Overview of the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development

HLPF

Theme: “Eradication Poverty and Promoting Prosperity in a Changing World”

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development during the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25th September 2015, the first HLPF on Sustainable development was held in 2016 with theme “Ensuring no one is left behind”. This theme was featured in almost all the meetings held at the United Nations throughout the year 2016 and helped some member state and organizations to push for the implementation of the SDGs.
This year, the HLPF on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from July 10th to July 19th of 2017 brought together not only Ministers from member states, but also NGOs, Civil Society and Stakeholders, with the theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”. The 2017 HLPF included a three-day ministerial meeting where member states presented their reviews. More countries were seen to be committed to the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and volunteered to present their national voluntary reviews during the 8 days HLPF session. In total, 44 countries volunteered to present their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) during the 2017 HLPF compared to only 22 countries that volunteered to present their VNRs in 2016.

The following set of goals were reviewed in detail during the session, including Goal 17

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The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) enable countries to share their experiences on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including their successes, challenges, and lessons learned during the HLPF. The VNRs also facilitates partnerships including the participation of major groups and other stakeholders during the HLPF.
In brief, the HLPF is a central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. During the HLPF, Ministers adopts a ministerial declaration, which is expected to provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It also addresses new and emerging issues with respect to the implementation of the SDGs and highlights country experiences.
Written by WIT Representative: Fred Yonghabi

 

Trafficking in Persons and the Sustainable Development Goals to End the Scourge of Trafficking in Women and Girls

This meeting addressed the troublesome indication that, while gender equity is critical for the successful implementation of many Sustainable Development Goals, little has been done to address global trafficking of women and girls.

Trafficking of human bodies is a complex form of organized crime driven by extreme profit potential. A majority of trafficked women and girls are sold into sex slavery. Unlike illicit drugs, which have a one-time use, a human body can be sold to complete a task repeatedly. The only way to take down traffickers is to follow the transference of money in both legal and illegal markets.

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The speakers collectively emphasized the importance of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 30 July 2010. The Plan is currently under review, and the panelists ask member states to issue political declarations to guide future U.N. actions to combat trafficking of women and girls.

Regulation of trafficked women and girls is complicated by geographic location and systems of inequality that vary among the countries of the world. Still, inter-institutional bodies must cooperate to combat this issue. The question that we must now ask is: what are developing countries doing to combat demand for cheap sex labor, and how can developed countries help stop the trafficking tide?

Meeting: Trafficking in Persons and the Sustainable Development Goals to End the Scourge of Trafficking in Women and Girls

Date/Time: 21 June 2017; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 12, UNHQ, New York, NY

Co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Panama and Sweden, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Equality Now and Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Speakers: Christine Lahti, member of Equality Now advisory board; Simone Monasebian, Director of ODC in New York; H.E. Laura Flores, Ambassador to permanent mission to the United Nations, Panama; H.E. Olof Skoog, Ambasador, Sweden; Ruchira Gupta, Founder Apne Aap Women Worldwide

Written by: WIT Representative Mariel Brunman

How scientific knowledge on oceans contributes to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes

Oceans Conference

The Ocean Conference held at the United Nations from 5-8 June, 2017 brought together many experts on oceans, civil societies and governments to organize different side events. Some of these events were co-organized and facilitated by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with Governments and relevant organizations  by sharing on-the-ground experiences, lessons learned, and insights into transformative actions and partnerships, including partnerships through the Sustainable Ocean Initiative.

One of the first side events on June 5th, organized to bring in marine scientists and discuss the contribution of scientific knowledge on oceans to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes. The moderator Jessica Faieta from UNDP opened the meeting by reminding the audience that the deadlines for achieving the SDG 14 (Oceans) were 2020 and 2025. Considering how pressing the issue was, she said, this side event was crucial to identify knowledge gaps and contribute towards ocean national action plans. Echoing Faieta’s view, representatives of the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and UNDP shared the challenges their countries and organization were facing, and their work in this area.

