High-Level Political Forum Report

I will be taking the opportunity with my next few posts to report on the High-Level Political Forum taking place at the United Nations. The UN has an ongoing initiative called the 2030 Agenda where they are aiming to achieve 17 major goals by the end of the next decade. These goals include everything from ending poverty and hunger to reducing inequalities. Within these lofty targets are over a hundred smaller objectives that they hope every country will reach to make the larger goals possible. Having listened to meetings all week, the general attitude seems to be that we are nowhere close to meeting any goal, most countries do not know how or have no way to reach the goals, and the UN has little to no ability to hold countries accountable. But there is still hope that progress can be made.

Progress towards the goals is being discussed, funded, and tracked at a massive UN event called the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that is taking place through the first half of July. At this event, forty-six countries are presenting voluntary national reports on the progress they have made. This provides a platform for good policies to be shared, and organizations to lobby countries for what they should do next. We have been observing these meetings and I will now share some of my findings.

Abortion advocates have come straight out of the gate. In one of the first major meetings of the forum, abortion was pushed for by name. The meeting was discussing where we stand on achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (STGs). It started with a panel of experts discussing the problems they were facing, and the moderator called for an open discussion on financing. Several nations called for the floor and read prepared statements on what problems they had run into. The moderator then interrupted them and said that this was not the time to read prepared statements, instead she welcomes an open discussion on how to better finance STGs.

Again, do not read prepared statements. Following this clarification, the floor was given to the Forum for Women in Democracy who immediately pulled out a prepared statement.

They read about how restrictions on abortion limit body autonomy and how funding is needed globally to increase access to abortion services. This group feels that the reason STGs are not on track is because there are not enough abortion services. Following their statement, there was some confusion and amusement in the room because the Forum for Women in Democracy read a statement not ten seconds after they were told twice, not to read a statement. The moderator then had to make a third announcement to stop reading statements and discuss financing. Promoting abortion is clearly part of Agenda 2030 and its advocates are awkwardly promoting it at every corner.

Abortion has been inserted into the conversation throughout the HLPF. Woman’s Major Groups have interjected into every major meeting to call for increased sexual and reproductive rights. They are begging for more funding and receiving heavy support from NGOs who mostly applaud at their statements. Apart from civil society’s voice, few countries are talking about sexual and reproductive health. The issue does not seem to be a main concern for many of the developing countries who are presenting their progress; however, external groups are present at every high-level meeting to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights remains in the conversation.