TAP at the 2017 HLPF: Philipp Schönrock

TAP at the 2017 HLPF: Fashion Catwalk or Sustainable Development Summit?

by Mr. Philipp Schönrock, Director, CEPEI


The airport in Bogota was crowded. It is holiday season in Colombia and families are traveling to relax from this urban jungle which over seven million of us call home. It is the same airport where a governmental delegation traveled from, to attend the Rio+20 conference with an idea in there briefcase of what we call the SDGs today. Now a reality and almost two years after world leaders agreed upon an ambitious universal development agenda, we want to evidence how the implementation process is going around the globe. If not on holidays, the right place to be if you are interested in sustainable development is New York City. Every year the development community meets at the United Nations to attend the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which has the role of overseeing the country’s implementation of the commitments to implement the goals and its targets. Further, it has a critical role to play and must mirror and enhance the inclusivity of the different development stakeholders.


While traveling to New York, thoughts came dancing through the mind, it was a necessary reality check that putting this agenda into practice may not be as simple as it seems. A clear thought was floating above the sky and it was that the enabling environment may trigger or disable an active participation of all development stakeholders, including on setting up spaces for advocacy, accountability and experiences sharing.


Latin America was well represented at the HLPF, during the 2017 Voluntary National Reviews, eleven countries were presenting a detailed review of the advances on the institutional framework, enabling environment, initiatives and roadmaps for the implementation of the sustainable development agenda. So it was time to observe and analyse the accomplishments reached so far and to identify the major challenges ahead of us.


It was interesting to witness how the institutional framework has evolved in the last two years. The countries of the region have created new structures like SDG Commissions; gave existing ones a stronger mandate or maintained the existing institutional framework. Further, it was good to see that most countries are making real efforts to align the Goals to national development strategies and governments are recognizing, by its own and with different levels of ‘honesty’, their challenges and weaknesses for implementation and monitoring.


The major challenge that stood in the room during the entire time, was that the Voluntary National Reviews are not being developed under a review cycle logic and without a strong local ownership of the different development stakeholders. Some reviews were presented for the first time in New York and not in the capital of the volunteering countries!


Although all Latin American countries presented challenges on its data ecosystems, none of them presented a roadmap to tackle them. The same happens when it comes to domestic resources mobilization, development finance was not given a  major importance. Another interesting finding was that no country followed the UN Secretary General’s recommendations on how to present the VNRs.


These were the first findings of Cepei´s governance team and given that a more detailed analysis does not fit this pages, they invite you to read the full report (which can be found at www.cepei.org).


But before wrapping up, let me conclude that I found that the HLPF is becoming an effective platform, though admittedly with certain limitations. The presentation of the Voluntary National Reviews were both interesting and informative. The standard criticism regarding multilateral fora being the development fashion catwalks is in this case unconvincing.


Returning to Bogota, the airport was still crowded, 7 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean already volunteered to present their reports next year, and we will certainly track its progress. But for know it is holiday time, even for development nerds.


*this travel was made possible thanks to the generous support of the TAP Network