About Sustainability…

APFSD & HLPF: Reviewing SDG progress

March 08, 2022 Institute for Global Environmental Strategies / Nobue Amanuma Season 1 Episode 2
About Sustainability…
APFSD & HLPF: Reviewing SDG progress
Show Notes Transcript

This time, Andre, Erin, and Simon spoke with Nobue Amanuma, a Deputy Director at the IGES Integrated Sustainability Centre. Nobue and Simon have been quite deeply involved in IGES work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We discussed the SDGs, and in particular two key upcoming meetings that review countries’ progress toward them. The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD), happening in March 2022, is the main regional event for the Asia-Pacific region, and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is its global event cousin that takes place in July 2022.  

We started by talking about what these meetings are and why they are convened. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the concept of “Voluntary National Reviews” (VNRs), and their “shadow report” or “spotlight report” counterparts, all of which are key features of APFSD and HLPF. We discussed IGES involvement at the meetings and asked what else happens there, besides the review of SDG progress. We talked about the importance of these meetings as forums for engagement between civil society and governments, and we ended off by speculating about whether they are as effective as they could be.

To learn more about the APFSD and HLPF, and IGES contributions to these processes in 2022, please visit:

  • IGES’ APFSD 2022 Special Webpage: https://www.iges.or.jp/en/projects/apfsd2022
  • IGES’ HLPF 2022 Special Webpage (coming soon)

About this podcast:
 

"About Sustainability..." is a podcast brought to you by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), an environmental policy think-tank based in Hayama, Japan. IGES experts are concerned with environmental and sustainability challenges including, but not limited to, climate change; biodiversity and ecosystems; sustainable consumption and production; the Sustainable Development Goals; and overarching governance issues. Harnessing this expertise, the podcast serves to discuss and draw attention to contemporary issues and events relevant to sustainability with a frank reflective discussion from both within and beyond the Institute.

Everything shared on the podcast will be off-the-cuff discussion, and any viewpoints expressed are those held by the speaker at the time of recording. They are not necessarily official IGES positions.

