This year's High-Level Political Forum a disappointment as progress on child-related goals stalls.
The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is the annual meeting during which States are held to account for their commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Each year, a selection of countries is asked to report to the HLPF, with a report called the Voluntary National Review (VNR). The VNR is expected to include reports on all the 17 goals, but with in-depth review of a small number of goals – which differ each year. The set of goals reviewed in detail this year include those which are aimed specifically to deliver the rights of children:
Goal 4.Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 8.Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 10.Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 13.Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
The VNRs for 2019 were bitterly disappointing, highlighting a serious lack of urgency to deliver the child-related goals by 2030, or by 2025, which is the deadline for ending child labour.
A huge challenge across all SDGs is financing. Governments have not taken serious action to pay for the SDGs, either wth increased international aid, or by supporting increased domestic budgets through stronger laws on tax, which would force companies to pay what they owe to the countries from which they are taking resources.
It is also increasingly clear that insufficient effort is made to engage representative youth groups at national or global levels in reviewing the goals.
Governments will gather again in September, with another SDG Summit during the UN General Assembly. The 100 Million campaign strongly recommends the following actions:
Young people are well aware that they are living in a world in crisis. While climate activism has taken the headlines, young people have also been fighting for their rights to education, to safety, and to freedom across the world. These issues must not only be confronted, they must also be tackled from an intersectional perspective.
States, particularly those in most need, must be supported in their efforts to achieve more and better-quality financing. Tax justice must become a cornerstone of financing policies if States are to deliver their commitments.
Accountability to all citizens must be taken seriously – including the youngest and the most marginalised. While the HLPF and VNR processes are welcome, they remain opaque to most citizens. Efforts to increase awareness of the SDGs must be accompanied by transparency for all, with clear and simple routes for citizens to hold their governments to account.