What is the UN High Level Political Forum?

A fundamental principle of the SDGs is to “leave no one behind,” a statement that indicates the inclusion of everyone, everywhere, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. Recognizing that achieving a world free from poverty, where everyone is able to attain their fullest abilities, and where human rights and gender equality is prioritized, can only be accomplished when everyone is accounted for. OutRight is engaging in this year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to raise the visibility of development issues that impact LGBTIQ people, including the need to be accounted for, especially in states’ data collection and reporting on the implementation of Agenda 2030 at the national level.

The High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the mechanism for reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda and the adoption of the SDGs took place in 2015 with ambitious and forward looking goals to transform the world in three dimensions - social, economic, and environmental. The biggest global challenge to tackle was recognized as the need to eradicate extreme poverty. Unlike the UN Millennium Development Goals, Agenda 2030 involves the participation of both developing and developed countries. The HLPF will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York City this July from the 10th - 19th.

What is the Ministerial Declaration?

Before the HLPF commences, states will negotiate and agree on the Ministerial Declaration. This document provides a platform for political leadership, guidance and recommendations for follow-up and review of the SDGs and reinforces states’ commitments to the implementation of the SDGs. The language of the Ministerial Declaration is negotiated on for weeks prior to the commencement of the HLPF. It provides a space for states to discuss priorities as well as methods for implementations of each year’s HLPF theme. Last year the theme was to “Ensuring that no one is left behind,” and this year’s theme is “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” Every year seven specific goals are highlighted to be discussed and focused on for the HLPF and therefore also for the Ministerial Declaration. This year’s goals are:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere  

  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture  

  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages  

  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls  

  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation  

  • Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development  

  • Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development (to be considered each year).

Traditionally, this is a space where there are competing agendas between developed and developing states, namely on arguments for and against the “Right to Development.” Additionally, human rights concerns can sometimes be deprioritized in relation to a country’s right to development. States however must always recognize that human rights and development go hand in hand, and the only type of development that is inclusive is one which engages a human rights based approach.

Voluntary National Reviews:

During the HLPF, countries that volunteer will give an update on how far they have progressed in their achievements of the 2030 agenda. This process is called Voluntary National Reviews (VNR). Last year was the first year that VNRs were held and 22 states reported, and this year 44 countries will go through the VNR process. These processes are meant to help encourage a process of experience sharing and best practices to advance the progress of achieving Agenda 2030. It also provides for a space where states can comment on the gaps and challenges to achieving Agenda 2030, taking into consideration each country’s capacity to implement policy and infrastructure changes to progress development.

What are some ways that civil society can participate?

Major Groups and other Stakeholders:

Major Groups were established in 1992 as “the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development.” There are a total of 9 Major Groups, which coordinate the participation and voice of countless organizations. During the Rio+20 Conference, the importance of Major Groups was reiterated, along with the recognition that the participation of other stakeholders is also necessary in UN processes on sustainable development. What this translates to is the engagement of Major Groups and other stakeholders in discussions with UN entities and States in informal and formal spaces. In formal processes this usually means the presentation of statements by any or all of the Major Groups, depending on the discussion and relevance, to states in order to have their concerns heard in policy making processes.

During the Ministerial Declaration negotiations, Major Groups and other Stakeholders give interventions at the end of each round of negotiations to highlight issues which are important to them to be included in the declaration. Statements have to be submitted in advance of the intervention. This year, Siri May, OutRight’s UN Program Coordinator, spoke on behalf of the Women’s Major Group at the Ministerial negotiations and brought up issues that impact LGBTIQ individuals in the framework of inclusive development.


During the Voluntary National Reviews, Major Groups are also invited to ask states questions and give statements in regards to the VNR process and country level progress. The questions and statements also have to be submitted beforehand, and only a handful of questions are accepted due to time limitations. Civil society might also be engaged and consulted by states during the lead up to the VNR process, to ensure transparent and inclusive reporting. Members of CSO might also be asked by states to be an official member of their delegation to the HLPF, this could be funded or unfunded. CSOs are now tracking the transparency and ability for CSO engagement with states in the VNR process, reporting, and at the HLPF.

Side Events

Organizations can host side events during the HLPF on issues that are pertinent to the theme of the HLPF. Often multiple organizations will host a collective side event in order to provide varying perspectives and information. Official side events also take place with co-sponsorships by states. This year OutRight, in collaboration with the Global Fund for MSM and HIV, RFSL, the United Nations Development Programme, and a representative from the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN, will host a side event to discuss the necessity of collecting data on LGBTI people at an official UN event during the HLPF on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, at 6:15PM.

CSOs also hold advocacy events and capacity building workshops during the two weeks of the HLPF that are open to activists traveling from around to world to attend the formal negotiations. These are spaces to train advocates and strengthen civil society engagement in the governance and monitoring of the SDGs both at the HLPF and later at the national level.