In 2021, the deliberations of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) were again held virtually. They were dedicated to the possibilities and perspectives of sustainable and resilient crisis management on the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of an inclusive and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) was represented by its high-ranking representative, Deputy Director, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz in various discussions, e.g. in her role as the co-chair of the Independent Group of Scientists for the next Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) Additionally, the DIE co-organised a side event on the topic “Global Policy Roundtable: As governance crises worsen COVID-19 impact, is SDG 16 key for recovery?”
On July 9, Prof. Dr. Scholz, who holds the position as co-chair of the Independent Group of Scientists (IGS), briefed UN Member States on the main content of the next Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to be released in 2023. The session was chaired by Prof. Dr. John Agard (University of the West Indies), who is also a co-chair of the IGS. Major interest was evoked by the two guiding questions: How have COVID-19, with a consequentially renewed increase in poverty, and other trends such as climate neutrality, changed the conditions for implementing the SDGs? How can the levers for implementation – e.g. economic and financial policies, individual and collective action, governance structures – be designed and used more effectively? On the evening of July 09, Prof. Dr. Scholz also spoke at the HLPF meeting on the topic “Mobilizing science, technology and innovation (STI) and strengthening the science-policy-society interface.” Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz emphasized that pathways to sustainability were context-specific and knowledge-intensive. The weak research and innovation systems in many developing countries posed a major hurdle to transformation. Investments in STI should therefore also be understood as investments for the global common good, while they fall short if these are primarily intended to strengthen the country’s own science system and economic competitiveness. Finally, the pandemic had shown that a well-functioning science-policy-society interface is helpful in containing the virus.
On July 12, the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) hosted a virtual side event to the HLPF and discussed the functions sustainability councils (multistakeholder advisory bodies) should assume in (sustainability) policy and with which content advisory bodies could contribute to a future-oriented policy. As deputy chair of the RNE, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz spoke about successful interventions of the RNE (statement on sustainable food systems 2020 and the long-standing work on the German Sustainability Code for companies as well as on sustainable finance, among others with the Frankfurt Stock Exchange). She also emphasized that advisory bodies would gain weight when they succeeded in negotiating ambitious compromises between different stakeholders and when the relationship between government and advisory bodies was based on trust and mutual respect for each other’s autonomy and role.
Likewise, the European Union’s (EU) side event on July 14 was dedicated to the theme “Building a better world after COVID-19”, holding a global perspective. Representing the DIE and the IGS, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz reported on the so far achieved developments in the process of the new GSDR. She particularly emphasized that poverty, hunger, and social inequalities had worsened in the wake of the pandemic; at the same time, experts agreed that adherence to the SDGs will strengthen societies’ resilience to crises. Recent reports from UNEP  and the World Bank  had shown that reducing extreme inequalities would subserve a green economy, while the costs of inaction would be enormous. It was important to use the leverage of legal frameworks and economic incentives to set transformative collective and individual action in motion, she said. For both low- and middle-income countries, however, it was crucial to gain financial leeway to link pandemic response and transformation, as the EU was striving to do with the Green Deal and the Next Generation EU Fund. This would require debt restructuring and debt relief as well as strengthening and reforming tax systems. The individual fields of action of the European Green Deal must also be supported by international cooperation measures in order to not overburden developing countries and to avoid impacting them negatively. Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz concluded her presentation by pointing to the necessity of avoiding strategies for climate neutrality pursued by 2045 being implemented at the expense of sustainability policy. Rather, it would be beneficial for climate policy efit if it were designed to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The presentation of Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz as well as the whole EU Side Event can be watched and listened to here: UN HLPF SIDE-EVENT ‘THE SDGS AS THE COMPASS FOR RECOVERING AFTER THE PANDEMIC AND BUILDING FORWARD BETTER’ – Streaming Service of the European Commission (europa.eu).
Already on July 6, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), UNDP’s Oslo Governance Center (OGC), and Southern Voice organised an official HLPF side event in form of a Global Policy Roundtable titled “As governance crises worsen COVID-19 impact, is SDG 16 key to recovery?”. The COVID-19 pandemic has exhibited systemic linkages between socioeconomic human development and natural resource conservation. Successfully addressing these linkages in terms of integrated sustainability governance is imperative to minimize systemic risks and build better governance structures in future. COVID-19 has reversed progress on all SDGs, including SDG 16. This is critical because effective, accountable, and inclusive governance is essential for the integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and will be critical to post-pandemic recovery. The roundtable brought together the latest research and expertise on this topic with perspectives from the Global South to address the following questions: What are emerging trends on SDG 16 (peace, justice, and inclusion)? How has the COVID 19 pandemic impacted progress on this goal in different contexts? Peace, justice, and inclusion can support progress on the 2030 Agenda as a whole, including in the areas of health, economy, and environment. What do we know about these “SDG 16 linkages” and how can we proactively use them as levers for recovery? The event also featured research on SDG 16 linkages within the 2030 Agenda, among other topics.