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HLPF 2018: Where’s people’s development in the “transformation to sustainable and resilient societies”?

Posted on 18 July 2018

Photo: CSO FfD side-event on the structural barriers to sustainable development "means of implementation," with conversations on how the global economy “fails us in recession and fails us when it works”

IBON International Update #1
Development for the People

July 9-13, New York The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development is convened annually to review progress and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). For this year, various meetings were held at the UN headquarters in New York since 9 July and until 18 July 2018. The SDGs were adopted in 2015, and which for some indicate an ambitious international development agenda tackling both poverty and environmental challenges within the United Nations system.

The HLPF is held with a “thematic week,” where the trajectories of particular SDGs are supposedly assessed in official sessions where representatives of state, civil society and even the private sector are present. According to the President of the UN Economic and Social Council, the HLPF featured 80 government representatives and 2500 non-state actors.

With this year’s theme being about “transformation toward sustainable and resilient societies,” the HLPF official sessions during this thematic week focused on the SDGs concerning water and sanitation (SDG 6); affordable, sustainable and modern energy (SDG 7); inclusive cities and human settlements (SDG 11); sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12); sustainable use and management of forests, land and terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15). Finally there is the “means of implementation” goal (SDG 17) that is covered every year, which concerns the nitty-gritty on doing development:multi-stakeholder partnerships, trade issues, as well as how to finance development.

It is with awareness that some civil society organisations (CSOs) admit that the HLPF is a space that, from its first day, already has limits due to the barriers grassroots organisations had to hurdle before being considered eligible to attend. While working with other CSOs through the “major group” system helps many organisations to orient themselves, a large number of CSOs only have the opportunity to actively speak as stakeholders in either five-minute or two-minute portions on the floor.

Thus compared with state representatives and the “stakeholders” from finance institutions, many CSOs would be compelled to voice out concerns that are closest to what’s happening on the ground. On the third day, for instance, Emele Duituturaga of Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) asked a question during the session on small-island developing states (SIDS): "Is resilience and sustainability achievable with the predominant neoliberal capitalist framework that is prevalent in most SIDS’ economies?"

For our part, we asked during the session on sustainable consumption and production (SCP), “How would the [proposed national level implementation of SCP] affect current investment rules adopted by many Southern countries?” The prospects of SCP would of course be different in Southern contexts where investment liberalisation and de-regulation has weakened national rules that could have stopped unsustainable big business practices. This makes it difficult for policy to be coherent with the requisites of SDG 12, or for any policy to promote “sustainable production”.

Civil society has also raised the issue of enabling

Global Region: