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Trends and progress in UNECE region featured at global review of SDGs

The promising start made across the UNECE region in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was highlighted at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York (10-19 July 2017), the UN’s global platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs. A series of events with UNECE involvement also stressed remaining challenges, policy solutions and key partnerships driving successes.

“The process of incorporating the SDGs into national legal and policy frameworks seems well advanced in the region”, said Ms. Olga Algayerova, UNECE Executive Secretary, speaking on regional and subregional implementation at the outset of the HLPF.

Indeed, the SDGs and their universality are taken very seriously by high- and middle-income countries in the region alike. Not least, this is evidenced by the strong participation in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the HLPF: more than one third of VNR countries in 2016 and 2017 were from the UNECE region, and 14 UNECE countries presented their SDG progress in New York this year.

“The commitment to the 2030 Agenda in the region has also resulted in strong engagement in the Regional Forum”, said Ms. Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Commissioner-General for Sustainable Development of France and Chair of the first stand-alone Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region (Geneva, 25 April 2017), while presenting the key messages from the Regional Forum at the HLPF’s High-level Segment. The Regional Forum has been off to a good start as an open platform for peer learning and exchange of experiences among governments and other stakeholders on SDG implementation. It also provides the official input from the region to the global review.            

To achieve the SDGs in the region, further efforts are required even in the most advanced countries. Existing challenges, such as continued environmental pressures, social polarisation, high levels of unemployment and persistent gender inequalities, need to be addressed in an integrated manner.       

To this end, cooperation and coordination within governments and international organizations will be essential, but also broad and cross-cutting partnerships and coalitions between various actors that have a role to play in SDG implementation, notably civil society and the private sector. UNECE has promoted stronger cooperation within the regional UN system to provide more coherent support to countries at the national and regional levels.

Regional cooperation is essential in helping to adapt the SDGs to specific national and local contexts, to improve data on implementation, and to promote resource mobilization and practical peer learning, as highlighted at an HLPF side event hosted by all Regional Commissions entitled “Accelerating Sustainable Development – Regional assistance for translating the SDGs into national action”. At this event, the UNECE Executive Secretary pointed to the unique specialization of UNECE, which lies in providing policy advice and analysis, developing norms, standards and legal instruments, addressing data and measurement challenges, and bringing together member States, the regional UN system and other stakeholders in numerous intergovernmental and expert bodies and other forums.

As a concrete example of a cross-sectoral initiative, carried out in partnership with UN Environment, the UNECE Executive Secretary presented the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E) at the HLPF Partnership Exchange Special Event. Operationalizing the Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy, endorsed at the Eight Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi, Georgia last year, the BIG-E initiative provides an incentive for countries, organizations and other public and private stakeholders to voluntarily develop, commit to and deliver on concrete green economy actions. To date, already 117 voluntary commitments have been received under the BIG-E initiative.

The HLPF concluded on Wednesday, 19 July 2017, after dedicating the last three days to a total of 44 VNRs, including from the following UNECE member States: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Tajikistan.      

For more information:

High-level Political Forum (HLPF) (10-19 July 2017)

HLPF session on “Implementation at the regional and sub-regional levels” (10 July 2017) 

HLPF session on “Reporting by Ministerial Chairs of the Regional Forums on Sustainable Development” (17 July 2017)

HLPF Partnership Exchange Special Event (17 July 2017)

Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region (25 April 2017)

Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E)