The International Science Council (ISC) and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) submitted this contribution to the review process of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on behalf of the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group (STC MG). The ISC and WFEO represent altogether more than 40 international scientific Unions and Associations, 140 national and regional scientific organizations and 100 national engineering institutions.
The COVID-19 crisis illustrates the need for nimble and effective governance structures that foster collaboration at different levels and the importance of robust data and scientific evidence to inform decision-making on ways to respond, recover, prevent and prepare for such events. It is a very real test of our ability to address the fundamental interdependencies between development and planetary health, and craft new ways of acting together to address complex global challenges.
The timely review of ECOSOC and the HLPF must be ambitious and lead to a strengthened global institutional framework if we are to realize the aspirations of the Decade of action and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals while recovering from the COVID-19 crisis.
To this end, the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group would like to share the following proposals:
- The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) should contribute to sharing knowledge, providing political leadership, and catalyzing coalition building to leverage co-benefits and address potential conflicts and negative spill-overs between the SDGs.
- The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 (GSDR 2019) transformation framework provides a solid scientific basis to frame the SDGs in an integrated manner. The thematic review of the SDGs at the HLPF should be based on the GSDR’s logic of identifying “entry points” and “levers” for transformation.
- The review of the HLPF is an opportunity to evolve the Forum into a knowledge-based and action-oriented gathering that is underpinned by a strong science-policy-society interface. To this end, the preparatory processes of the HLPF should be strengthened by effectively utilizing analyses and syntheses of available data and information to better frame policy-relevant discussions in the run-up and during the HLPF annual meetings.
- In the absence of an institutional mechanism for scientific advice to the HLPF, scientists and experts (including from the Independent Group of Scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report – GSDR IGS) should play a key role in the preparatory process to distil and synthesize available knowledge, engage with Member States and be available to advise them, and help facilitate discussions during the HLPF. This would contribute to building trust in science and strengthening the use of scientific evidence as called for by the UN Secretary General in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The evidence-based inputs stemming from the multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum) should better feed into the HLPF.
- Improving the HLPF towards better knowledge integration, policy coherence and ambition around the SDGs cannot be achieved without a robust process at national level to support SDGs implementation, and monitoring and review. The preparations of Voluntary National Review (VNR), their presentation at the HLPF and the follow-up should meet several needs:
- reflecting on actual progress achieved drawing on robust data and scientific evidence;
- sharing lessons learned and good practices that have transformative potential and could benefit other member states’ implementation efforts;
- sharing challenges and identifying knowledge, implementation and capacity gaps where support is needed.
- The follow-up of VNRs could be improved as modest additional investments that would significantly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the HLPF and enable cumulative impact over time. ECOSOC or the HLPF could mandate an official report on good practices identified in the VNRs or SDG reviews, or a comprehensive policy document with actionable recommendations.
- There should be better alignment and integration of the SDGs with other frameworks (such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction). As progress in achieving the SDGs is largely determined by the level of ambition and effective implementation of many other global agreements and frameworks, both technical and political processes for the preparation of the HLPF through to the follow up need to more effectively link with relevant intergovernmental agreements and processes on issues relevant to the SDGs.
Contributors: Marianne Beisheim (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), Steven Bernstein (University of Toronto) Felicitas Fritzsche (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), Kancheepuram N. Gunalan (World Federation of Engineering Organizations), Elisabeth Hege (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations), William Kelly (World Federation of Engineering Organizations), Anda Popovici (ISC), Anne-Sophie Stevance (ISC).