HLPF 2018 – Day 1

The High Level Political Forum 2018 kicked off on 9 July 2018. The annual follow up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals takes place at the UN headquarters from 9-18 July 2018. It is composed of two distinct segments: the thematic review (9-13 July) and the voluntary national level reviews (16-18 July).

The opening session was marked by a highly insightful overview of where we stand with respect to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, by Jeffery Sachs, leading Colombia University academic and advisor on sustainable development. He hailed those countries closest to achieving the SDGs, with Sweden topping the list. Making the link between high income tax rates and high performance on the SDGs, he went on to stress the role of the public sector in ensuring high levels of education, of healthcare and societal stability. Focusing on wealth imbalances, and evidenced by the colossal concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, Prof. Sachs suggested eight concrete ways of raising revenue to fund sustainable development efforts.

  1. High Net-Worth Levy
  2. Taxation of Offshore Accounts
  3. Tech Tax (Facebook, Google, …)
  4. Financial Transactions Tax
  5. Carbon Tax
  6. Carbon Offset Purchases by Industry
  7. Industrial Fines for Pollution and Climate Disasters
  8. Crackdown on Tax Evasion

The full recording of Prof. Sachs’ intervention is available here:

"They are achievable, but they are not being achieved. Our biggest obstacle is greed. There is absolutely enough in this world for everybody to live safe lives out of poverty."

Key documents

The opening day of the HLPF 2018 also saw three key publications brought to the fore:

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018

Commissioned by the Secretary General of the United Nations, this report identifies progress and remaining gaps for all 17 SDGs, based on the latest available data, and examines some of the interconnections across Goals and targets.

SDG Index and Dashboards Report

This annual report shows how leaders can deliver on their promise and it urges countries not to lose the momentum for important reforms. It is produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development 2018

This report authored by a global coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions. The main message: “The world is off-track in terms of achieving sustainable development and fundamental policy changes are necessary to unleash the transformative potential of the SDGs.” The chapter on SDG 8 is entitled What policies are needed to achieve Goal 8? The trade union recipe for SDG implementation and is authored by Paola Simonetti, Deputy Director of the ITUC’s Economic and Social Policy Department.

HLPF reform

Trade unions, along with other stakeholder groups, have been critical of the HLPF process for not delivering on its mandate to provide political leadership on implementing the SDGs. Neither the thematic review nor the voluntary national review processes are seen as providing the much needed reinforcement of implementation modalities. Furthermore, the space provided for meaningful stakeholder engagement is inadequate. However, the 2019 review of the HLPF process provides a key opportunity to address these issues. In anticipation of this, the stakeholder groups organised a side-event to provide input into this process.

Trade unions summarised the conclusions of A trade union take on the SDGs 2018, noting that the implementation process at national level is extremely inconsistent and that the interests of stakeholders are not systematically integrated into the implementation process. Without this, resulting policies simply will not work for broader societies over the long term. Rather than address these inconsistencies, the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in their current format merely reflect them: some are inclusive while others are not. To address this situation and ensure an added value, the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group recommends that the Voluntary National Review guidelines be strengthened to include recommendations that ensure transparency, consultation and the inclusion of social dialogue in the process.

SDG 6 review

The afternoon saw the first of the reviews of this year’s selected SDGs. Goal 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all was under review. Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International, delivered a speech on behalf of the Workers and Trade Unions Major Group. The intervention highlighted the finding of the recent PSI report, entitled SDG6: Water and sanitation are fundamental services, privatization is not a means of implementation!.

In spite of the ever-present profit-driven narrative of privatisation and the push by International Financial Institutions for private sector participation in water and sanitation services, GS Pavanelli highlighted that more than 90 per cent of water and sanitation systems around the world are publicly owned and operated.

The push for greater private sector involvement in the implementation of SDG 6, flies in the face of growing evidence that the privatization of water and sanitation has been detrimental, especially to the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the world and that corporations tend to use monopoly power to generate excessive profits. The shocking reality for people living in Flint, right here in the United States, shows that this is not just happening in developing countries.

The full speech is available here.

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