Welcome to the second episode of About Sustainability... , a podcast produced by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). I'm your host, Andr Mader, Programme Director for Biodiversity and Forests at IGES. This time, we discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), and in particular, two key upcoming meetings that review countries' progress toward them. The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, or APFSD, happening in March 2022, is the main event for the Asia-Pacific region and the High-Level Political Forum, HLPF, is its global cousin that takes place in July. To find out about these meetings, Erin, Simon and I spoke with Nobue Amanuma, a Deputy Director at the IGES Integrated Sustainability Centre. She and Simon have been deeply involved in IGES work on the SDGs. We started by talking about what these meetings are and why they're convened. We spend quite a bit of time exploring the concept of VNRs or Voluntary National Reviews and also the shadow reports or spotlight reports that are key features of the APFSD and HLPF. We discussed IGES' involvement at the meetings and asked what else happens beside the review of SDG Progress. We talked about the importance of these meetings as forums for engagement between civil society and governments, and we ended by speculating about whether they are as effective as they could be. As a side note, keep an eye out for IGES' key messages on the SDGs and other IGES contributions to the APFSD. We will add links to the show notes for the episode as soon as they're available. So let me start off by asking, What are the APFSD and HLPF? APFSD stands for Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, and HLPF stands for High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. So maybe I think it's better to explain HLPF first. So as people may know, 2030 Agenda was adopted, and that includes SDGs. And to discuss SDGs or sustainable development in general, there is this international forum hosted by the UN called HLPF. So that's like the- the place for global discussion about the SDGs or sustainable development in general. But it's a very big platform. So you probably want to have a smaller, more cosy discussion at the regional level, and that's what APFSD is about. So it's also an intergovernmental forum just like HLPF, but it's held in Asia, gathering representatives from Asia-Pacific countries, including government people, of course, because it's an intergovernmental forum, but they also invite non-governmental representatives, like from civil society. So that's what these two forums are about. Okay, and when you say "forum", is it correct to talk about them as meeting their actual events? They're actually set in time, right? Exactly, yeah. Okay. So HLPF is held annually in July in New York and APFSD, because it serves as a regional preparatory meeting to HLPF, it's held a few months earlier than HLPF, and it's usually held in Bangkok at the United Nations ESCAP. ESCAP stands for Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. And so just for international listeners, the HLPF is entirely global. APFSD is for Asia and the Pacific. And then I suppose there are equivalents to APFSD in other regions, right? Exactly. Yeah. Okay. As Amanuma-san mentioned or explained, those are forums, and so I would say that there are several meetings within each of those forums. Some of them can be bilateral or multilateral between smaller groups that discuss things, and some of them are part of the official programme. But there's all sorts of things going on. There are also side events and, you know, report launches or book launches and so on. So it's sort of just this umbrella happening every year. How is this different from the the climate COP or the biodiversity COP? Is it different? If we just take the biodiversity and climate conventions that have their own dedicated Conferences of the Parties (COPs), those are more than 20 years old. And the APFSD and the HLPF that are tied to, in this case, the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs- they came about in 2015, so they're just seven years old and they're different processes. -Right. -They are results of different processes, but probably they also have some different characteristics as well, which we might- we can get into later on. Mm hmm. -Great. You mentioned the SDGs, Simon. And just a question for both or either of you: the main purpose of both of these forums, HLPF and APFSD, is to review progress on the SDGs. Is that the correct understanding? What they do is- I mean, what these two forums do is to also discuss the status of the progress, and they also review the progress. They also discuss the way forward. And to do that, they share their own progress through, for example, Voluntary National Reviews. Basically, this is a voluntary review of your own country's progress so far, and they also share best practices through that. So it does a lot of things, not just reviewing. So for the Voluntary National Review, I understand that not every country is doing a Voluntary National Review every year. Right? So how are these countries- I mean, do they- they say, "Yes, I will do a review next year"? Do people actually volunteer, or is this kind of a schedule thing? How does it work? I will say it's a voluntary thing. But I think there is sort of a peer pressure to do this, and I think there is also an encouragement from a regional level. For example, APFSD, I mean, prior to the official forum itself, they have this training workshop for those countries that are getting ready to prepare the Voluntary National Review or present the Voluntary National Review. So there is always a support and peer learning or peer- review process is also encouraged. So there is a soft pressure and sort of an encouragement system in place. That's right. I mean, I think- I think every year the UN Headquarters or UNDESA - that is the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs - in New York, which is sort of a central office in organising the High-Level Political Forum. And if you go on their website before the High-Level Political Forum, you can see a list of which countries are scheduled to share their Voluntary National Reviews. And then shortly after the event in the summer, you begin to see over the next part of the year, you begin to see countries that are, I guess, signing up to present next year. And so it is a voluntary process. But as Amanuma-san has mentioned, I'm sure there's a lot of communication from the regions down to the countries because the regional UN offices will keep a tab on which country has already presented several times and which are yet to present. And those maybe that have been quiet- Maybe they contact them and say, "Hey, should we get together to maybe prepare a review?" So I think that's the way it works, but it's voluntary. And these Voluntary National Reviews are done just by the government or are there any stakeholder inputs? For SDGs review, it's led by the national government, but that doesn't mean that they don't involve other stakeholders. In fact, many countries that me and Simon and others have looked at have involved different stakeholders in the process to provide their perspectives, their inputs at the national level, because government's understanding of what's going on at the national level might be different