Marine experts also shared their knowledge about the ocean, including its importance, the impact of its change on the ecosystem, and the way the ocean works. In addition, Dr. Alberto Piola and Dr. Jose Muelbert highlighted that the warmer the ocean is, the lower would be the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Also, because the speed of ocean warming differs in different countries, some countries’ oceans are warming much faster as a result. Due to the fact that 40 percent of the global population live near the ocean, and 11 percent of the largest cities are very close to the ocean, the implications of warming causes a considerable impact on the human population, and the ecosystems. “Life started in the ocean,” Muelbert cautioned, “if we are not careful, life will end because of changes in the ocean.”

Meeting: How scientific knowledge on oceans can contribute to the implementation of national action plans on climate and human-induced changes

Date/Location: Monday, June 5, 2017; 09:00-10:30; Conference Room 6, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers:

Ms. Jessica Faieta, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); H.E Francisco Domínguez Brito, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Dominican Republic; H.E. Diego Moreno, Vice Minister, National Secretary of Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Government of Argentina; Dr. Alberto Piola, Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM), and Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI);  Dr. Jose Muelbert, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande and IAI;  Dr. Rebecca Klaus, Senior advisor and expert in Marine Spatial Planning and Marine Protected Areas, Cousteau Society;  Mr. Nik Sekhran, Director for Sustainable Development, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP.

Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

Press Briefing on the launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2017

A press statement regarding the launch of the report World Economic Situation and Prospects was released by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) today. The latest report presents bad news on the world’s progress toward achieving some of the major Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda

Regarding the world’s GDP growth, Diana Alarcón and Dawn Holland of DESA presented it was forecasted to rise by 4.7 per cent and 5.3 per cent in 2017 and 2018 respectively, which is significantly below the SDG target of at least 7 percent. The report warns that under the current growth trajectory without a decline in income inequality, 35 percent of the population in Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) will remain in extreme poverty by 2030.

Concerning world trade, it has begun to rebound from the 2008 global financial crisis. However, it is mainly due to the rising import demand and contribution of East Asia and South Asia. On the contrary, the rise in commodity price driven by conflict and domestic pressure in Latin America and Africa is not yet resolved.
Apart from the income and trade targets, Alarcón and Holland said the report also identified some positive elements in the environmental area. For example, the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) has been reduced while the use of renewable energy has increased. However, they remarked that the trend could be easily reversed should the major CO2 emitting countries demonstrate faster growth, and the public and private sectors do not continue to support the use of renewable energy.
Addressing the overall lack of progress, Alarcón and Holland explained that political actors played a significant role. Among others, they particularly pointed toward the high level of uncertainties in international policies, such as the recent renegotiations of trade relations in the United States and Europe, financial market relations, and Brexit.

Meeting: Press briefing by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) on the launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2017
Date/Location: Tuesday, May 16, 2017; 11:00-11:30; Press Briefing Room, S-237, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers:
Diana Alarcón, Chief, Global Economic Monitoring Unit, Development Policy and Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations;
Dawn Holland, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Global Economic Monitoring Unit, Development Policy and Analysis Division, DESA, United Nations
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

Edited By: Fred Yonghabi

SDG 14: Call to Action

 

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In this informal briefing on the ongoing preparations for the United Nations Ocean Conference, the President of the General Assembly, the Under Secretary-General, a special advisor to the conference co-presidents, and the Permanent Representatives of Sweden and Fiji discussed the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. They expressed that without clean and healthy oceans our, and all life’s, place on the planet would be in grave jeopardy. Since 1970, there has been a 49% decline in marine species. By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish. Representatives discussed specific and necessary targets within SDG 14. They reviewed relevant dates for the upcoming global conference and other plenary meetings and stressed the need to strengthen and replicate current efforts. Moreover, representatives expressed the need to form new partnerships that involve all relevant stakeholders (including governments, the UN system, NGOs, the private sector, etc.) in the spirit of widespread, global, and inclusive participation.

