Insider Perspectives: High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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26 July, 2017


WBCSD insights



James Gomme

From 10 – 19 July the annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, the UN’s central platform for follow-up and review of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, took place at the UN headquarters in New York City.

In total 77 government ministers and nearly 2,500 registered stakeholders took part in the event.  

The opening session of the HLPF highlighted findings from the UN Secretary General’s 2017 Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report which provides an overarching performance assessment against the 17 SDGs on the basis of the latest available data. Subsequent discussions during the first week of the event then focussed specifically around the allocated theme of ‘eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,’ launching an in-depth exploration into progress that has been made with regard to SDGs 2, 3, 5, 9, 14, and 17.

Subsequently, as the HLPF entered its second week, a three-day ministerial meeting got underway, with representatives from 43 countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on their plans and efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. Discussions culminated on 19 July with the adoption of a formal 10-page ministerial declaration which set forth recommendations and guidance on the main SDGs under discussion as well as various other cross-cutting issues. 

In his remarks to the HLPF, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the need for “global answers” and “multilateral governance” in order for Agenda 2030 to fulfil its potential as “an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again”.

The SDG Business Forum: business scaling up engagement

On 18 July, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), and the UN Global Compact, in collaboration with the Global Business Alliance for 2030 (of which WBCSD is an active member) convened the second annual SDG Business Forum with a view to show-casing leading practice and catalysing enhanced engagement by the global business community.

Over 1,500 people registered to attend this year’s business forum which was made up of a full day of discussions in a packed UN General Assembly Hall. The event provided a welcome platform for business engagement on the specific SDGs under review by the HLPF as well as featuring cross-cutting sessions examining SDG investment, reporting, and partnerships. 

Business leaders are at the frontline of action in implementing the SDGs

Wu Hongbo,UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

The SDGs should be known as the BDGs (the Business Development Goals) because their achievement represents a clear economic imperative

John Danilovich,ICC Secretary-General

WBCSD members KPMG, Tata and Danone were among the organizations who took to the floor to demonstrate concrete examples of how business is mobilizing to make a transformative impact and shared insights into some of the critical steps that are needed for scaling up business action.

Forums like the SDG Business Forum, are incredibly valuable for stimulating collaboration, and the sharing of insights and lessons learned

Nick Chism,Deputy Head of Global Sales and Markets / Global Chair of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare, KPMG

Finally, the Forum concluded with the publication of a business communique issued by a number of leading business organizations. This statement highlights business support for the SDGs as a set of goals to tackle the world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges and acknowledges the crucial role of business in achieving them.  It also underlines actions business can take to advance this agenda and calls on the UN system and its member states to foster further collaboration in putting the appropriate political incentives and frameworks in place to drive SDG-focussed investment and innovation.

WBCSD Event: Business and the SDGs – Moving from Aspiration to Action

As part of our ongoing efforts to advance conversations around converting the SDGs into meaningful business action, WBCSD, in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), hosted a side event within the UN premises on 19 July.

This three-hour session brought together 130 representatives, predominantly from the private sector, with a view to providing an opportunity for sustainability champions to exchange information and share lessons on how to scale up SDG action.

The session showcased initiatives and valuable insight from a variety of organizations including: Agrium, Bloomberg, Danone, the Earth Security Group, GRI, Mars, Monsanto, Neste, NRG, Syngenta, Tata, Telenor, and Veolia.

The event also provided a welcome opportunity for business to enter into a dialogue with government representatives around what sort of policy landscape the private sector can expect moving forward. Jeroen Verheul, Ambassador-at-large for Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, spoke on behalf of the Netherlands, while Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog provided the Indian government perspective.

The Road Ahead

Although the 2017 HLPF pointed to a marked need for enhanced global action at scale across the SDG agenda, it also highlighted encouraging signs of comprehensive engagement at both the government and industry level.

In particular, the level of engagement by global business around the SDG Business Forum spoke to a strong desire from the private sector to play a leading role in driving forward this agenda and continuing to work towards ushering in the inclusive and sustainable economic growth that the Goals represent.

From our side, we look forward to continuing to support these efforts through future engagement with the HLPF and through our ongoing work around the SDGs. Our CEO Guide to the SDGs explores the business implications of the Goals, while also setting out clear actions that CEOs can take to begin to align their organizations with this agenda and plot a course towards unlocking the value that it represents. Meanwhile our SDG Business Hub, continues to provide a central resource for information, tools, case studies and insights to support business as it looks to scale up action towards 2030.

For more information on WBCSD’s work on the SDGs please contact James Gomme.