The aim of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is to advance integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, which are mutually reinforcing. To that end, the Regional Forum provides a multi-stakeholder platform for follow-up and review of progress and challenges in the implementation of the two Agendas, while strengthening learning and advocating effective policy measures and actions. The Regional Forum makes important contributions to bolstering multi-stakeholder engagement and synergies, and promoting concerted efforts to implement and achieve the development objectives of the two Agendas. Six sessions of the Forum have been held since 2015.
Theme of the seventh session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development
The seventh session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development will be convened under the theme “Building forward better: Towards a resilient and green Africa to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.”
This theme is aligned with that of the 2021 high-level political forum on sustainable development, namely “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” In the wake of the pandemic and the economic and social devastation it has wrought, both themes acknowledge the importance of reconstructing our socioeconomic systems by leveraging opportunities presented by green and low carbon development trajectories with a view to building a resilient, inclusive and sustainable Africa. Current growth trajectories suggest, however, that many countries will fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline. If we are to “leave no one behind”, a whole-of-society approach is needed, together with concerted and ambitious efforts to transform our world during the 10-year window provided by the decade of action to deliver on the Goals.
The year 2020 has proven to be acutely challenging and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage economies worldwide. We are living through some of the most disruptive and uncertain times in recorded history. Having triggered a public health and economic crisis on a scale unwitnessed in generations, the pandemic continues to exacerbate systemic socioeconomic weaknesses, unmasking deeply entrenched vulnerabilities, gaps and inequalities within countries. In the African region, in particular, it has severely tested countries’ social, economic, political and environmental resilience, exacting a massive toll on the poor and most vulnerable and jeopardizing decades of hard-won development gains. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the continent’s financing gap to $345 billion and derailed progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, placing many African countries in a vicious cycle in which liquidity challenges, reduced fiscal space and the cost of debt mean that they are unable to undertake many of the pressing counter-cyclical investment and stimulus measures that support a strong recovery. Accordingly, the 2020 high-level political forum called on countries to embark on risk-informed transformative sustainable development pathways to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. Efforts in that regard must be stepped up urgently as time is not on our side.
The COVID-19 crisis is playing out against the backdrop of hitherto unseen climate change and biodiversity loss. In a year of economic and social turmoil, the most significant disruptions may be yet to come. It can, moreover, be argued that the climate emergency demands a more comprehensive and bolder response than the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many erroneously perceive the climate crisis as distinct from the health and economic crises instigated by the pandemic, yet the three crises, and their solutions, are interconnected. COVID-19 is merely the latest manifestation of a planet profoundly out of sync with its natural world. The pandemic has highlighted the centrality of nature to development, revealing the systemic nature of risk and the cascading impact of disasters across all three dimensions of sustainable development. COVID-19, a disease with zoonotic origins, has emerged, at least in part, because of the pressures exerted by human development on the natural environment. Both the 2020 high-level political forum on sustainable development and the sixth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development underscored that societies must take into account the crucial role played by natural capital, including biodiversity assets, in order to establish sustainable economies and build long-term resilience. Indeed, the natural environment is humanity’s first line of defence against numerous hazards. Our exploitation of the planet continues unabated and in many cases is outpacing natural systems’ regenerative capacity. For example, with 3.9 million hectares of forests lost each year, Africa experienced a higher annual rate of net forest loss than any other continent between 2010 and 2020. Indeed, Africa is the only continent that has seen forest loss increase in each of the three decades since 1990.1 Warning that the planet is broken and that humanity is waging a suicidal war on the natural world, the Secretary-General of the United Nations recently called for radical change before it is too late. This merely underscores the urgent need for pressing and ambitious climate action as future shocks will, in all likelihood, far outweigh the pandemic in terms of their long-term impact. For Africa, crucially, climate change poses an existential threat, jeopardizing the attainment of the continent’s development agenda. Annually, climate change typically costs African countries between 2 and 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) but may sometimes reduce GDP by as must as 15 per cent. Though African nations must now address the serious economic and health repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that climate action does not fall victim to the colossal economic damage wrought by the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has brought biodiversity, climate and economic imperatives into closer alignment than ever before: a healthy planet is a prerequisite for healthy people and the foundation of a healthy economy. Building forward better will require the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and concerted efforts to strengthen the capacity of Africa to respond to shocks such as COVID-19, climate change and biodiversity loss. By so doing, African countries can shift the trajectory of development back on track towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the goals, aspirations and targets of Agenda 2063, while also strengthening implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
As of 2021, the global community has only 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and only 3 years to complete the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063. On average, African countries were achieving growth of more than 3 per cent per year before the onset of the current pandemic, a figure that compared positively with growth rates in other parts of the world. Regrettably, however, and as affirmed by the 2020 high-level political forum on sustainable development and the 2020 Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, growth in Africa is expected to fall sharply because of the pandemic, which has seriously undermined the capacity of African countries to address the needs of their populations and take action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The immediate impact has been on poverty (Goal 1), food security (Goal 2), the well-being of populations (Goal 3) and decent work and economic growth (Goal 8). Other negative repercussions stem from interlinkages among the Goals themselves.
