The High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals – what on earth is it and what are we doing there?

Lee Webster | Jul 12, 2017
Kala, Durga and Renu from FEDO Nepal at HLPF
Our Head of Policy and Communications, Lee Webster, is at the United Nations in New York this week. Here, she tells us what she's up to in the name of women's rights.

Unless you’re an expert in the comings and goings of the United Nations, you’d be forgiven if your eyes glazed over at the sound of High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (or HLPF on the SDGs for short!). Yet this is one acronym worth getting our mouths (and our heads) around – because it is where the international community gathers to monitor the promises it made to make the world a better place for us all. 

A global commitment

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals set the world on a course with a global commitment to end poverty, ensure gender equality, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved by 2030. Thanks to concerted campaigning by women’s movements, including Womankind and our partners in the run up to 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals include a Standalone Goal on Gender Equality (SDG 5) as well as gender targets mainstreamed into other goals including action on climate change (SDG 13), hunger (SDG 2), and labour rights (SDG 8).

So far so good. It is widely agreed that the process to decide on the SDGs was more participatory, more inclusive, and heard more from civil society in the Global South than the process for their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals. The standalone goal on gender equality, and efforts to mainstream gender into other goals, is welcomed by the women’s movement.

Action on gender equality

Yet SDG 5, on gender equality and the empowerment of women, is not an end in itself, rather an important tool to push for action on gender equality at all levels. Women’s rights organisations and movements have an important role in keeping the spotlight on government action nationally and internationally, from now to 2030. As the Women’s Major Group have said, eradicating poverty and achieve women’s rights requires “tackling systemic barriers and structural inequalities, including neoliberalist capitalism, fundamentalisms, racism and patriarchy, that cause and exacerbate inequalities”. 

The annual High Level Political Forum on the SDGs at the United Nations is an important space to ensure that UN member states are fulfilling their obligations. This year SDG 5 is under review, as well as Voluntary National Reviews from 45 governments, documenting their progress.

Our advocacy at the UN

I’m there, at the Forum in New York, representing Womankind, with a few things on our plate:

• Sharing emerging learnings from our upcoming Levers of Change research, which adds to the evidence that women’s movements are critical to all policy and legal advances on women’s rights.

• Hosting this Side Event with the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) and the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development on the importance of financing women’s rights organisations and movements and tackling gender inequality in all efforts to deliver the SDGs.

• Supporting our partner organisation, the Feminist Dalit Organization of Nepal with their advocacy for the inclusion of issues facing Dalit women. Their new position paper, based on consultation with Dalit women’s groups, calls for the full implementation of the SDGs in an inclusive and inclusive and participatory way, harnessing the capacities of all sectors for the benefit of Dalit women.

• Adding our voices and campaigning action to the Women Thrive Alliance’s #InTheRoom campaign, calling for action to ensure that women’s rights advocates are involved at all levels of decision-making on the SDGs.

Join us!

It’s a busy week! And we’ll be reporting back on our progress via our Twitter feed and blog updates, so watch this space.

To follow the High Level Political Forum on Twitter, follow these hashtags: #HLPF2017 #HLPF #SDG5 #InTheRoom

To learn more about the SDGs and how to campaign for the full realisation of the Gender Equality Goal (SDG 5), download Womankind’s Advocacy Toolkit on Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

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