • educating communities about the importance of sanitation using concrete tools;
  • collaboration, not competition, when fundraising for WASH initiatives;
  • education in the home and preschools on WASH; and
  • addressing the sanitation needs of people with disabilities, including recognizing that disabilities are often hidden.

Luyendijk closed the event, noting that 40 years have passed since the Alma Ata declaration, and urged accelerated action on WASH.


Madge Thomas, Global Citizen, said water, health, and sanitation are basic rights

Irene Gai, Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO), said civil society organizations are key to implementation at the local level


Panel (L-R): Ali Abdulla AL Dabbagh, Qatar Fund for Development; Rolf Luyendijk, WSSCC; Madge Thomas, Global Citizen; Irene Gai, KWAHO; and Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait


Ali Abdulla AL Dabbagh said a key success factor for any development project is localization and ownership by local communities regardless the funders

The panel responds to questions from participants


Yasmine Sherif said disabilities can limit the ability to physically access a toilet

A participant views a handout from the event


A participant takes notes

An interpreter for a participant


A participant highlights the need to address the impacts of disability on access to water and sanitation

A participant asked about the extent to which local communities are involved in planning of sanitation projects


View of the room

(L-R): Yousuf Ahmad Al-Hammadi, Qatar Charity; and Rolf Luyendijk, WSSCC, after signing a Memorandum of Understanding to support WSSCC projects

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Leaving No One Behind Through Data Revolution: Evidences from Bangladesh
Presented by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN, Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)

This side event was convened to share best practices and exchange views on how governments can mobilize the data revolution to ensure that no one is left behind.

Moderator Abul Kalam Azad, Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh, opened the event and stressed the potential of data revolution to help governments move from a silo-approach to a whole-of-government approach.

Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, outlined challenges on data revolution, including: ensuring accessible and qualified data in developing countries; lack of resources and capacity on data collection; and minimizing risks of data revolution, such as privacy and confidentiality. He called for regional and international support to improve data availability.

Live Margrethe Rognerud, Statistics Norway, underlined the important role of national statistics offices in: collecting and managing data already available; improving civil registration systems through public-private partnerships; and efficiently producing statistics at lower cost. She called for alternative data sources to fill the information gaps between the data we use, and available data not used.

Stefan Schweinfest, UN DESA, underscored the need to establish a mechanism to coordinate and synthesize various sources of statistical data, including: geospatial information; administrative data; big data; and open data.

Anir Chowdhury, Access to Information (a2i), Bangladesh, outlined his country’s efforts to: institutionalize data mindset, with the government using one performance management system across ministries and agencies; promote the Open Government Data Portal, a one-stop access to publicly available government data; and develop a data integration framework to set technical standards on data use. He stressed that data analytics are essential for decision making.

Douglas Keh, UNDP, stressed the lack of resources and emphasized the importance of advocacy urging governments to prioritize and invest more in data revolution.

Robert Kirkpatrick, UN Global Pulse, stressed the need to scale up projects on big data, including: use of remote sensing to count roofs and identify the type of material used as a proxy poverty indicator in Uganda; and the creation of a social media platform in Africa to understand fluctuations in food price and situations of flood.

Umar Serajuddin, World Bank, underscored the benefits of open data, including increased data availability and easier access to information. He stressed the need for open standards and called for “open mind” to make data accessible and usable for all.

Thao Nguyen, Strategic Partnership for the Asia Pacific, Airbnb, said data sharing on maps helped cities and communities in Asia develop resilient transportation systems. She called for conversation with governments at the HLPF to discuss the potential of data sharing to achieve the SDGs.

In ensuing discussion, participants commented on: potential regulations on open data and big data; the need for qualitative analyses on making data revolution truly inclusive; and challenges on ensuring transparency.


Douglas Keh, UNDP, said we need to use statistics and data revolution more effectively for development

Moderator Abul Kalam Azad, Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh, said it is imperative to leverage the right data at the right time for achieving the SDGs


Panelists during the discussion



Robert Kirkpatrick, UN Global Pulse, highlighted the use of mobile data for predicting or tracking disease outbreaks and population displacement

A participant at the event



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Effective Implementation, Monitoring and Financing of SDG 11Presented by the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)

This side event was convened to provide inputs to the HLPF review of SDG 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements, focusing on: how interrelations across development goals can be enhanced and policy coherence be achieved; and key enablers that accelerate implementation, monitoring, and financing for SDG 11.

