The 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) took place in New York from July 10 to 19 to monitor the progress of the 2030 Agenda. With the theme of “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,” this year’s HLPF reviewed the global sustainable development commitments linked to SDG 1, SDG 2, SDG 3, SDG 5, SDG 9, and SDG 14. The Forum concluded on Wednesday with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration aimed at accelerating the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to leave no one behind. Yet today, more than half of the world’s population is still offline, unable to benefit from the positive impact that information and communication technologies (ICTs) could have on their lives. As the UN specialized agency for ICTs, ITU, together with its Members and partners, reaffirmed its commitment to leaving no one offline.
Many countries used their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) to this year’s HLPF meeting to present their progress in digitalization, emphasizing the need to reach unserved and underserved communities and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas. Digital inclusion has become a priority for decision and policy-makers as more countries recognize inadequate ICT infrastructure as a major barrier to economic growth and poverty alleviation.
In a statement presented at the HLPF General Debate, ITU highlighted the role that ICTs play in eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world, by notably introducing the “Fast-Forward Progress: Leveraging Tech to Achieve the Global Goals” report. A collective effort of the UN system to articulate how ICTs are being applied to achieve the 17 Goals, the Report is a contribution from the United Nations system to this year’s HLPF, where it was officially launched.
VNRs featured ICTs more prominently this year in areas as diverse as digital literacy, smart cities, digital infrastructure, cybersecurity, digital entrepreneurship, data collection, health, youth, agriculture, gender and financial inclusion. Not only does it demonstrate how ICTs cut across issues, but it indicates how countries increasingly rely on ICTs to accelerate the implementation of their national development programmes and the SDGs.
ICTs transformative potential for all SDGs was one of the key lessons coming out of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2017, the world’s largest annual gathering of the ICT for development community. The outcomes of this year’s WSIS Forum were submitted to the HLPF, and it is clear that many of the ICT initiatives and issues discussed at WSIS directly contribute to the SDGs under review at HLPF 2017.
As the global community work together towards the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda, it is important to remember that access to ICTs is fundamental to social and economic development.
ITU also reiterated the critical importance of partnerships. A number of countries outlined the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships in their VNRs to help transition to a digital future, implementing measures to attract private investment. Other countries made digital tools an integral part of their development cooperation strategies, be it trying to facilitate Internet access in least developed countries or designing gender-based projects in war-torn regions.
In this regard, ITU strongly believes in partnerships. On April 25th 2017, ITU signed a Joint Declaration with UNIDO to collaborate on the advancement of the 2030 Agenda. This action-oriented partnership aims to build coalitions and drive collaboration that will help accelerate SDG 9, an enabler to all SDGs, at country level.
As the global community work together towards the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda, it is important to remember that access to ICTs is fundamental to social and economic development. The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, launched by ITU and UNESCO, urges us to work together to harness the opportunities and benefits of ICTs. “This will be critical to achieve the SDGs and realize the future we want”, the Commission wrote.
We left New York with a clear message: ITU is committed to leveraging the power of ICTs to fast-forward progress on the SDGs and to working with all stakeholders to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity in today’s changing world.