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ESCWA and eight of its Member States chart the way forward at HLPF

Beirut-New York

The world came together for two weeks in July for the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to review progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and chart the way forward.
Held in New York from 9 to 19 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council with the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, the 2018 HLPF, a UN central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, welcomed hundreds of senior officials and decision-makers from 46 countries to discuss how actions can be accelerated to achieve the UN global goals.
The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) participated in the forum with a delegation of experts led by its Executive Secretary, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, as eight of its member States presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) shared their experiences, success stories and lessons learnt in the context of their efforts to implement the SDGs.
During a session on “Implementing the SDGs: Lessons from the Regions” which featured the executive secretaries of the five regional commissions, Mr. Alhakim said: “We are pushing for a cultural change to achieve sustainable development while focusing on regional solutions to regional problems.”
“Peace is an international responsibility and our duty is to leave no one behind. We need everyone on board in the push for transformative change,” he stressed.
During a high-level roundtable on regional experiences regarding “Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development to Promote Youth Employment and Address Inequality”, Mr. Alhakim highlighted two major regional challenges focused on how Arab countries “are consumers and not producers of technology” and “access to technology is not equal across the region and within countries”.
The Lebanese delegation, in its capacity as the President of the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD) 2018, presented the report of the Arab region alongside key recommendations.
The forum also featured many meetings on the sidelines of the main event. During a symposium about partnerships organized by the League of Arab States (LAS), the Lebanese delegation highlighted the cooperation with ESCWA to achieve the 2030 Agenda and focused on the role of the private sector in building the necessary infrastructure to achieve global goals.
Roula Majdalani, Director of the Sustainable Development Policies Division at ESCWA, shared key findings regarding the Arab region’s progress in sustainable energy and provided a snapshot of how far the Arab region is from achieving affordable and clean energy (SDG7), including challenges and priority actions.
Radia Sedaoui, Chief of the Energy Section at ESCWA gave a presentation on “Energy and Water interlinkages for sustainable development”, focused on the “interlinkages between water and energy in the Arab region”. She stressed that local efforts are required to build capacity and achieve coherent policy resolutions and that the level of coordination and collaboration between the water and energy sectors in all stages of planning and implementation must be increased to achieve targets.
In parallel, ESCWA’s Executive Secretary met with a number of senior officials dealing with regional and global development.
Mr. Alhakim and the executive secretaries of the four other UN regional commissions met with the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), Maimunah Mohammed Sharif.
Ms. Sharif called upon the five UN commissions to collaborate to establish a regional action plans to implement the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and upgrade data related to UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG 11).
Mr. Alhakim highlighted the rapid growth of urbanisation in the Arab region due to various reasons such as conflict, migration and climate change, which all put significant pressure on cities.
He expressed that ESCWA is ready to support the work of UN-Habitat and presented some of the regional commission’s current work on post-conflict reconstruction and how it relates to the New Urban Agenda.
Mr. Alhakim also met with the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, highlighting the collaboration between the two entities on statistics as an exemplary modality and the need to develop more joint projects.
Mr. Liu insisted on the need to develop a new strategy of cooperation in addition to the existing traditional cooperation to support countries, adding that there should be more country and region-focused approaches.
Mr. Alhakim also joined the executive secretaries of the four other UN regional commissions in a meeting with the Egyptian Chairmanship of the G77 and China, and highlighted the importance of having Egypt, a member State of ESCWA, at the helm of the Group. He expressed his appreciation for its support to the regional dimension of development.
On the regional level, the Executive Secretary met with Jordanian Minister of Environment, Nayef Elfayez, who said that his country was pleased with the current level of cooperation and stressed the importance of cross-sectoral work.
Mr. Alhakim highlighted transboundary issues such as sand and dust storms which require regional solutions. He noted the importance of renewable energy, not only as an environmental option but also as an economic one as well. He also recalled that the Ministerial Session this year issued a resolution to establish a climate change centre which will have a positive impact on the region.