HLPF 2020: Coherence & sustainable development in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

08.07.2020 – Where do we stand on the SDGs in face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? How can the international community respond to the pandemic and its impacts in ways that put us back in track with the goals of the Agenda 2030? How is international solidarity, multilateral action and sustainable development strengthened in this time of crisis?

At this year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)—taking place from the July 7th-16th 2020 with the theme “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”—all meetings are organised in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the official side event “A post-Covid world where global impact for resilience is achieved with local action” organised by the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) and King’s College London and co-hosted by UNDRR, the following panellists discussed the importance of local action in fostering risk-informed development in a coherent manner and what hinders effective localisation of resilience:

  • Ms Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Dr Thomas Helfen, Head of Division: Peace and Security, Disaster Risk Management; Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
  • Ms Tosin Apiriola-Ajayi, Director of Women Environment and Youth Development Initiative, Nigeria
  • Dr Mark Pelling, Professor of Geography at King’s College London
  • Mr Bijay Kumar, Executive Director of GNDR
  • Moderator: Ms Valeria Drigo, Policy Lead at GNDR

Regarding the question why coherence is important for sustainable development, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Thomas Helfen responded that “the pandemic is not only a health crisis, but also has massive social, economic, environmental and political cascade effects”. He went on saying that these impacts are and will particularly affect vulnerable groups, people in extreme poverty and/or living in fragile or conflict-ridden regions. Globally, the capacities to meet the challenges of the pandemic vary. International solidarity, cooperation and coordination are vital to support countries less prepared or more affected by the pandemic and safeguard development achievements. This is why, Dr. Helfen argued, our joint efforts for coherent planning and implementation of the global agendas are now even more important because coping with such a crisis calls for a systemic approach. The coherent approach is of great importance for the local community, the people at risk.

Executive director of GNDR, Bijay Kumar, drew attention to the double burden for people living in an area, where other hazards such as droughts, floods or hurricanes coincide with the spread of the virus. Ms Tosin Apiriola-Ajayi emphasised that the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in and the access of the local population to government plans, decision-making and policies is vital due to the importance of communication and information during the crisis. Posing the question how communities and states can take advantage of all that science has to offer, Dr Mark Pelling highlighted the lack of coordinated research as well as the lack of accessibility of the results. Mami Mizutori added that science should be foundation of taking action and emphasised that coherence is needed to address the ongoing pandemic.

To summarize, global, national, and local decision-makers must come together and work across sectors and institutions to prevent disasters and to foster risk-informed development. Localisation of disaster risks and disaster risk management action with and for local communities is at the heart of implementing the post-2015 agendas. Yet, there is a need for a stronger inclusion of local governments and the civil society, as well as for more coherent action on disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, urban development, and the SDGs.