from what their country's stakeholders perspective. So they're trying to to integrate different views in the Voluntary National Review. Before we get too much into the SDGs, I just wanted to ask a little bit more about the the meetings themselves and who's involved. You mentioned a few UN agencies and governments have been mentioned and other stakeholders. But just can you kind of give a brief summary of who the organisers are, which UN agencies are important in the process of organising these meetings? And also maybe you can just reiterate the government's role. Right. So HLPF is held under the auspices of ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council), but because sustainable development is such an important issue, they decided to have the HLPF under the auspices of the UN General Assembly every four years. But when it comes to the technical arrangement, UNDESA that Simon just mentioned is a key player to run the meeting. And when it comes to APFSD, as I mentioned, ESCAP is the main secretariat. But at the same time, there are so many regional offices of different UN agencies and bodies, so they also come together to support the APFSD. And in fact, at HLPF and APFSD, they review different sets of goals every year. And, for example, this year they review SDG4 on Education, SDG5 on Gender Equality, [SDG] 14 on Life Below Water, [SDG] 15 on Life on Land, and [SDG]17 on Partnership for the Goals. And of course, different UN agencies have different expertise. For example, UNESCO would have expertise on education. UN Women would have expertise on gender... So these agencies, probably at the regional level, they come and join APFSD to provide their expert knowledge and also to share the progress at the regional level. But then the main participants are the governments, right? -Exactly. -And the UN is there for support purposes. Yeah, UN colleagues are there to support the process. The main participants are government representatives, as well as civil society representatives. Just wanted to add maybe one thing. As you rightly mentioning the different organisations and programmes that are involved- maybe those that take centre stage tend to change depending on which goals are reviewed each year. But there's also- there are also regular progress reports that are put together in this region. There has been an annual progress report done by the UNESCAP, together with the United Nations Development Programme and the Asian Development Bank. So it's just an example to show that there are also efforts to bring together actors from different constituencies to work on the 2030 Agenda to improve coherence. And I mean, that is challenging because it's such a big universe. But that's also, I think, one of the functions of the APFSD to sort of- probably as well as the HLPF- to bring the different agencies and bodies and programmes and banks and stakeholders together to exchange and discuss on this. So you mentioned two things basically the select specific SDGs to review. But then there's also a more general review. -Yeah. -Is it a case of countries responding individually or summarising reports that they've already compiled? How does it function? There's an attempt to avoid overlap between regional and global levels, so that means if there is a country or a government that in 2022 has to present their Voluntary National Review at the HLPF, they won't want to present exactly the same thing at the regional level. That would take up a very limited time at those meetings. Maybe one thing we haven't mentioned- there's only, I think, three or four days for the regional meeting and there's maybe a week or sometimes a little more than a week for the global meetings. And that's not very much to review sometimes 50 countries' progress reports per year. So efficiency, I think, is a big consideration. -Right, when it comes to voluntary national review at HLPF, each country has about an hour and what they have to do is basically present their Voluntary National Review very succinctly, and then they open the floor for questions and answers. -Mm-Hmm. -So questions first are taken from the government representatives and then from non-governmental representatives and then the presenter to respond to these questions. -I see. -So it's quite interesting how it actually happens, because sometimes the government tend to say really nice things about their progress on the SDGs. But then the participants, especially from non-governmental sector, they ask very critical questions. And so then as a third person, you have a better understanding of what's going on within that country. -Mm-Hmm. -Right. That's kind of the review process, so there is that review element that takes place at the global level and the preparation for that review element is part of what's happening at the regional level. But Andre, there's many other things that are happening at the same time. You will have a launch of a regional progress report that discusses how the region is doing on the SDGs, and then there will be a session dedicated to sharing the results and asking for feedback. This will be like a big room where all government representatives will be. Some countries will send a couple of people from their embassies and other countries will send people from the capital. That's up to them. And then they will- they can raise their hand and make comments or ask questions about what is presented. In this case, a report maybe by the UN and others. But then there are other sessions, maybe smaller sessions like roundtables in which governments and other stakeholders convene in smaller rooms to, based on some presentations on what's happening on a particular goal, there will be sort of a more informal discussion on what is going on with this goal, and you will have some people share good practices about progress and you will have other people share challenges. And I think the important point is to also get the challenges out, because making progress on the SDGs is something that every country has challenges with. And then there will be a chair and a rapporteur, and they will capture the discussion. And then there's an outcome or a document or a summary produced that is shared just as an example of some of the things that are going on at the main APFSD. -Mm-Hmm. -Yeah, these roundtable discussions are quite interesting because that's where, you know, government representatives and civil society representatives get together very closely and they have to- I guess they have to sit at the same table most of the time, and they will end up discussing a lot of things in details. And it's quite rare to have that kind of occasions. Now, like you come from, for example, a civil society organization in whatever country and you get to discuss with a government officials from another country on the same topic. Mm-Hmm. -So that's what I like about APFSD. And that's specifically APFSD, or does that happen at HLPF as well (the global event)? I think Goal Review happens at the global level, but it's not at the same scale as APFSD because APFSD is smaller, so the discussions tend to be more detailed. But at the global level, I think the setting is quite different. There's probably a little more protocol at the global level, and I think the aim is to encourage as much as possible a two way type of communication between, you know, let's say, a government