The United Nations Ocean Conference will be held from June 5-9, 2017. It will follow a two-day preparatory meeting, February 15-16, 2017, chaired by the Permanent Representative of Portugal and the Permanent Representative of Singapore. The meeting will discuss partnership dialogues themes and elements for the “Call for Action.” The June conference will assess challenges, identify opportunities for action, strengthen current partnerships and forge new ones. It will be comprised of 8 plenary meetings, 7 partnership dialogues, and an additional special event commemorating World Oceans Day. The conference will also adopt an intergovernmental consensus declaration and a report with co-chairs’ summaries of partnership dialogues. Finally, a list of voluntary commitments for the implementation of SDG14 will be announced at the conference in June.

Meeting: “Briefing on the UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14”

Date/Location: Tuesday, 13 December 2016; 15:00 to 18:00; UN Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: President of the General Assembly; H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN; H.E. Ambassador Luke Daunivalu of the Permanent Mission of Fiji to the UN; Mr. Wu Hongbo (USG DESA); Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares (USG OLA): Ms. Catherine Pollard (USG DGACM)

Written By: Renée S. Landzberg, WIT Representative

 

Autism in Africa: Life Saving Awareness

 

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The December 6th session focused on improving the lives of people with autism, advocating policies to prevent social exclusion, and raising awareness. The panelists broadly discussed the importance of improving data, transparency, and accessible resources for community development regarding autism. H.E.s, The Ambassadors of Zambia, Uganda, and Malawi acknowledged the realities of children with autism, whose warning signs often go unnoticed. Parents of speech-disabled children, including H.E.Dr. Mwaba Kasese-Bota, the Ambassador of Zambia, are often unable to find support in the form of specialized schooling in their communities. H.E. Dr. Kasese-Bota stressed the need to connect the realities of autism with the objectives in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 4. In Uganda, people with autism are not recognized as living with a disability. Their families cannot often afford expensive support resources when they are available. Uganda has several modest facilities for children with autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s syndrome. In Malawi, treatments can be unhelpful and even detrimental. However, Malawi’s First Lady, Gertrude Maseko, is a dedicated advocate of autism awareness and access to helpful and non-harmful care.

H.E. David Roet, the Ambassador of Israel confirmed the country’s commitment to African nations and called upon the global community to unite to prevent discrimination, to make effective policies, and to help create a social and economic environment of inclusion. He stressed the need for more specialized medical staff, screening facilities, and schools specialized in care for students with autism. The Missions of Kenya, Poland, Angola and Nigeria focused on enhancing awareness in professional realms including research, collaboration, and efficient and cost-effective delivery of early diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Alan Kadish explained autism and potential contributing factors. He defined the condition as a disability in social awareness and interaction, not intelligence. He discussed United States’ treatment and schooling opportunities for children with autism. One mother described the special Israeli military roles offered to citizens with autism. Dr. Joel Wallach discussed studies of autism in children and the association of environmental change with worsening conditions for the child.

Meeting: “Autism in Africa: Life Saving Awareness Implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Angola, Israel, Japan, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia)

Date/Time/Location: Tuesday, 6 December 2016; 10:00 to 13:00; UN Headquarters, Conference Room 4

Speakers: H.E. Ambassador Dr. Mwaba Kasese-Bota of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations; H.E. Ambassador Dr. Richard Nduhurra of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uganda to the United Nations; H.E. Ambassador Necton Mhura of the Permanent Mission of Malawi to the United Nations; H.E. Ambassador David Roet of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations; Counselor Fidel Casimiro on behalf of H.E. Ambassador Ismael Abraão Gaspar Martins of the Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations; Margareta Kassangana-Jakubowska Minister-Counsellor Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Poland to the United Nations; Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations; Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations; Dr. Alan Kadish of Touro College; Dr. Joel Wallach, Marylice Fegeley of Parent to Parent of New York State

Written By: Renée S. Landzberg, WIT Representative

Women and Girls in STEM

 

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Wednesday, the Permanent Mission of Malta and the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) held a meeting concerning the advancement of women in science and the effects that media has on stereotypes in STEM. H.E. Mr. Carmelo Inguanez stated that the SDGs are founded on science, technology, and innovation. He emphasized that gender equality is vital to their success. He related the International Day for Women and Girls in Science to SDGs 4 and 5 and stressed that setting up a commission for gender equality ensures future progress in sustainable development. He then explained that Malta would hold a conference in February focusing on science, gender equality, and sustainable development with an emphasis on the effects of the media. Ms. Rola Dahlan followed by adding that the adoption of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, if implemented properly, will lay ground for gender equality and women’s empowerment in science and technology. She stated that organizations can help by aligning their strategic direction to achieve full participation in science and access to high quality education.

