From July 6 to July 16, the ninth annual UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development was held virtually from the UN Headquarters at New York City. The HLPF is an event jointly coordinated by the UN General Assembly and the UN Economic and Social Council that talks about the steps countries have been making to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 interlinked global goals intended to make a better and sustainable future for all.
Every session of the forum was centered around this main idea: how can we sustainably and resiliently recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and in what ways can we support both national governments and local communities in doing so? This year’s HLPF put an emphasis on SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and wellbeing), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and 17 (partnerships in depth) as these are the SDGs whose progress have been the most stagnant and/or have taken the biggest setback during the pandemic.
The session’s discussions revolved around how to work on ending world hunger and poverty, how to address and alleviate climate change, how we can all contribute to make for a better, more equitable and inclusive society, how to support local communities with the SDGs they need the most, and long term trends related to the pandemic that will affect the SDGs.
The fact that all of this happens under the same roof is an incredible achievement in itself and is a testimony to the commitment that various governments and organisations have toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, one is right to question the role that the youth plays in such an event.
The answer to this question is relatively straightforward. We, the youth, are the future. We must therefore ensure that the leaders of today shape the world into a place where humanity can thrive in the future; a place where we, the leaders of tomorrow, can build upon the framework laid out by our predecessors.
In order to achieve this, we must actively participate in events like the HLPF to make our perspectives heard and to ensure that they are accounted for when new policies are being established. In addition, we have the right to know about what is going on in the world and how governments are working to tackle real-time issues such as the ongoing pandemic. Furthermore, if one may, we owe it to ourselves to learn and contribute to the planet which, at the end of the day, belongs to us as much as it did to our predecessors. The HLPF is an event that allows us young citizens to do just that.
The youth are the future generation, the leaders who will take over the world. And that’s you. When there is so much damage and suffering happening in your world, isn’t it your right and your responsibility to step up and voice your concerns and solutions? The HLPF is giving you the platform to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the world. Your voice matters. Your opinions are considered. You are important. Let your voice be heard. Step up, be involved. Work together for what will one day be your world.
The HLPF is meant just as much for you, the youth, as the leaders
About the authors
Lisa Zhuo Ran He, Christiane Tia, Fathima Ansar, Shritan Bhupathiraju and Aasritha Pattipati were selected by UNICEF and Nord Anglia Education to become 2021's student rapporteurs for the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).
As student rapporteurs they were tasked with covering 8 sessions of the HLPF, applying their knowledge on the SDGs to report the main issues and messages discussed at the panels, providing recommendations and writing this article.