Global Summits & Global Order — Two Summits

What is the SDG Summit?

The SDG Summit is an assembly of states and global stakeholders to discuss and evaluate progress toward Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global plan to achieve sustainable economic and social prosperity worldwide. The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) has been established to measure and further these efforts.

The HLPF occurs annually in July under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It brings together high-level government representatives and stakeholders to evaluate and share recommendations for the current progress of the SDGs and future action toward Agenda 2030. Additionally participating countries have agreed for their heads of states and government to meet every four years under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.

The first SDG Summit took place in New York from September 24th-25th in 2019, alongside the HLPF and has convened annually since the introduction of Agenda 2030 in 2015. These meetings have produced the Political Declaration, “Gearing up for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. Political leaders have called for acceleration of action toward the SDGs and Agenda 2030. The Political Declaration was officially endorsed on October 15th, 2019.

The current Summit gathering marks the beginning of the second HLPF convention under the General Assembly for heads of state and government. It is being chaired by president of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi. The goal of this Summit is to negotiate and finalize the Political Declaration.

The Political Declaration was determined by the General Assembly to be the sole document to be negotiated by the HLPF at this year’s gathering. The Declaration will outline the shared commitment toward SDG progress and pursuit of Agenda 2030.


The Summit marks the beginning of a new phase of accelerated progress toward the SDGs under high-level political guidance. The goal is transformative and accelerated action leading up to the deadline of Agenda 2030. This Summit marks the halfway point for Agenda 2030 and the pressing need to revamp and drastically move forward with SDG progress if there is any prospect of achieving the Agenda in the next 7 years. During this time stakeholders and state leaders will respond to and assess the impact of the numerous intersecting global crises being experienced today and how they can be addressed sustainably to encourage and rekindle hope and optimism for Agenda 2030.

Expert Voices

On September 14th the IISD hosted a pre-SDG Summit Dialogue to explore opportunities to encourage ambition for the upcoming SDG summit. This virtual meeting featured expert speakers, Nudhara Yusuf, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and John Gilroy who shared their insights on the SDG progress so far as well as the areas for improvement and aspirations for the next 7 years leading up to the 2030 Agenda. The official IISD summary can be found here.  

With regards to expectations and raising ambitions, Yusuf used a soccer metaphor to describe the role of the Summit as a halftime in which the progress of the SDGs can be assessed and new strategies could be proposed to guide the second half of the game. She highlighted that there exists a gap in strategy to effectively manage the various multilateral agendas existing with regards to SDG progress. She proposed three “buckets” in which she hoped the Summit would organize its efforts toward the SGDs: “What can we do now”, “–do soon”, and “contentious issues”–of which she highlighted the roles of women and youth to be a major, and arguably key  issue.  John Gilroy stressed how badly offtrack the global community is with the SDGs, but that in the same way that so much has changed for the worst–environmentally, economically, politically, etc.–in such a short space of time, the same could be done for positive progress should the global community figure out the right way forward.

In terms of successes and lessons learned, Yusuf highlighted the importance of including the expertise of youth on discussions of sustainability and not to pigeon-hole their role into that of “youth, but rather that of the general stakeholders concerning SDG progress. She also noted the need to standardize the way the global community understands ‘progress’ and to keep course of existing successes. Al-Thani pointed-out that SDG goals look different in every state and that this thus requires them to adhere to national commitments in order to track the diversity of SDG progress. As well he asserted that the global community must prepare for a very likely future in which Agenda 2030 is not achieved, and that this cannot be swept under the rug. Gilroy urged that there needs to be greater accountability measure for countries who do not meet their goals as well as support and investigation to understand and overcome their failures. IISD plans an SDG debrief which will take place on the 29th–it will be made evident what the plan is for the next 7 years and illuminate what hope there is for achieving Agenda 2030 on time.

What are They?

The United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is a collective body stemming from the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Economic and Social Council which oversee global efforts toward sustainable development. The HLPF prioritizes negotiated declarations, reviews commitments and progress of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (i.e., Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and Global Goals). The Forum is open to all member states of the UN.

The Forum’s main tasks are twofold given its alignment with both the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN General Assembly. Thus, the HLPF hosts two kinds of meetings which include respectively: an annual 8-day Summit including a 3-day Ministerial segment and a 2-day Summit of Heads of State and Government every four years.

This year’s HLPF met over a 9-day period from July 10th-19th under the umbrella of the ECOSOC. During this period the successes, experiences, and lessons from past failures and hopes for future progress were shared. It was attended by over 100 nations as well as businesses, civil society organizations, youth and other stakeholders. As per protocol for the High-level portion of the Summit, it featured a 3-day ministerial segment from July-17th-19th. The last day featured the ECOSOC high-level segment.

This year’s Forum theme was: “Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels”. During the HLPF participants discussed effective and inclusive recovery measures to address the effects of the pandemic on the SDGs.  The HLPF also examined actionable policy guidance for holistic implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs at all levels.

This year the HLPF also put forward the new measure to prioritize SDG Goals 6 on clean water and sanitation, Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy, Goal 9 on industry, innovation, and infrastructure, Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, and Goal 17 on partnerships.

The HLPF also featured 39 presentations of voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of Agenda 2030 implementation. These nations included: BahrainBarbadosBelgiumBosnia and HerzegovinaBrunei DarussalamBurkina FasoCambodiaCanadaCentral African RepublicComorosChileCroatiaDemocratic Republic of the CongoEuropean UnionFijiFranceGuyanaIcelandIrelandKuwaitLiechtensteinLithuaniaMaldivesMongoliaPolandPortugalRomaniaRwandaSaudi ArabiaSingaporeSlovakiaSt Kitts & Nevis TajikistanTimor-LesteTurkmenistanUnited Republic of Tanzania UzbekistanVietnamZambia.

Lastly, the HLPF also advanced the mid-term review of SDG implementation as well as the preparations for the 2023 SDG Summit which will convene under the General Assembly in September 2023. The President of ECOSOC summarized the key messages and discussions of the Summit.

The HLPF is the forerunner for the SDG Summit which will take place this September. Summit preparation took place earlier this year in July in conjunction with the ECOSOC. This year saw another effort to push for expeditious and urgent collective action to deliver on the SDGs by 2030.

Looking to the 2023 SDG Summit

The SDG Summit will take place September 18th-19th in New York during the UN General Assembly high level week. This Summit including Heads of State and Government will occur at the halfway mark for implementation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. During this time the various stakeholders will review the progress of SDG implementation, offer policy guidance, mobilize action to expedite implementation and review emerging challenges since 2015.

The Summit will place an emphasis on meeting the basic needs of people first and foremost through the 2030 Agenda implementation. The Summit will address the effects of multilateral global crises such as the deterioration of fundamental social, economic, and environmental indicators.