that presents something and then getting feedback. I think that's sort of part of the purpose, but it's- it is quite difficult because, on the one hand, a government ought to be open to some challenging questions. But if you are the one that's asking the challenging questions... For example, if you're representing urban poor or migrant workers, you might have a dire situation in your constituency- the people that you represent- and then you want to bring a concern to the table, but you cannot put them on the spot so much so that it would create uncomfortable confrontations. So it's a bit of a tightrope walk sometimes. But I think that's also an important function of the APFSD, and I think that's that can that some of the positive impact that it can have, that maybe the general public maybe don't really know, but those that are working on specific issues, they- they do engage. And as it was in person, I think it was much better than now. Everything is taking place online, so I think it limits those exchanges. I was actually thinking along the lines of, you know, whether anything was being negotiated at HLPF or APFSD, or if it's mostly like a show casing type of event. I'm still trying to understand the nature of the event. -Mm-Hmm. APFSD don't usually negotiate on documents. At HLPF, you tend to see a more negotiated documents like the Ministerial Declaration. So basically leading up to the meeting, the representatives from different countries are negotiating and civil society is providing input to the draft text. What you can then say- Negotiated or not, I mean, even at the regional level, when a chair's summary is provided, governments are given the opportunity to go into the paragraphs of that draft text. And if they disagree with some wording, then they can say that they disagree and then it'll be edited or changed. So you can have some kind of negotiation. But what Amanauma-san says also at the global level where there is supposed to be a ministerial declaration. But again, none of this is legally binding. It provides some kind of agenda-setting, norms-setting function. It has that and an exchange of information, but it's not like this anything legally binding about it. It's purely voluntary. So I guess that kind of goes back to Erin's question about the difference between UNFCCC and biodiversity convention. These are legally binding, I would think. But this is the easy process or sustainable development discussion is not. Yeah, that's right. -Yeah. I want you to just dig in a little bit on VNRs (Voluntary National Reviews). What are they exactly and how did they come about? They are kind of the main document for discussion at these meetings, right? Mm hmm. So when the global community agreed on the 2030 Agenda, they decided that the review should be led by the national governments and then later they decided that Voluntary National Review is a mechanism that they agreed to do, to look back of the progress of each country and share at the global level. But again, it's a voluntary thing because I think in the discussion about the 2030 Agenda, there was a lot of discussion about how this should be monitored and nobody really wanted to use- Well, I think some countries didn't want to use the word "monitor" because it's too strong. So they decided to call it "follow up and review". But as a specific mechanism to do "follow-up and review", they decided to do Voluntary National Reviews. So a Voluntary National Review can mean two things. One, I mean, the Voluntary National Review is a report that government prepare. Second, the Voluntary National Review is a process of reviewing your country's progress. So when you talk about Voluntary National Review, you're actually talking about the report itself, but also the process. And that process is kind of renewed between- or can be renewed between each of these meetings. Is it as frequent as that? So I think one popular way of approaching a Voluntary National Review is that your country conducts it every four years, just like, you know, HLPF is held at the heads of the government level every four years. Your government also do this reporting every four years. But some countries do it in a different way. They do it every other year and this style is different based on what kind of approach your government takes. If you follow the HLPF style, which is that every year you look at different sets of goals, then you want to probably do it more frequently. But if you want to review all the SDGs from 1 to 17, then you probably don't want to do this or that frequently. So I mean, it also depends on how your government wants to approach this. -I guess it takes time and resources to review, right? Yeah, exactly. And the meetings themselves, how frequent are they? -Right, both of them are held annually. Okay, so it's very unlikely that any country will be presenting a new VNR at each of these meetings. Right. It hasn't happened yet. -Right. -In the Asia-Pacific region, we have one country that has done three VNRs. That's Indonesia, between 2016 and 2021. And then we have more than 20 that have done maybe two and then maybe around the same number or a little bit less than 20 that have done one. And then there are a few missing. So the VNR reviews, all of all, 17 of the SDGs, but then the meetings themselves, the APFSD and HLPF meetings focus on specific goals, right? Right. So you can choose a style. Like, I think Indonesia, as Simon mentioned, did it every other year, and their approach is that they reviewed the goals- specific goals that are reviewed at the HLPF that year. -Mm-Hmm. -I think. But different countries just review the whole SDGs (1 through 17) in the Voluntary National Review they publish every four years. -Okay. -So that doesn't go in line with HLPF goals. So that means you have a suggested focus that comes from the HLPF, basically saying, in 2019 we'd review SDGs 4, 8, 10 13, 16, 17. In 2017, we review X number of other SDGs. And then there is also a guidance to countries on how- a practical way to prepare the VNR process and then many countries follow that. But again, if countries have a particular- a different preference, that's also fine. So as Amanuma-san mentioned, some countries select to review all the SDGs or even add some targets that other countries don't. So it's a diverse process. Mm-Hmm. Will I just be doing anything for this year's APFSD and, later HLPF, can you share any planned activities from IGES or from the Japanese government as well? From IGES, we're supporting the Japanese government side event, which will be on marine plastic litter, and the Japanese government is planning to organise this together with the French government. And other than that, because the goals reviewed this year include Life Below Water, Life on Land, which is kind of the topics that IGES works on. So we're joined in the Goal Profile Roundtable to provide our technical inputs and policy messages. Okay, so that means physically sitting at the table with the government, as you mentioned earlier on. Yeah. But I guess this year, because of the COVID, they're going to have this APFSD in hybrid mode. So I mean, we won't be there physically, but we will be there virtually. And this site event organised by Japan and France is still under consideration by ESCAP, so it's not accepted yet. We sent the application, hoping to get accepted.

