United Nations body

High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Background information on HLPF

One of the central outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, was the establishment of a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). Following informal consultations led by representatives from Brazil and Italy at the United Nations in New York, the General Assembly laid down the format and organisational aspects of the HLPF in its resolution A/67/290 on 9 July 2013. According to the resolution, the HLPF is the leading intergovernmental body within the UN on issues of sustainable development with universal participation of all UN member states.

The HLPF missions are:

  • to make recommendations for sustainable development;
  • to ensure improved integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, social, economic);
  • to promote and facilitate the sharing of best practices, experiences and constraints in implementing sustainable development and
  • to review the implementation of commitments in the field of sustainable development (for example Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, Rio+20 outcome document, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs).

New challenges are to be taken into account adequately, and all UN institutions, funds and programmes, civil society and major groups to be included effectively. The HLPF will also strengthen the interface between science and politics - particularly in the form of a Global Sustainable Development Report by the UN.

The HLPF convenes:

  • every four years for a period of two days at the level of heads of state and government at the beginning of the session of the General Assembly (SDG Summit) and
  • annually for a period of eight days, including a three-day ministerial segment held in the framework of the substantive session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

At the end of each session, a negotiated political declaration is submitted to the General Assembly or ECOSOC, respectively. Since its fourth meeting in July 2016, convened under the auspices of ECOSOC, the HLPF reviews the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These reviews involving high-level government representatives are carried out on a voluntary basis. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) hold lead responsibility for the HLPF within the German government.

Year Topic Level SDGs in focus Number of voluntary country reports
2022 Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ECOSOC 4, 5, 14, 15, 17 46
2021 Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development ECOSOC 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17 42
2020 Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development ECOSOC - 47
2019 SDG summit at opening of UN General Assembly General Assembly - -
2019 Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality ECOSOC 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 und 17 tbd
2018 Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies ECOSOC 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 und 17 47
2017 Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world ECOSOC 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 und 17 43
2016 Ensuring that no one is left behind ECOSOC - 22
2015 Strengthening integration, implementation and review – the HLPF after 2015 ECOSOC - -
2014 Achieving the MDGs and charting the way for an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, including the SDGs ECOSOC - -
2013 Building the future we want: from Rio+20 to the post-2015 development agenda ECOSOC - -

Past HLPF meetings

HLPF meeting in July 2021

The HLPF convened for the eighth time from 6-15 July 2021. It was the second time that the event under the auspices of ECOSOC was held mainly online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The high-level ministerial segment took place from 13-15 July. The overarching topic of the HLPF was Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.

The HLPF explored how to ensure sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Access to vaccines, rising inequality worldwide, the pending socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic and the debt crisis were at the heart of the consultations. Overall, discussions focussed on these SDGs: SDG 1 (end poverty), SDG 2 (end hunger), SDG 3 (health and well-being), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduce inequality), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships to achieve goals).

The HLPF adopted a consensual ministerial declaration in 2021 following years when no consensus had been achieved, for example in 2018. The HLPF in 2020 ended with no declaration at all for the first time ever.

During the HLPF meeting, 42 countries reported on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The German government presented its second voluntary national review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the HLPF. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel started the presentation with a video message. Parliamentary State Secretaries Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (BMU) and Dr Maria Flachsbarth (BMZ) headed the German delegation. Prominent members of German civil society groups also joined the delegation.

In her video message, Chancellor Merkel underlined that intergenerational equity was a key aspect of sustainable development. Parliamentary State Secretaries Schwarzelühr-Sutter and Flachsbarth stressed that the SDGs served as a compass for finding the way out of the pandemic. The German delegation also put a spotlight on the role of innovation and technology, overcoming inequality and enhanced international cooperation.

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HLPF meeting in July 2020

The seventh meeting of the HLPF under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was held in New York from 7-16 July 2020. Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time the forum convened exclusively online. The HLPF 2020, under the title Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, was also the start of the Decade of Action on sustainable development, which was declared at the 2019 SDG Summit. In light of this priority, the discussions centred on implementing the 2030 Agenda while managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which hinders implementation, especially in developing countries and economies in transition. The HLPF discussed issues including how to design political and economic measures for tackling the pandemic in way that will help speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Since the member states could not agree on a joint text, it became the first HLPF session to end without a ministerial declaration.

During the HLPF, 45 countries reported on their progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The German government aimed to present its second voluntary national review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at HLPF 2021.

