Sustainable Development Governance

© Cia Pak, UN Photo

In 2012, the international community met in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and decided to negotiate a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In September 2015, the heads of state and government of the UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 SDGs, with 169 targets to specify them.

The annual UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), agreed at Rio+20 and set up in 2013, provides political guidance for implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs and serves integration, cooperation, and coordination functions. During the annual HLPF under the auspices of ECOSOC in July, UN member states present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on their national implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. In addition, the HLPF reviews a number of SDGs each year, with the explicit aim of also addressing interlinkages (Thematic and SDG Reviews).

In September 2019, the first HLPF took place under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (SDG Summit). The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), written by 15 independent experts, provided the basis for a first global stocktaking throughout the summit. In the outcome document, the Political Declaration, the heads of state and government called for a “Decade of Action.” Governments and non-state actors are requested to register voluntary initiatives and partnerships to speed up implementation (SDG Acceleration Actions).

Already in 2016, UN member states agreed to review the format and organizational aspects of the HLPF after the first four-year cycle. The informal deliberations on the lessons learned from the first cycle began already in 2019; the official negotiations on the review of the HLPF started in early 2020. An SWP project is researching the process around the HLPF Review, analyzing the HLPF’s working arrangements and positions of member states, and also giving policy advice on options for reforms.

Further reading
The UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform provides relevant information and documents relating to the negotiations as well as background papers on the subject:


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Holly Jean Buck, Laura Jane Martin, Oliver Geden, et al.

Evaluating the efficacy and equity of environmental stopgap measures

in: Nature Sustainability, July 2020, Vol. 3, pp. 499-504
Marianne Beisheim, Steven Bernstein,

The High-Level Political Forum Review 2020: An Opportunity to Fulfill the HLPF’s Mandate

in: Felix Dodds (Ed.), Governance for Sustainable Development Volume 4: Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New World Frontiers, February 2020
Marianne Beisheim, Steven Bernstein

Matching the HLPF’s Ambition to Performance: Prospects for the Review

in: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 13th of February 2020 (online)
Marianne Beisheim

Reviewing the HLPF's "format and organizational aspects" - what's being discussed?

Assessing current proposals under debate

Working Paper Research Division Global Issues, 2020/01
Marianne Beisheim

UN Reforms for the 2030 Agenda

Are the HLPF’s Working Methods and Practices “Fit for Purpose”?

SWP Research Paper 2018/RP 09, October 2018, 33 Pages
Science X

Controversy around the ministerial declaration, looking towards 2019 and an interview with Marianne Beisheim

Interview with Marianne Beisheim in: Science X HLPF, July 2018 (online)
Eleni Dellas, Alexander Carius, Marianne Beisheim, Susan Parnell, Dirk Messner

Local and Regional Governments in the Follow-up and Review of Global Sustainability Agendas

in: Berlin/Brussels: adelphi/Cities Alliance, February 2018, 59 Pages
Evita Schmieg

External Trade Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals

Implementing the SDGs Will Meet Justified Criticisms of Globalisation

SWP Comment 2017/C 39, October 2017, 4 Pages
Steffen Angenendt, Anne Koch

International Cooperation on Migration Policy: Dare to Do More!

The Global Forum on Migration and Development in Berlin Opens Up Opportunities

SWP Comment 2017/C 21, June 2017, 4 Pages
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SWP Comments

Fabian Burkhardt
Russia’s “Passportisation” of the Donbas

The Mass Naturalisation of Ukrainians Is More Than a Foreign Policy Tool

Andrea Frenzel, Nadine Godehardt
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On the Significance of China Competence for German and European Policy on China

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Muriel Asseburg
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Challenges and Policy Options for the EU and its Member States

Guido Steinberg
Regional Power United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi Is No Longer Saudi Arabia’s Junior Partner