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Children engage in a youth-centre in Nairobi, Kenya, as the UN Forum in New York emphasizes that education is a crucial investment in social inclusion and economic development.
UNFPA/Roar Bakke Sorensen (file) Children engage in a youth-centre in Nairobi, Kenya, as the UN Forum in New York emphasizes that education is a crucial investment in social inclusion and economic development.

Following two years of virtual meetings due to COVID-19, the 2022 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) closed on Friday at UN Headquarters in New York with delegates showing “enthusiasm, passion and high-energy” for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“We have advanced the substantive programme of the [Economic and Social] Council (ECOSOC) and initiated concrete foundational action to implement the decisions of the General Assembly” in resolutions on strengthening the HLPF and ECOSOC, said the body’s president, Collen Kelapile.

Urgency and ambition

Although the COVID pandemic continues, “we are moving on in the road to recovery and…looking far ahead, beyond today’s daunting challenges and crises,” he said. 

Reversing the pandemic’s negative impacts on the likelihood of reaching the ambitious SDGs; transforming socio-economic and financial systems; addressing the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on food security and energy supply; and halting climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, are “a calling we must work much harder to achieve,” the ECOSOC president added.

He reminded that we have the tools and means, but needed to work “together in solidarity” as a “global family”.

Mr. Kelapile said the new Ministerial Declaration, which the meeting adopted by consensus, provides an “unwavering commitment to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. 

Overarching calls

Sharing some of the main messages of the HLPF, he described today’s challenges as a threat to the SDGs but also an opportunity for renewed multilateral action and the quest for innovative solutions.

And while the pandemic has exposed inequalities between and within countries, it has also underscored the importance of universal healthcare coverage supported by proper healthcare systems – without which, “there can be no sustainable development”.

The ECOSOC President spoke about the need to bridge the financing gap by reforming international debt and taxation architecture.

He also underscored that education is “a human right and a common public good, not a privilege,” noting the upcoming Transforming Education Summit in September to address obstacles that hinder SDG-4.

Mr. Kelapile reminded that no country has achieved gender equality and that the needs of women and girls must be addressed “more comprehensively” to build back better, including eradicating violence against women and implementing national gender budgets.

He then stressed the importance of engaging local authorities for “an inclusive implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda” while pointing out that vaccine equity and production in developing countries “is critical to economic recovery”.

Turning to the environment, the ECOSOC chief highlighted that a “whole-of-society” approach was required to effectively address global deforestation, land degradation, biodiversity loss, poverty eradication, food insecurity and climate change, adding that the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, showed that there are still opportunities for comprehensive ocean action.

Ground for optimism

“I am particularly heartened that during this HLPF we launched preparations for the 2023 SDG Summit to be held in September 2023 at the mid-term point of implementation of the 2030 Agenda”, said Mr. Kelapile. 

Pointing to HLPF debates and the Ministerial Declaration, he saw “strong grounds for optimism”. 

“Let us all go back to our countries encouraged and re-invigorated, to continue efforts to recover from this pandemic and build back better through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs,” concluded the ECOSOC President.

‘Special day’

“Today was a special day,” Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) told the meeting, outlining how the morning session discussed ideas on how to improve multilateralism and make it more inclusive, networked and effective.

And afternoon discussions looked in detail at the pandemic’s public health response; finance and debt relief; and climate change and social protection, including labor rights and education.

“We studied future scenarios to ensure sustainable development and what we can do now to make our future better…[and] sustainable development paths, long-term vision and scenarios,” said the DESA chief.

Unity ‘laid out’

The forum has demonstrated that if we are well informed of demographic, social and environmental changes that are coming our way in the years ahead, “we can anticipate them and make the needed policy changes now,” he observed.

Against that backdrop, he expressed pride in seeing that the Ministerial Declaration was adopted to provide clear guidance on how to address future challenges.

“Our unity is laid out in great detail in the Ministerial Declaration, and I congratulate you on this achievement. I am pleased that the strong commitment to the fulfillment of the goals that we set in 2015 is still vibrant. This will accelerate our travel on our common road to recovery and resilience,” Mr. Liu concluded.