Parliamentary State Secretaries Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter (BMU) and Dr Maria Flachsbarth (BMZ) headed the German delegation. In lieu of the traditional general debate, member states were given the possibility to submit written statements in the online format. Both Parliamentary State Secretaries affirmed Germany’s commitment to a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. National and European measures and recovery packages to stimulate the economy should be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals and global climate and biodiversity targets in line with the Green Deal. At the official German side event A Green and Better Recovery – for all?, the German government emphasised its focus on supporting developing countries and economies in transition in overcoming the pandemic and shaping a sustainable recovery.

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SDG summit in September 2019

On 24 and 25 September 2019, the HLPF was held the first time at the level of heads of state and government (SDG summit) in the context of the opening of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. The purpose of the summit was to take stock and send a clear political signal for an ambitious and accelerated implementation. In keeping with this aim, the heads of state and government adopted a political declaration, formulating a call for action and calling for a decade of accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), published on the occasion of the SDG summit, also underlined the need for a more ambitious and accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze accompanied Chancellor Angela Merkel to New York and presented new initiatives to achieve the SDGs and the targets of the Paris Agreement. One of these initiatives is the Global Opportunities for SDGs (Go for SDGs). With the financial support of the BMU and other partners such as the World Economic Forum and the World Federation of Trade Unions, UNEP aims to expand successful approaches to sustainable economic practices and environmentally sound consumption and their implementation in developing countries and economies in transition.

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HLPF meeting in July 2019

The sixth session of the HLPF was held from 9 to 18 July 2019 under the motto Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

Once again, HLPF discussion focussed on specific SDGs: SDG 4 (education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduce inequality), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).

47 states reported during the HLPF meeting on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry, headed the German delegation comprising representatives of various ministries, civil society organisations, economic associations and members of the German Bundestag. During this year’s HLPF Germany drew attention to the links between social inequality and climate change, for example during an event on 17 July to underline the need for a fast and fair transition.

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HLPF meeting in July 2018

The topic of the fifth meeting of the HLPF, convened from 9 to 18 July 2018, was Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies. The high-level segment on 16 to 18 July concluded with the international community's approval of the HLPF Ministerial Declaration.

Once again, HFLF discussion focussed on specific SDGs: SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns), SDG 15 (life on land) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).

46 states reported during the HLPF meeting on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry, headed the German delegation comprising representatives of various ministries, civil society organisations, economic associations and members of the German Bundestag. During the HLPF meeting Germany focussed on sustainable public procurement, for example with an event on 18 July, which stressed the model function of states with regard to sustainable consumption. Germany also used the HLPF meeting to promote an effective preparation of the SDG Summit in September 2019 from an early stage.

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HLPF meeting in July 2017

The fourth High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 10 to 19 July 2017 in New York. The high-level segment took place from 17 to 19 July. The meeting focused on "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world". Two years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the HLPF continued its follow-up and review of implementation, particularly of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the previous year, Germany was among the first 22 countries to submit reports on their government's first steps towards implementing the 2030 Agenda. In 2017 there were 43 states reporting on their implementation status.

The Ministerial Declaration concentrated on statements concerning the SDGs particularly relevant to the year's theme. For the first time the 2017 HLPF meeting held in-depth discussions on specific SDGs, namely SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 14 (life below water), and SDG 17 (partnerships for development goals).

As in previous years, Parliamentary State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter represented the German Environment Ministry at the high-level segment of the HLPF. In her statement following first presentations by Brazil, Luxembourg and Nepal, Schwarzelühr-Sutter highlighted the importance of the HLPF for exchange and mutual learning and thus its value as a tool for promoting ambitious and swift implementation of the 2030 Agenda. She also advocated greater inclusion of youth delegates in the reporting and more sustainability at the UN headquarters in New York.

As in 2016, Germany had a good presence at the meeting, with a broadly based delegation comprising representatives of government, non-governmental organisations and associations, members of the German Bundestag, youth delegates and scientists, who also participated in a number of side events. In an address at an event by the UN alliance Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), Schwarzelühr-Sutter spoke of the challenges of switching to more sustainable economic and financial practices. She also gave the opening statement at the much-noticed event hosted by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on the recently published second SDG Index Report.