Ms. Marie Roudil expressed that women account for only about 30% of researchers across the world, with the gender gap widening at higher levels of decision-making. She added that access to clean drinking water is necessary for dealing with climate change in a world with a constantly rising population. Mr. Maher Nasser explained that when young girls are put in an environment where stereotypes dominate, they do not perform as well as boys in STEM. However, when those stereotypes are not reinforced, girls perform just as well as boys. Mr. Navid Hanif concluded the meeting and expressed that the participation of women and girls in STEM varies dramatically by region. It should be noted that the terms “STEM” and “science” were used interchangeably throughout the meeting.

Meeting: Briefing on the “International Day for Women and Girls in Science” (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Malta and the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT))

 Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, 16 November 2016; 10:00 to 11:00; Conference Room 11

 Speakers: H.E. Mr. Carmelo Inguanez, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations; Ms. Rola Dahlan, Secretary-General of Women in Science International League; Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, Special Representative and Director of UNESCO Liaison Office; Mr. Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach, UN DPI; Mr. Navid Hanif, Director, Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, UN DESA; Ms. Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, UN DESA

Written By: Anna Prisco, WIT Representative

 

50 Years of Human Rights Covenants

 

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Wednesday, October 19th,  the General Assembly celebrated and discussed the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). His Excellency Peter Thomson began by summarizing the success that the Human Rights Covenants have had over the past fifty years. He stressed that the covenants have transformed lives by changing constitutions and laws and legally obligating states to recognize and protect individual human rights. He iterated the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and argued the need for the Agenda and the covenants to proceed jointly. Additionally, he pointed out that the adherence to the covenants is necessary in achieving SDG 16 (promoting peace and inclusive societies for sustainable development), upon which all the other SDGs are reliant. Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed the idea that promoting human rights pushes states toward greater stability. Furthermore, he argued that the Paris climate change agreements found their roots in the ICCPR and ICESCR, and they promote the right to highest attainable standard of health. The Representative of Chile on Behalf of the Latin American states added that the ICCPR and ICESCR are both closely linked to sustainable development, an integral part of human rights.

Mr. Waleed Sadi expanded on the importance of the coordination and cooperation between both of the covenants. He pointed out that the United States had both signed and ratified ICCPR, but had only signed ICESCR. The Representative of the United States expressed the importance of promoting human rights in the United Nations and emphasized a strong commitment to doing so. Additionally, she argued that the ICCPR guarantees steady progress towards the goals outlined in ICESCR.

Meeting: “Implementation of Human Rights Instruments: Commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”

Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, October 19th, 2016; 10:00; General Assembly Hall

Speakers: His Excellency Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly; His Excellency Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations; Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Mr. Waleed Sadi, Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Representative of the Asia-Pacific group; Representative of Georgia on behalf of Eastern European states; Representative of Chile on behalf of Latin American states; Representative of the United Kingdom and Ireland on behalf of the Western European states; Representative of the United States

Written By: Anna Prisco, WIT Representative

 

100th plenary meeting on Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment and the political declarations on HIV/AIDS held by the General Assembly

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The meeting was operated for countries to declare their commitment against AIDS as well as implement political declarations. The President began with the opening remarks on addressing the above importance. Soon after, Mr. Sey revealed the key to preventing AIDS was to monitor the HIV transmission together with maintaining economic growth, where prosperity could alleviate poverty, with fewer women getting HIV. In addition, Prof. Randrianarimanana stated AIDS could be eradicated by focusing on high impact intervention, effective decentralization, and strengthening the health-care system. He admitted the epidemic was still existed, even if the current prevalence was low.

