A Virtual and Inclusive High-Level Political Forum

Rosario Diaz Garavito is a member of the Youth Power Panel (YPP) and the founder and Chief Executive Director of The Millennials Movement. Bethel is the Campaigns Officer at Project Everyone, the organisation behind the Global Goals campaign. Together, they are heavily involved with YPP and the Global Goals more broadly. Here, they share their takes on HLPFs past and present.

The UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the annual space for global monitoring of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This multilateral space provides the opportunity for governments, people around the world, civil society organisations (CSOs), academics, work unions, local governments, and the private sector to follow-up on one of the most ambitious plans for people and planet, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The ten-day Forum's theme was "Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realising the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development " and included thematic reviews, a ministerial week, numerous side events, and high-level conversations with world leaders.

Some of the key differences that characterised the HLPF 2020 was that due to COVID-19, the forum took place virtually for the first time. This change was accompanied by various challenges for participants such as technical difficulties. However, the format adopted for this year's sessions allowed people from all over the world with access to the internet to participate in the sessions and join the discussions through online channels, making this process more open to the public. 

This meant that the HLPF became a more inclusive space, allowing voices from all over the world to be heard. For the first time, it didn’t matter if you couldn’t get a plane ticket to New York to attend, the HLPF had become ageless, accessible to all, and inclusive of anyone that wanted to join an event. This is critical and a very special part of HLPF 2020 because people from all over the world could hear the discussions, have their say, and hold decision-makers to account from the comfort of their own home.

During the Forum, governments around the world had the opportunity to present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), which contains information on how they are implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, their progress, challenges, and achievements. This year, 47 countries presented their VNRs, some of them for the first time and others for the second or third time. During the VNR presentations sessions, participants such as CSOs and academic representatives from the presenting countries were able to take the floor and share their statements and questions to their governments. One thing we understand for sure is that we need to keep working and advocating for more social actors such as work unions and local governments participation so no one is left behind.

Rosario from the Youth Power Panel has been part of this process since 2016, and now, after four years of actively engaging, she has learnt a lot. She also has more tools to use in her advocacy efforts in Perú and the Latin American and Caribbean Region for the achievement of the SDGs and people's participation processes. During these years she was able to participate as an observer, join her country’s national delegation, and provide inputs to her country’s VNR. She was also able to input questions for VNR presenting countries as a member of the NGO Major Groups and Mechanism VNR Task Group, bring the action back to her country informing and engaging other social actors such as the private sector and advocating for people’s inclusion to leave no one behind. That means her observations on the 2020 HLPF provides us with an important message going forward.

Rosario genuinely believes that youth's participation and engagement is key in the HLPF process and the success of the 2030 Agenda. It's important we start engaging in this global accountability process and in the national and regional efforts to make sure our voices, needs and aspirations are taken into account now more than ever in both the response and recovery from COVID-19. We need to advocate, actively participate and demand a prosperous future for all. The next ten years require youth engagement and we cannot ignore this global monitoring process. And equally as important, this monitoring process cannot ignore youth voices. It's time to claim our space and have our voices heard!

The HLPF concluded with a Ministerial Declaration, which will have to be agreed and signed by the different governmental delegations. Our message to world leaders is simple, 'we are all watching you'. We need to accelerate our progress towards reaching these Global Goals and we need world leaders to follow through with their commitment to the 2030 Agenda.

As HLPF is held in the context of a global pandemic, at the beginning of the Decade of Action to deliver the Global Goals, and ahead of the 75th anniversary of the UN, the discussion was all the more important. As the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres said ‘we need concrete, bold and implementable solutions inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals’. There is a need to renew our commitment to the 2030 Agenda, its implementation, the promise to Leave No One Behind and to Build Back Better. Accelerating our effort to achieve these Goals will not only help us effectively beat and recover from COVID-19, but also prevent future pandemics and help build a better world for people and for planet.