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HLPF meeting in July 2016

The third High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 11 to 20 July 2016 in New York. The high-level segment took place from 18 to 20 July. The meeting focused on the topic "Ensuring that no one is left behind." In the first year after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Forum began its follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Germany was one of the first 22 countries to submit a report on its government’s first steps towards implementing the agenda.

The forum’s Ministerial Declaration paid special tribute to the work accomplished by these forerunner countries. It also specified that the Global Sustainable Development Report is to be produced every four years to prepare for the High-Level Political Forum convened at the level of heads of state and government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.

As in previous years, Parliamentary State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter represented the German Environment Ministry at the high-level segment of the HLPF. The State Secretary and her colleague from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation, Thomas Silberhorn, presented the German government’s report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Schwarzelühr-Sutter stressed that implementing the agenda in Germany requires additional efforts, especially with a view to achieving lifestyle changes and a more sustainable economy. However, she also noted that implementing the agenda presents important opportunities for ensuring peace and for environmental protection and healthier living conditions worldwide.

Representatives of Germany’s civil society had also contributed to the German implementation report. Therefore the German government presented its report in New York together with the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), the Forum on Environment and Development and the Association of German Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs (VENRO). Representatives from these organisations, members of the German Bundestag and German youth delegates for sustainable development also joined Schwarzelühr-Sutter and Silberhorn for a side event organised by the German government on Germany’s SDG implementation both at national and international level. The event showed that there were both shared and differing views on the subject. Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter placed special emphasis on the necessity for broad stakeholder involvement.

The German government has announced its intention to submit its next progress report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to the HLPF in 2021.

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HLPF meeting in July 2015

During the ministerial segment of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Parliamentary State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter strongly advocated getting preparations underway now for the national implementation of the global Sustainable Development Goals (Post-2015 Development Agenda) due to be adopted in September at a UN summit of heads of state and government.

She highlighted that the OECD countries in particular need to step up and show that they are ready and able to change their lifestyles in such a way as to ensure globally that the planet's ecological boundaries are not exceeded.

During talks with the head negotiators and UN ambassadors respectively from the US, the Russian Federation and Brazil and with high-level UN staff, Schwarzelühr-Sutter called for an effective monitoring mechanism and for central messages in the Post-2015 Development Agenda which are easy to communicate.

In future, the HLPF will monitor the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda worldwide.

At a side event she also discussed the need for a decisive approach in implementing the catalogue of goals with Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Thomas Silberhorn, and Endah Murniningtyas, Indonesia's Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. Participants in the well-attended event showed great interest in Germany's National Sustainable Development Strategy and in the German Government's plan to update it after the UN summit in September in light of the Sustainable Development Goals. Participants also attached great importance to involving members of civil society and taking account of their suggestions throughout the implementation process.

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HLPF meeting in July 2014

With the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) the ministerial segment of the HLPF came to a close on Wednesday, 9 July 2014. The Declaration reiterated that the HLPF will conduct reviews of the implementation of the future Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is to be adopted at a UN summit in September 2015.

Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Environment Ministry Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, who headed the German delegation in New York, made the following statement: “Making national economies throughout the world more environmentally sound and transforming them into low-carbon economies must be at the core of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. That is the only way to preserve the foundations of life for future generations. Earth's resources are limited. Business as usual will not get us anywhere."

The Parliamentary State Secretary called for the adoption of a climate agreement that is legally binding for all countries at the December 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. She also reiterated the call made by Germany, France and Switzerland that a separate target for climate action and sustainable energy policy be included in the post-2015 agenda.

On the margins of the HLPF, the Parliamentary State Secretary met with high-ranking representatives from the United States, Bolivia (currently chairing The Group of 77 and China, a group of developing countries) and the United Nations. The talks focussed on how to design the post-2015 agenda's review mechanism to be as effective as possible. The Parliamentary State Secretary also discussed the possibility of including the German Government's call for setting out a soil conservation target in the post-2015 agenda with the foreign minister of Iceland and high-ranking representatives from other countries.

The high-level participation in the HLPF by both the developed and developing and newly industrialising countries illustrates the great interest many countries have in a strong HLPF with a robust review mechanism and an agenda that enables it to react flexibly to new topics in the field of sustainable development.

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HLPF meeting in July 2013

The first meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development took place on Tuesday, 24 September 2013. It was convened under the auspices of the UN General Assembly and brought together heads of state and government, high-ranking officials and stakeholder representatives.

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