A sustainable future that leaves no one behind

Right now, governments worldwide are reviewing the global goals on sustainability. Those goals are united by one call: “Leave no one behind” – a pledge that remains as important as ever in the context of the global COVID-19 response, says Benedikt van den Boom, Light for the World’s Advocacy Coordinator.
A smiling woman covers an eye with one hand after cataract surgery during an eye test in Burkina Faso. © Ulrich Eigner

The global goals, or Sustainable Development Goals, turn five this year. Covering everything from education, to poverty, to climate change, they are a route towards a more sustainable future for everyone. 

Governments across the world committed to meet these goals by 2030. But the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undo much of the progress made over the past year. To reverse this trend and make the best of the next 10 years, the UN will launch a “Decade of Action” at this year’s high-level meeting to review progress on the goals.

COVID-19 and sustainable development

This meeting, known as the High-Level Political Forum, is the annual international conference on sustainable development. From 7 to 16 July, government and civil society from all corners of the world will come together to kick-off the Decade of Action. 

Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic will dominate proceedings. Not only is it the first ever digital conference given the circumstances, but many of the events will also explore the links between COVID-19 and sustainable development. 

For example, the goals call for healthy lives for all. But the pandemic has disrupted rehabilitation services for women with disabilities, compromising their well-being and ability to participate in society. We can only progress on this goal if we make sure that people with disabilities have equal access to these essential services.

The same goes for education. The latest global education monitoring report has shown that we’re trailing far behind our goal of inclusive education. If we’re going to reach this goal, we need to remember children with disabilities and the way that school closures affect them.

For us at Light for the World, it’s essential that people with disabilities and their experiences are included in these discussions. This is our mission for this forum. 

Gaps in Mozambique and Austria

Every year at the forum, countries can report on their implementation of the global goals. Since they are such a central guideline for our action, we actively follow these so-called voluntary national reviews for our partner countries.

This year, 47 countries are presenting, including Austria, Mozambique, Uganda, India and Bangladesh. We will focus on the reports from the first two countries.

In Mozambique, we supported FAMOD, a national umbrella body linking organisations of people with disabilities, to review the government’s report on its own implementation of the goals. The government report is a crucial bridge to the future. While it shows that Mozambique has achieved a lot, much more remains to be done. When it comes to inclusion of people with disabilities, the Mozambican government acknowledges significant gaps.

Our colleagues in Mozambique stand ready to support the government in the coming years, for instance in inclusive disaster response.

Similarly, Austria is not on track to meet the goals, especially in terms of strengthening international partnerships. The review points out that Austria is not spending nearly enough on its development cooperation. We appreciate this honesty from the Austrian government and their willingness to change. The forum is a vital moment to kickstart that process.

Around 250,000 disabled people live in refugee camps in South Sudan. Government pledged to leave no one behind when they signed up to the global goals, under review now. © Jaco Klamer

A packed programme

Apart from these national reports, hundreds of other events will take place at the forum. From disaster risk to data, biodiversity to tourism, there really is something for everyone.

At Light for the World, we will focus on our mandate: disability inclusion in our programme countries. Together with our partners, we will bring a disability perspective to events. 

Among our highlights will be an event on a disability-inclusive Decade for Action, organised by people with disabilities themselves. We will also check in at the discussions on eye health in times of COVID-19, organised by the UN Friends of Vision. And, of course, we will follow the global goals reporting by Austria and Mozambique.

The halls of the UN building will be empty this year. But virtually, there are still two busy weeks ahead for our team.

Learn more

  • Anyone can listen in on the forum – find out how
  • Watch the official part of the forum. 
  • Re-read our account from last year’s forum.