July 19, 2017 - On the sidelines of the 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General to work on the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) provided an update on progress to date and on plans envisioned for the 2019 edition of that quadrennial report.
The GSDR seeks to: inform the HLPF; strengthen the science-policy interface; and constitute a strong evidence-based instrument to support policymakers in promoting poverty eradication and sustainable development. The report is intended to provide guidance to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ways that integrate economic, environmental and social dimensions.
In 2016, UN Member States requested the formation of an independent group to draft the GSDR, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed 15 eminent scientists and experts to be part of the group. Those scientists are: Endah Murniningtyas (Indonesia, co-chair); Peter Messerli (Switzerland, co-chair); Wolfgang Lutz (Austria); Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (Belgium); Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue (Cameroon); Katherine Richardson (Denmark); Eeva Furman (Finland); Jean-Paul Moatti (France); Ernest Foli (Ghana); David Smith (Jamaica); Muhammad Saidam (Jordan); Jurgis Kazimieras Staniškis (Lithuania); Gonzalo Hernández Licona (Mexico); Eun Mee Kim (South Korea); and Amanda Glassman (US).
The GSDR update event, titled ‘Progress to Date on the GSDR,’ took place on 19 July 2017 in New York, US, immediately following the second meeting of the group of scientists. The first meeting convened in New York from 21-23 February 2017.
Co-Chair Endah Murniningtyas said the GSDR should focus on an integrated approach, include a regional dimension, consider countries in special situations, and complement the annual SDG progress report issued by the UN Secretary-General. Peter Messerli, the other co-chair, said the group is entering the phase where it is starting to prepare the report which, he noted, should be ready in time for the HLPF in 2019. He announced that the report’s preparation would include three phases: dialogue; consultation; and writing. The group would make a call for contributing to the report that would target scientists and non-scientists, and was considering organizing a meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, to gather different views, he said. He added that the consultation phase could include a webinar, among other elements, and that the report writing would be complemented by a peer review phase.
Eeva Furman said the report would provide evidence for the various pathways that lead to sustainable development. She said the report will: require collaboration from various disciplines; use different sources of knowledge, such as traditional knowledge and knowledge from business and non-governmental organizations; consider inputs from developing and developed countries; and include examples of technologies that have a successful impact on the SDGs.
Members of the group remarked that the report would: be designed in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda; take into account the principle of no one left behind; consider experiences from all regions; include knowledge related to the “transformations” needed to reach the SDGs; include key messages or recommendations that are policy relevant and based on scientific analysis; and be readable by “as many people as possible.” They added that the website of the GSDR 2019, hosted on the UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, would comprise information on the report and a call for contributions, among other elements.
Some scientists said the group is highly interdisciplinary, but noted that it must work within the limited resources allocated to the GDSR process. Others outlined the vulnerability, resilience, data and technology challenges faced by some developing countries, such as the small island developing States (SIDS), and noted the benefits of working with a network of scientists.
Shantanu Mukherjee, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) invited countries and organizations to communicate with the UN Secretariat if they want to share information that could be useful for the report, adding that inputs that can inform the policy debate are most helpful.
The group of scientists is supported by a UN task team, co-chaired by: the UN Secretariat; UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UN Environment (UNEP); the UN Development Programme (UNDP); the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and the World Bank. The UN Secretariat provides logistical support. By Nathalie Risse, Ph.D.
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