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Regional Forum on Sustainable Development: a “Springboard for future action”

Published: 06 March 2018

How can we make the ambitious 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality in the diverse UNECE region?  Responding to this overarching question, about 600 participants, including government representatives from more than 50 countries, converged in Geneva on 1-2 March 2018 for the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region. For one and a half days, key stakeholders from governments, civil society, academia and the private sector engaged in intense discussions, learning and exchange across a range of key sustainability priorities.

Addressing the participants of the Regional Forum, both the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Marie Chatardová, and the Chair of the Regional UNDG Team for Europe and Central Asia, Cihan Sultanoğlu, emphasized the relevance of sharing expertise and peer learning to accelerate the implementation at the 2030 Agenda.

“Regional Forums are an important place to learn from each other, exchange experiences, discuss practical solutions and address transboundary issues.” also stressed UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in her video message. She urged all participants to “use this gathering as a springboard for a more learning and solution oriented engagement at the High-level Political Forum.”

Regional Forum: close alignment with High-level Political Forum (HLPF)

Closely aligned with the issues addressed at the 2018 High-level Political Forum (HLPF), the High-level Policy Segment of the Regional Forum provided a regional angle to this year’s global theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. Evidence-based policymaking and multilateral efforts were vital to reach this transformation, emphasized Peter Messerli, Professor for Sustainable Development at the University of Bern, in his well-received keynote speech.

Peer learning round tables focussed on the implementation of the following five SDGs under in-depth review at the 2018 HLPF:

  • How to cope with growing water scarcity and promote universal access to water and sanitation (SDG6);
  • What measures are needed to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy and improve energy efficiency (SDG 7);
  • What approaches are taken to promote resilient and sustainable cities  and how to finance this transition (SDG 11);
  • What challenges need to be addressed to deliver sustainable consumption and production patterns by 2030 and support a circular economy (SDG 12) and
  • How to achieve the sustainable management of forests and promote biodiversity (SDG 15).

Country representatives and other stakeholders shared concrete case studies from their national experience, proposed solutions to identified problems and discussed how best practices can be adopted by peers. Conclusions of round tables included calls for a shift in attitudes and culture, the need for reliable, disaggregated data and the importance of cross-sectoral partnerships.

Further room for discussion and peer learning was provided by side events covering a range of topics and approaches on SDG implementation, including on how to mainstream a gender perspective, how to best integrate youth voices and how to engage citizens in achieving the transformative agenda.

Connecting the dots: breaking down silos

Switzerland’s Special Envoy on Sustainable Development, Michael Gerber, chaired the Regional Forum. On the Forum’s second day, Ambassador Gerber succeeded in bringing different constituencies together to discuss the linkages of the SDGs under in-depth review and the challenges of integrated policy making. The discussion highlighted ways how to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination and overcome obstacles for cross-sectoral cooperation.

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, emphasized: “UNECE’s Regional Forum does more than just facilitate collaboration.” Participants created “a veritable laboratory of innovative ideas, bold strategies and best practices with applicability for our region as much as for the world beyond.”

Regional Forum: a fast-growing platform

Taking place for the second time, the Regional Forum is a fast-growing platform for meaningful exchange: the number of participants increased by more than 50% and the number of round tables tripled compared to the 2017’s Regional Forum.

The topics covered at this year’s Regional Forum were closely related to UNECE’s areas of expertise. The preparation of the Forum had therefore involved colleagues across the different programmes of work  of the Commission.  “In a way, this Forum has been an expression of what UNECE represents and what sustainable development is about: working together across different sectors and bringing together multiple partners in pursuit of the common good in our region.” stressed UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova at the closing of the Forum.

Accelerating SDG progress in countries and the region

The Regional Forum feeds both into national and global processes. Discussions from round tables foster mutual learning and help countries accelerate national progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda. The Chair’s summary of the Regional Forum will provide the region’s official input for the High-level Political Forum (HLPF).

The Regional Forum was preceded by a regional preparatory workshop for the countries from the UNECE region conducting Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum and a well-attended preparatory civil society consultation. The latter provided an open platform to discuss future cooperation among Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) within the UNECE region.

For further information please visit: https://www.unece.org/rfsd2018.html

Photos of the Regional Forum can be viewed online here

Note to editors

About the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development

As an intergovernmental mechanism, the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is convened by UNECE, in close cooperation with the regional UN system. All five Regional Commissions organize Regional Forums for Sustainable Development in their respective regions.

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