The nine Goals that will be considered in depth at the Regional Forum are Goal 1 (End extreme poverty), Goal 2 (Zero hunger), Goal 3 (Good health and well-being), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth), Goal 10 (Reduced inequalities), Goal 12 (Responsible consumption and production), Goal 13 (Climate action), Goal 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions): and Goal 17 (Partnerships for sustainable development). Technical papers are under development on each of these goals and the corresponding Agenda 2063 goals, and will be shared on this event page.
Objective of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development
The overall objective of the seventh session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is to conduct a regional follow-up and review of progress made, facilitate peer learning, and advance transformative solutions and actions to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and aspirations, goals and targets of Agenda 2063.
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis and with a particular focus on the nine Sustainable Development Goals to be considered at the 2021 high-level political forum and the corresponding goals of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063, the specific objectives of the Regional Forum are to:
- undertake a regional review of, and follow up to, implementation of the two Agendas;
- Provide a platform for peer learning and for sharing experiences, approaches, good practices and lessons learned with a view to accelerating implementation of the two Agendas;
- Identify and assess gaps, challenges and opportunities associated with implementation of the two Agendas;
- Identify and articulate transformative actions, commitments, levers, partnerships and measures that countries should adopt in order to build forward better in a post-COVID-19 world and accelerate implementation of the two Agendas within the decade 2021–2030;
- Deliberate and agree on the priorities and recommendations of Africa in the form of key messages to accelerate implementation at different levels, and as the region’s collective input to inform the 2021 high-level political forum on sustainable development, to be held in New York from 6 to 15 July 2020, and to inform implementation policies and programmes at various levels.
Sub-themes of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development
The activities of the seventh session of the Regional Forum will be conducted on the basis of the following sub-themes, which have been crafted around the nine Sustainable Development Goals to be considered at the 2021 high-level political forum:
- No poverty;
- Zero hunger;
- Good health and well-being;
- Decent work and economic growth;
- Reduced inequalities;
- Responsible consumption and production;
- Climate action;
- Peace, justice and strong institutions;
Format of the seventh session of the Forum
In the light of challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the seventh session of the Regional Forum will be held in a hybrid format that will provide for both in-person and virtual participation.
The Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development will be preceded by meetings that aim to bring together and synthesize diverse stakeholder perspectives and exchange cutting-edge ideas, tools, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. In addition, similar meetings will be organized on the margins of the Regional Forum. The outcomes of those meetings will inform the deliberations of the Regional Forum. It is anticipated that pre-Forum meetings and events will include the following:
- A regional preparatory and capacity-building workshop for major groups and other stakeholders, including civil society, academia and the private sector.
- A regional workshop on voluntary national reviews of progress achieved in the context of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063;
- A regional workshop on voluntary local reviews of progress achieved in the context of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 and on bolstering local action for sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis;
- The Third Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa;
- Expert workshops and other thematic meetings aligned with the theme and sub-themes of the Regional Forum.
1Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020: Main Report (Rome, 2020). Available at: www.fao.org/forest-resources-assessment/2020