Moderator Eduardo Lopez Moreno, UN-Habitat, opened the event, noting that implementing the New Urban Agenda helps measure actions and create synergies between SDG-related initiatives. He said that data and information is “no longer a secret.”

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN-Habitat, stressed that SDG 11 plays a fundamental role in catalyzing all 17 SDGs, especially ones related to energy, economy, environment, society, and science and technology. She said the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) demonstrated that countries are making progress but not aligning SDG-related policies to: enforce ownership; effectively collect and use data; and improve finance. Mohd Sharif said that the UN Habitat’s City Prosperity Initiative (CPI) offers tools and methodologies for cities to formulate policies and monitor and report progress, and highlighted that over 400 cities worldwide are using the CPI.

Sylvia Meier-Kajbic, Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), noted that the EU has identified SDG 11 as a priority, and that it was integrating the SDGs into its policies, including though: the EU Cohesion Policy that promotes local implementation of national urban policies by earmarking funds for integrated sustainable urban strategies; voluntary commitments, such as the Urban Agenda for the EU; the International Urban Cooperation Programme; development of a common definition of cities; and the EU Council conclusions, which aim to renew support for SDGs implementation at the local level. She said that the next step is to develop the EU Reflection Paper on mainstreaming SDGs into EU policies in the longer term.

Thomas De Bethune, European Commission, said the Urban Agenda for the EU is a new multi-level cooperation mechanism that aims to: involve cities in design and implementation of EU funding and legislation; and include the urban dimension in EU policies. He called for an integrated approach to tackle complex urban challenges.

Rosario Robles, Minister of Agrarian, Land and Urban Development, Mexico, outlined her country’s efforts to: integrate SDGs into national urban policies, including a housing policy; and reform laws, such as those related to human settlements, territorial planning and urban development, to better align with the SDGs; and develop a national strategy for land management. Noting challenges remain on ensuring accountability and improving data, she said Mexico will continue its commitment to implementing the SDGs.

Carlos Zedillo, Infonavit, noted that 305 cities in Mexico use the CPI. He said Infonavit’s study on urban planning and social housing in Mexico provides guidelines for coordinating data and developing urban indicators. He emphasized the need to synthesize results of this study and share them with other cities in the world.

Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Executive Director, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), spoke about the importance of deepening regional efforts for successful implementation of SDG 11 and other SDGs, including through: adoption of a regional urban agenda and regional and sub-regional action plans; multi-stakeholder platforms for the private sector to understand what local authorities need; a regional observatory for comparative analyses of national urban plans; and harnessing data availability and accessibility. Noting that cities in Latin America have the least productivity in the world, she underscored the importance of a people-centered and gender-sensitive approach.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice President, World Bank, underlined challenges for securing development finance for cites, including inadequate data on cities and the need to effectively utilize local knowledge and capacities. He called for: mobilizing finance through partnerships; involving the private sector; and improving coordination between central and local governments to enhance transparency on how money is spent and data are utilized.

During the ensuing discussion, topics included: disaggregating data at the local level to enhance access and usability; the role of culture and heritage as a cross-cutting issue in the SDGs; tools and solutions for implementation of the SDGs; municipal ID, the Right to the City, and no one left behind in the UN-Habitat framework; linking culture and urban renewal; and strengthening partnerships on SDG 11 and under SDG 17.


Thomas De Bethune, EC, presenting the “Urban Agenda for the EU”


Sylvia Meier-Kajbic, EU, said EU is now strengthening partnerships with local authorities in the third countries

Carlos Zedillo, Infonavit, stressed CPI is a strategic tool to use data for decision making on urban sustainability

Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank, said improving data quality helps cities mobilize finance for implementing SDG 11


Panel during a presentation on the importance of an integrated approach

Rosario Robles, Minister of Agrarian, Land and Urban Development, Mexico, said her country made progress on affordable housing, compact cities, and access to public space


UN-Habitat reports on sustainable cities and communities

A participant taking notes at the event


Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, ECLAC, emphasized the need to improve urban data production and processing capacities for the attainment of SDG 11


Eduardo Lopez Moreno, UN-Habitat, brings the event to a close

Participants in the Trusteeship Council Chamber


Capturing the moment


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Around the Venue






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