UN High-Level Political Forum – Update One

Abbie Reynolds reports back from day one of the UN High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals being held in New York 15 – 17 July 2019.

Kia ora koutou. Well here I am in New York for the High-Level Political forum on the UN SDGs. I landed at half past one this morning, and so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little bit stumbly. It’s been a really long day and I’m still getting used to the time zone, but been to a few different high level events and side events today, and had a couple of meetings and already there are three big themes which have emerged for me.

The first is absolutely around partnerships. I went to an event this morning hosted by World Vision and the Partnering Initiative and it was a workshop to help people think about how we can create better partnerships in service to the SDGs. And really interesting because I was the only business-related person in the room. So fascinating to hear how the not for profit sector, the academic sector and government seek to think about how they should be working with business. And actually it was a pretty enlightened conversation, lots of understanding about how we can all work together to create shared value

The second great example of partnerships I heard about today was from the Chilean Government. They’ve done this fantastic initiative in service to the SDGs of bringing together business, private sector and the not for profit sector and government to identify what their major issues are around poverty. And they’re taking this multi data point approach to poverty. It’s not just one figure, it’s about understanding all of the features of poverty and they’ve really involved all the sectors in that. And what I particularly liked is that they have brought in their most excluded and disadvantaged people to be part of that conversation. So really some nice examples of what’s going on in the partnership space.

My second big theme is about comparability. I had lunch with Suzi Kerr who many of you will know from Motu, but also from the Interim Climate Committee. And I really wanted to check in with her to hear what she’s seeing now that she’s living here in New York and what she thought that could tell us about what we could be doing differently and better in New Zealand. And actually what was interesting is she doesn’t feel like she’s been here long enough to have lots of examples of great stuff we could be taking back home. What she was actually saying is the stuff she thinks we’re doing in New Zealand that we could be sharing over here, which actually was a real surprise for me.

And the same went on in the WBCSD event I attended this afternoon, I was on a panel with Ricardo from Spain and Olga from Costa Rica, and we were talking about exactly the same sorts of opportunities and challenges that were coming up for our members and implementing the SDGs. So again, this real kind of interest in how we’re all performing, but when it comes to comparability, no one likes anything better than data.

What was cool was we had Guillaume from the Sustainable Development Network and basically he took us through the SDG Index for 2019 and, sorry, spoiler – New Zealand’s at number 11. Which is pretty interesting and I was quite surprised by, given how much work we need to do in some areas. I thought we’d be further down the pack. So this is not a reason to take your foot off the pedal though people, but again, that’s a really great index for understanding how we’re doing, comparing ourselves to other countries.

And then I guess my final big theme is actually just the UN itself. I was really lucky. I’m, there’s a young diplomat here called Chris who works at the New Zealand embassy and he took me around and gave me a tour of the UN today and he’s really passionate about it, which is awesome. But he reminded me that the UN was really set up to just make sure there was never a World War Three. Lots of people criticize them, but actually if you think about that as being their fundamental guiding purpose and with lots of other things now layered on top, it makes a bit more sense about how they arrive at things and what they do. But it was a real privilege actually to be shown around by him and to see the places that New Zealand turns up there, but also other countries.

So this is me checking in after my first day, just wanting to reassure you I’m not swanning around and shopping there. There has been some actual work done. though it is really hard not to be impressed and really excited about being in this country, in this town where there is just so much energy. So hopefully I’ll be able to give you some more intel tomorrow after a very long day of meetings and side events. So for now, ka kite.

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