5th Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region

The Fifth Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region met under a hybrid face-to-face and virtual format. It was part of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum process (HLPF), where nine countries from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE or ECE)  will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). San Marino will be the only first-time informing country, leaving behind the United States as the single ECE member that has not reported its national progress towards the 2030 Agenda implementation to the High-Level Political Forum.

The UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development official activities took place on March 17 and 18, 2021. However, stakeholder pre-meetings and thematic round tables gathered since March 10, setting the official discussions scene. Amid such meetings, a Workshop for 2021 VNR countries from the UNECE region was organized by the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) to support and facilitate knowledge sharing between this year’s reporting countries.

As part of the preparatory meetings, local governments from UNECE discussed how Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) could effectively support a sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and promote sustainable urban development, building a bridge between national and sub-national efforts and reporting processes.

Before the Forum, round tables worked in three clusters based on the 2021 High-Level Political Forum thematic SDGs: cluster 1 on “People” (SDG 1, 2, 3), cluster 2 on “Prosperity” (SDG 8, 10), and cluster 3 on “Planet” (SDG 12, 13). A fourth round table on “Cross-cutting issues” was established to tackle other issues stakeholders were interested in discussing.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts was the backdrop for every UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development meeting. Links between data production, digital transformation, and social protection were identified and highlighted. States and non-State actors repeatedly mentioned the “The Decade of Action” and “Build Back Better” initiatives in their speeches and during “Q&A sessions”.

A Co-Chairs Summary of the debates will be published in the coming weeks, reviewing the UNECE main findings and messages.

We want to underline we missed seeing a debate on how the  national and international policies of the countries that are part of this region are affecting the Sustainable Development progress globally. This is an increasingly relevant issue – given the income and human development levels of these countries – especially during this COVID-19 crisis.