From July 6 to 15, countries will report on their SDG progress at the UN Economic and Social Council’s annual High-Level Political Forum. As COVID-19 continues to rage around the world, and recovery exacerbates global inequalities, the pandemic’s impact on progress is undeniable and profound. Still, the UN’s latest progress report says there are rays of hope that can be built upon.

Every year since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN in 2015, governments give their own account of what they are doing to realize the Goals at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) through a process called Voluntary National Reviews (VNR). Last year, the meeting took place as the COVID-19 pandemic raged unchecked, with prospects of a safe, effective vaccine far from sight. It is still far off for many now, while wealthier nations are moving faster ahead towards recovery. And as the virus and its variants continue to spread around the world, this year’s HLPF primarily focuses on COVID-19 recovery and how to move forward in a way that “promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw some positive advances to achieve the Goals in key areas such as poverty reduction, improving maternal health, and gender equality, but progress was neither fast nor widespread enough. Since the virus hit, much of that progress has declined or reversed. This year’s HLPF falls at a challenging juncture: either we use the pandemic as a wake-up call to make some serious changes, or we risk falling behind even further on our 2030 Agenda goals.

Each year, HLPF focuses on a subset of the 17 goals, and each year, the gathering has grown to include more voices and more players — including regional and city governments giving Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR)  of their own progress, private sector actors contributing their own experiences and perspectives of aligning business models around the goals, and civil society organizations keeping authorities accountable and offering their own expertise.

Read the full article about SDG progress by Sarah Alaoui at United Nations Foundation.