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SDGs: World leaders meet at UN to drive pandemic recovery

The United Nations (UN) says world leaders are preparing to take part in 2021 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where they will discuss ways to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UN Headquarters
UN Headquarters, New York

Leading figures from government, business and civil society are expected to meet at UN headquarters, New York, to discuss ways of turning the deadly crisis into an opportunity for a major shift towards a more sustainable global economy.

The hybrid (online and in-person) conference, which takes place between July 6 and 15, 2021, will focus on the lessons, successes, shortcomings and plans to emerge from the unprecedented health crisis.

It also serves as an avenue to advocate for achievement of the SDGs as the best way to build more inclusive, resilient and healthier societies.

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“Countries will share and reflect the actions they have been taking to overcome the pandemic, to address its impacts and to build back better,” said Munir Akram, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which convenes the forum.

“A core issue would be whether and how they are using the SDGs as the blueprint for their response to COVID-19.”

This year, 43 countries will present actions they have taken to improve people’s standard of living, despite the impact of the pandemic.

To date, 168 countries have presented their progress on the SDGs since the first forum, in 2016.

In the area of climate action, for example, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is implementing a $1.3 million project to improve its civil society access to climate financing.

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In Norway, measures to combat climate change have led to total greenhouse gas emissions dropping to the lowest level since 1993, and also, Angola’s decision to enact measures aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on oil.

For many countries, the response to the pandemic has involved investing in their citizens, enhancing social protection systems and labour markets in order to help the most vulnerable populations.

Egypt’s “Decent Life” scheme aims to improve the lives of millions of poor in rural areas; Denmark inaugurated its “Children First” project, to ensure better conditions for equal opportunities in childhood.

Cyprus has adopted a support package for employees, the self-employed, vulnerable groups and businesses, worth some €2.6 billion.

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Despite these welcome initiatives, ECOSOC warns that the pandemic has erased years of progress on some SDGs and delegates will identify areas that need more attention, and policies likely to have maximum impacts on achieving the Goals.

Before the onset of the pandemic, progress was already being described as unsatisfactory, with pervasive inequalities, hunger, climate change, lack of access to education, growing unemployment and extreme poverty.

By highlighting these ongoing issues, it is hoped that countries will chart a recovery path that is people-centred and underpinned by economic reform, digital transformation, vaccine equity and climate action.

By Cecilia Ologunagba

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