On the other hand, Dr. Numbi recalled the dedication on the previous declaration cheered the international commitment, technical and financial partners with a multisector approach to combat AIDS. Meanwhile, Dr. Al-Jasser added with a compliment on the comprehensive national program, safeguarding the access on treatment, had enhanced the community responsibility, cooperation and civil societies’ engagement. Moreover, Mr. Hamach reminded the stigma and discrimination would implicitly harm the Universal Health Coverage program where social restructuring was demanding. He ended his speech by reiterating political leadership and devotion to international community were vital to the Fast-Track to ending AIDS. Then, Ms. Skogen appealed to all members, to provide funding to high-burden and developing countries on quality education, sexual education, reproductive services along with well-trained health-care workers.

Last but not least, the above speakers declared their unceasing allegiance to combating AIDS financially or putting efforts on regulation compliance, demanding stronger prevention of AIDS.

Meeting: 100th plenary meeting on Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment and the political declarations on HIV/AIDS held by the General Assembly

Date/Time/Location: Thursday, June 08, 2016; 15:00-18:00; General Assembly Hall

Speakers: His Excellency, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the General Assembly; His Excellency, Mr. Omar Sey, the Minister of Health & Social Welfare of Gambia; His Excellency, Prof. Dieudonné Randrianarimanana, the Minister of Health, Family Planning and Social Protection of Madagascar; His Excellency, Dr. Félix Kabange Numbi, The DRC Minister of Public Health; His Excellency, Dr. Sulaiman bin Mohammed Al-Jasser, the Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia; His Excellency, Mr. Masakazu Hamach, the Parliamentary Vice-Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Japan; Her Excellency, Ms. Tone Skogen, the State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway

Written By: WIT Representative, Kelvin HO

Edited By: WIT Administrator, Modou Cham

Photo: https://twitter.com/unaids

Delivering an AIDS-free Generation

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Today’s afternoon meeting held by the UNAIDS council presented a panel of well renowned HIV/AIDS activists, expressing their plea for the continued support of the UNAIDS program in order to one day have an AIDS-free society. The President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, began by praising UNAIDS’ commitment in acting swiftly and their intensified efforts to end HIV transmission. Five years since the UN has joined forces in the global fight to end child transmission of AIDS, significant progress has been made. Noted, was the fact that since inception, 33% of pregnant women now have access to treatment that allows them to stop AIDS from transferring to their newborns. Speakers addressed that an AIDS-free generation requires much more action that is aligned with Agenda 2030. Transmission rates must decrease significantly between mothers and their children by scaling up treatment for the mothers. Work on the ground, directly with the affected population and promotion of access to treatment and funding to countries that are overwhelmed by the epidemic need to be considered.

The Executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, then took the stand and thanked all the countries that are joining the UNAIDS mission to eliminate children born with AIDS. He mentioned that stigma is still one of the biggest challenges behind the fight against HIV/AIDS and that member states must all partner up to stop it. A video was shown of the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya thanking the 21 Sub-Saharan African countries for their unwavering support and partnership. It was mentioned that the only 100% effective way to stop the transmission of AIDS from mother to child is to target adolescent girls and ensure their prevention from getting infected. The meeting ended with the General Assembly President thanking all who participated and showed.

Meeting: Delivering an AIDS-free Generation

Date/Time/Location: Wednesday, June 8, 2016; 13:15-14:45; Conference Room 3

Speakers: Ms. Whoopie Goldberg, Host of the View; Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of UN General Assembly and Ambassador of Denmark; Mr. Michel Sidibé, Executive director of UNAIDS; Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health in South Africa, Monica Geingos, First Lady of the Republic of Namibia; Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF; Annie Lenox, acclaimed singer and songwriter and founder of SING; Deborah Birx, Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to combat HIV/AIDS; Piyasakol Sakolsataydorn, Minister of Public Health of the Kingdom of Thailand

Written by: WIT representative, Amirali Agha-Khan

Edited by: WIT Administrator, Modou Cham