On 30 September 2020, Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) was as a panellist at the “Reporting on the United Nations High-Level Political Forum 2020: Japan’s Role in Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Achievement of the SDGs”, co-organised by the Ministry of the Environment Japan (MOEJ) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
The year 2020, which marks the start of the Decade of Action aiming at achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, has turned out to be the year where people have been hugely affected by the expansion of the new coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). This has not only had an impact on our health, but also the socio-economic systems as a whole have been seriously impacted by the global pandemic. In recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations is calling on countries and stakeholders to incorporate actions to progress the SDGs into their recovery measures. In order to accelerate progress on the SDGs, it has been highlighted that cooperative efforts among various stakeholders working on SDGs related issues could create positive synergistic effects. These challenges were discussed at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF 2020) held in New York in July 2020. The HLPF was initiated by the UN as an important platform to discuss the SDGs, where the progress on the SDGs are reviewed and evaluated.
This reporting session was held to summarise the discussions held at HLPF2020, with speakers from UN agencies, private sector, academia, youth and international media. During the discussions, the role of the Japanese government and related parties was emphasised to play an instrumental role in the recovery from the pandemic and how we can enhance the synergies of such efforts. Best practices from Japan were also mentioned during the session.
The opening remarks by Hiroyoshi Sasagawa (State Minister, MOEJ) was followed by video messages sent by Maria-Francesca Spatolisano (Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)) and Ovais Sarmad (Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)) respectively emphasising the importance of promoting the SDGs in building back better from COVID-19. They also valued Japan’s contribution in this regard and expressed hope that Japan would continue to play a leading role in the future.
Following these remarks, Minoru Takada (Team Leader (Energy) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)) explained the outcomes of HLPF2020 and future prospects. Tomohiro Kondo (Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, MOEJ) introduced recovery initiatives led by MOEJ in terms of the pandemic. Kaoru Nemoto (Director of the United Nations Information Center (UNIC)) introduced a message from the UN Secretary-General, explaining the importance of working on climate crisis and “Building Back Better” from the COVID-19 crisis. Lin Wagner (Senior Director, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)) gave an overview of how the situation caused by the spread of COVID-19 infection has been reported in media as a matter related to the SDGs, and stressed we needed to simultaneously tackle multiple issues that can be overlapped, toward a full recovery from the pandemic.
In the panel discussion on “Exploring synergies between actions on SDGs and efforts to address climate change, biodiversity and disaster prevention, with advanced efforts from Japan”, moderator Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Senior Visiting Professor, UNU-IAS; President, IGES) suggested a comprehensive framework for building a strong and sustainable society in the recovery from COVID-19. Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director of UNU-IAS) joined the discussion as one of the panelists and reported on the four side events organised by UNU-IAS held at HLPF2020. She highlighted UNU-IAS’s future plans, based on the insights gained through the experience of organising these side events, towards the realisation of the SDGs. At the HLPF side events, UNU-IAS contributed expertise across the SDGs and showcased its research and networks in higher education, biodiversity, resilience, and climate change. She emphasised that it is necessary to improve the synergistic effect in solving these inter-related issues For that purpose, she stressed the importance of visualising the social value that the efforts made in these fields have, as well as resolving issues caused by trade-off. She also revealed that UNU-IAS has set out a new project, in cooperation with MOEJ, to create an impact evaluation system in terms of all the SDGs. Such an evaluation criteria is expected to clearly showcase how the efforts to support decarbonisation and to protect biological diversity will bring benefits even to environmental, social and economic aspects. This fact is expected to make environmental measures directly incorporated into economic policies of many countries in the future.
Other panelists included Tomoko Hasegawa (Managing Director and Director of SDGs Promotion Bureau, Japan Business Federation), Haruna Kuraishi (Secretary General, Japan Youth Platform for Sustainability (JYPS)) and Shinya Oda (Section Chief, Karatsu City).