Global Policy Watch

The General Assembly (GA) will host its 31st Special session in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on 3 and 4 December 2020. The UN Charter (Chapter IV, article 20) provides for the General Assembly to meet in special sessions which can be "convoked by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or of a majority of the Members of the United Nations."

UN special sessions are unusual, this will be 31st in the life of the UN and only the sixth since 2000. As the COVID-19 pandemic’s widespread effects range across development, peace, security, and socioeconomic affairs, there is no doubt about the special measures that the global community must address to confront the global pandemic.

Following the opening of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and a series of High-level meetings and events parallel to the General Debate, the UNGA plenary and committees have shifted to a pattern wherein the Member States debate and negotiate resolutions on a range of topics.

Across the UNGA agenda, priorities include COVID-19 recovery, the UN Decade of Action--the final 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ---and the call for necessary reforms for the UN to be effective across management, peace and security and development. Reform to the UN Development System (UNDS) will be a prime agenda item of the UNGA Economic and Finance (Second) Committee negotiations, with an outcome resolution of its Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) expected in November or December.

The first annual SDG Moment is set to take place on 18 September 2020, designed to reinvigorate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Marking the last decade in which to achieve these goals, the moment will: “Set out a vision for a Decade of Action and recovering better from COVID-19; Provide a snapshot on SDG progress; Highlight plans and actions to tackle major implementation gaps; and Demonstrate the power and impact of action and innovation by SDG stakeholders.”

The 75th session of the UN General Assembly (GA) will open on 15 September and its first weeks will see a number of high-level meetings: the first annual “SDG Moment” launching the Decade of Action, the High-level meeting to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the UN, the Biodiversity Summit, the High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing +25) and the High-level meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In recent years, the opportunities and challenges presented by rapid digitalization have become a staple on various agendas across the United Nations. Within the past few months, as the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 increase global reliance on digital technology, the relevance of and concerns about digitalization have heightened. Digital technologies have been prominent in a number of UN processes and deliberations such as UN75, human rights reports, the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the 2020 High-level Political Forum.

“The world is going through a public health crisis which is turning into a global economic and social crisis. The HLPF is one of the first major intergovernmental meetings with universal participation and broad stakeholder engagement since the onset of the crisis.

“It is critical that the United Nations send a strong message to all people demonstrating that we can forge consensus and give a multilateral response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that we are committed to rebuilding better after the pandemic, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as our roadmap. Countries, societies, youth and the media will all be looking to the United Nations for its guidance.”

On 16 July, this year's virtual UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development came to an end. The HLPF is the premier UN body to monitor the annual progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and further endangered development gains already at risk prior to the global pandemic.

Web conversation in the run-up to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
Building better without building back a broken system
Lessons from the global COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the SDGs

Monday, 6 July 2020, 8:30-10:00am EDT

Please register here

Preparations are underway for the 2020 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Member States are engaged in negotiations to adopt by consensus a Political Declaration and 47 have undertaken Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) for presentation at the HLPF. The UN system has issued a number of reports containing analyses and assessments of progress towards the SDGs. In addition to contributing to these processes and reports, major groups have issued a range of analyses and demands.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global sustainability agenda

The COVID-19 pandemic and the policies with which governments have responded to it have had a serious impact on the global sustainability agenda. While the full extent of the pandemic and its impacts cannot yet be assessed, there is an evident risk that the pandemic will jeopardize the achievement of the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their entirety.

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