Implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in times of COVID-19

Por Javier Surasky
Cepei 
j.surasky@cepei.org

February 22, 2021


As part of the preparation for the High-Level Political Forum, countries meet every year in the framework of the Regional Forums on Sustainable Development. However, 2021 will have a different element: These spaces will allow a first approach to measure commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda in the post-COVID-19 era. It is now the time to face the emergency and vaccinate as soon as possible. But what is going to happen when societies reach a reconstruction stage? Will the enthusiasm to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals remain universal, honoring the principle of leaving no one behind?

We need to go back to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which guided international cooperation at the global level between 2000 and 2015. By the end of that period, and during the debates to define the framework and content of what we know today as the 2030 Agenda, countries faced the following question: Should a goal be considered as “achieved” if it was achieved globally, but also unevenly, as some regions of the world had not achieved it? A positive response to this question allowed the first goal of the MDG 1 to be met: Reduce poverty by half. In fact, global poverty fell by 68% between 1990 (base year for the MDG measurements) and 2015.

However, at the subregional level, we noticed that two subregions failed to reduce their poverty by 50% and the worst record is held by the poorest region on the planet: Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also noticeable how different the situation would have been if China -the most populous country in the world-, had not achieved the impressive results it showed for that period.

This debate transcends the statistical. It implies a political vision of the world and a position towards solidarity as an international value. This is how the leaders who adopted the 2030 Agenda understood it, and proposed a solution that will not allow an objective to be considered as fulfilled if it is not achieved for all countries and regions, under the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

The Agenda also defined a monitoring scheme capable of integrating global, regional and national perspectives, including sub-national spaces in the latter. As a result, it is stated that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be implemented and monitored at a triple level.

  • At the global level, the main space to carry out the task is the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which meets annually under the auspices of ECOSOC, and once every four years as a Summit, under the auspices of the General Assembly.
  • At the national level, the Agenda allows each country to define its monitoring and implementation structure, so it can take into account its own context and priorities.

What happens at the regional level? Paragraph 81 of the 2030 Agenda establishes that the platform for reviewing and monitoring the SDGs must be determined by the States of each region, while encouraging the UN Regional Commissions to provide assistance to the Member States. As a result, and along with the creation of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for Sustainable Development in 2017, all regions have a Regional Forum for Sustainable Development, sponsored by the regional Commissions: Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Asia Pacific (ESCAP), Europe (ECE), Africa (ECA) and the Arab Countries (ESCWA).

The five forums have been consolidated as the platforms in which the countries of each region raise their common problems, exchange lessons learned, strengthen joint learning processes and establish dialogues with non-governmental actors.

In March 2021, a new round of meetings of the Regional Sustainable Development Forums will take place. For the first time, we will be able to establish what the level of enthusiasm is regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the new global context.

Due to the pandemic, the meetings of the regional forums will take place online and may hinder some processes, while also facilitating the participation of actors who, otherwise, would have not been able to travel for face to face debates.

Cepei has been following the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean since the first meeting and the work done in the other four regional forums. This year, we will once again follow the updates on our region, by actively participating in the debates and sharing information of interest through our networks to allow an immediate follow-up of the discussions that take place there. We will also analyze the results of each forum,  focusing on the relationship between the SDGs and the post-COVID-19 reconstruction, and the reform of the United Nations Development System at the regional level, which started in 2020.

It will not be “another regional meeting”. It will be an opportunity to start measuring the enthusiasm of States regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the post-COVID-19 period.

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About the author

Javier Surasky

Ph.D. in International Relations (La Plata National University, Argentina) Master in International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action (International University of Andalucia). He has taught international cooperation courses at different postgraduate careers in Latin America and European universities.