Four years after implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) started, the 2019 meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) opened to take stock of progress, gaps, and obstacles. Inga Rhonda King, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), highlighted why this HLPF session is particularly important in her opening address:
it is the last meeting in the HLPF’s first cycle, marking the conclusion of the review of all 17 SDGs, discussion on four themes, and presentation of 142 voluntary national reviews;
it will send messages to the SDG Summit in September 2019;
it will start discussions on how HLPF did in the past four years, and what changes are needed; and
it will reflect on collective progress in SDG implementation, globally, regionally, nationally, and locally.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the UN Secretary-General’s SDG progress report, which notes that while there is progress, the global response has not been sufficient thus far. Speakers highlighted the need for more empowerment, courage, inclusivity, and equality.
In the afternoon the HLPF reviewed SDG implementation and interrelations among goals, focusing on SDG 4 (quality education). A presentation on the progress made revealed a “global learning crisis”, with a low proficiency rate amongst school children in reading and mathematics despite increased enrollment rates, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Solutions proposed by speakers included not only reforms of the education sector, but a transformation of mindsets to make educational systems more inclusive; integration of the vision of SDGs, including global citizenship and sustainability, in curricula; and “dramatically” improving working conditions for teachers.
Panel speakers during the opening plenary that focused on 'How far we are from achieving the SDGs?' (L-R): Najat Maalla M'jid, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Violence Against Children; Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs; Valentin Rybakov, Vice-President, ECOSOC; Inga Rhonda King, President, ECOSOC; Emer Herity, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); Chris Skinner, Author and Commentator, UK; and Yolanda Joab Mori, One Young World Ambassador, Micronesia.
Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs
Najat Maalla M'jid, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Violence Against Children
Chris Skinner, Author and Commentator, UK
Inga Rhonda King, President, ECOSOC
Yolanda Joab Mori, One Young World Ambassador, Micronesia
Delegates applaud the statement by Yolanda Joab Mori who commented "We don’t need more power, we need more courage."
Progress, Gaps, and Obstacles: Are We on Track for Leaving No One Behind?
Panel speakers during the session 'Where do we stand?' (L-R): Robin Ogilvy, Special Representative and Permanent Observer of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the UN; Marta Acosta, Auditor General, Costa Rica; Julio Santaella, President, National Institute of Statistics and Geography, Mexico; Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs; Emer Herity, UN DESA; Moderator Minh-Thu Pham, Executive Director, UN Foundation; and Thomas Brooks, Chief Scientist, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Julio Santaella, President, National Institute of Statistics and Geography, Mexico
Moderator Minh-Thu Pham, Executive Director, UN Foundation
Using the interactive platform Sli.do to encourage participation from the audience, a word cloud was created highlighting the key issues that delegates think need to be discussed.
Marta Acosta, Auditor General, Costa Rica
Thomas Brooks, Chief Scientist, IUCN
Robin Ogilvy, Special Representative and Permanent Observer of OECD to the UN
Panel speakers for the session 'Who is at risk of being left behind?' (L-R): Stephen Chacha, Co-Founder, Tanzania Data Lab, and Africa Philanthropic Foundation; Jarkko Turunen, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Asia and Pacific Department, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Inga Rhonda King, President, ECOSOC; Emer Herity, UN DESA, Secretariat; Moderator Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); and Sarah Charles, Senior Director for Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy, International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, ECLAC
Moderator Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, UNITAR
George Khoury, Vice-Chair, National Association for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NARD), Lebanon
Lucas Chancel, Co-Director, World Inequality Lab, and coordinator of the World Inequality Report 2018
Discussion on SDG 4 - Quality Education
A video produced by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) was screened at the start of plenary to highlight the importance of all people, especially children, having access to quality education.
Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development
John McLaughlin, Deputy Minister, Education and Early Childhood Development, Canada
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
Shashwat Sapkota, Statistics Division, UN DESA
Moderator Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
Lead discussants Susan Hopgood, President, Education International, and María José Monge, President, Monge Foundation, Costa Rica
Lía Burbano Mosquera, speaking on behalf of LGBTI, NGOs, and UN Volunteers
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