By Elena Marmo
Last week, the UN General Assembly 74th Session’s first full week in New York City met amid High-level meetings on climate, health, the SDGs, financing for development, and Small Island Developing States. Over 90 Heads of State or Government convened at UN Headquarters for this political moment, described by the outgoing President of the General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés as “inextricably linked strands of DNA that make up our ‘blueprint’ for the world”.
Integral to this year’s session has been the heightened participation of corporate, philanthropic and financial actors in both the official, High-level meetings themselves and a variety of concurrent meetings including the SDG Business Forum, the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit, UN Global Compact events, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event.
On 24-25 September, parallel to these High-level UN meetings and closed-door or invitation only business meetings, civil society organisations convened at the Church Center just across the street, not having been awarded meeting space in the UN premises. From here, overlooking the various security checkpoints and motorcades pulling into the United Nations, members of civil society engaged in critical discussions on the future of sustainable development and reforms needed to ensure a just and equitable future for all.
The People’s Assembly, organised by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), hosted a session on “High level political forum (HLPF) Reform Including the Role of Private Sector in the UN”. The conversation, moderated by Jens Martens of Global Policy Forum, featured panelists Oli Henman of Action 4 Sustainable Development (A4SD), John Romano of the Transparency, Accountability, Participation (TAP) Network, Kate Donald of the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and Barbara Adams of the Global Policy Forum. Their remarks and the subsequent interactive conversation touched on challenges and opportunities ahead regarding reform to the wider UN, proposals to reconstitute the HLPF, and immediate opportunities to reform the HLPF.