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Lessons Learned from HLPF 2021

A Note from ECE-RCEM

2021 was the first year that the Economic Commission for Europe – Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (ECE-RCEM) has participated in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of Major Groups and Other Stakeholders (MGoS). ECE -RCEM represents 17 diverse constituency groups and all the different regions of UNECE. Our members participated as fully as they could in the Regional SDG Forum organised by the UNECE Secretariat in March, and we held a very well attended Civil Society Forum in Virtual format, with UN, government, and civil society participation, where we developed our inputs for the official meeting.  Prior to the HLPF we participated in the regular Member State ‘ informals’ which put together the key formal outputs of the HLPF, the Ministerial Declaration and the ECOSOC segment, and worked together with our MGOS colleagues in the task groups of Advocacy and VNRs.

Below are some key reflections and takeaways from the different areas in which ECE-RCEM participated in HLPF 2021. We look forward to the continuous improvement of the process and further engagement of all the constituencies of civil society in our region in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Overall, we believe more space should be made for civil society in the run up to the HLPF, at national and regional level through input to the planning of the UNECE regional event, as well as during and after, to ensure robust participation and more effective dialogue. ECE -RCEM would like both to be involved in the planning of the UNECE Forum, its expert groups and its peer learning events, and continue to have opportunities to make statements within them.

We also believe that attention and adherence to the human rights framework is key to the implementation of the SDGS, and that much more attention should be given to this in the Decade of Action to come.

Ministerial Declaration 

  • We were pleased to provide input to the dialogue of the co-facilitators of the Ministerial Declaration. Our inputs were informed by both our civil society forum held before the UNECE Regional Forum in March and our contributions to the peer learning sessions of the Forum. We highlighted the need to give more emphasis to the social pillar of the three pillars of sustainable development, the negative impact that Covid-19 is having on inequality amongst and between countries and people, that vaccines must be made available to all people in all countries without distinction of any kind and stressed how recovery must be underpinned by state institutions with policies that directly benefit all marginalised groups.
  • Additionally, we advocated for a strong position on human rights and expressed concern that the pandemic has been exploited by some populist governments for short term electoral gains. We also called for more time at the HLPF for discussion of VNR’s and more systematic and timely consultation with civil society in the preparation of the country reports.
  • You can read the regional ECE-RCEM response at the beginning of the negotiations here
  • And the MGoS response given over the course of the negotiations here


We ensured that Accessibility services for persons with disabilities were available at the UNECE Regional Forum  via the Registration & Participation section of the HLPF website.  Real-time captioning and International Sign interpretation were provided via UN Webcast. For the first time in such a high level event, the UN has provided an HLPF program in easy read format.

Voluntary National Reviews 

  • Nine countries from our region conducted their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) this year. You can access these here.
  • At each session civil society is allocated a 2 minute slot to make a statement, and ask a question which will be posted on the HLPF website.  
  • Members of the ECE-RCEM acted as focal points of the MGoS interventions into each country’s VNR.
  • This process allowed for the engagement of civil society within the VNR process. We were glad to see spaces for commenting and posing questions to the countries submitting their VNRs and look forward to follow-up conversations in the country on the basis of the statements and questions asked. 
  • Moving forward, we believe the diverse constituencies of civil society under the auspices of MGoS should be involved in the VNR process earlier on so that the VNR’s are more of a collaborative process with the relevant stakeholders.
  • Below are the statements made by MGoS at the ECE VNRs: 

Official Sessions


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