About side events:

I know that like people outside of our workspace will not really understand the significance of a side event. "Why bother?" They might ask. So what can you- what can you say about that? Why do we even consider organising side events? Or why not try to join the main event, so to speak? I mean, the main event is so packed that if you want to say something more technical, more in-depth, if you want to present or showcase your country's initiatives, the most convenient place is a side event. So that's the perspective of an organiser. From a participant's perspective, you're going to have a lot of side events to choose from. It's interesting to expand your interests and find some potential collaborators. So that's why you want to attend side events. That's what I would think as one participant, because it's actually quite interesting. Like different the ideas are presented or different ideas, initiatives, partnerships, collaborations are discussed or shared at these side events. So if you find something interesting to you, you just walk in and listen. And if you find some interesting people to work with, then you approach them. Another important function, I guess, is also this networking opportunity, and if you aren't in this space, you might think correctly like, "Side event? So what's the main event? Why should I bother about a side event?" But in fact, the side event is where many of the networking things are happening that are not part of the often quite the packed programme, as Amanuma-san said. So, many interesting things are happening there. So this is a bit of a side road, but thinking about, again, CBD meetings, which are the ones I'm most familiar with. My impression is that there are typically too many side events. And so when you get involved in them, you have to be quite careful, you know, because some of them are very poorly attended because there are so many of them. Is that the case that APFSD and HLPF? I think that's a general tendency of all these international meetings. -Yeah. -There's just so many stakeholders and they're working on different things and they always want to present their, you know, initiatives. -Mm-Hmm. -So, you know, it's usually quite crowded. And there's kind of a tendency, I think, to sort of feel like if you've done what needed to be done just by holding the side event. Yeah. -Yeah. -Yeah, that's a common challenge, I guess. It actually reminds me about, you know, the whole idea of accountability. We spoke about the fact that these are not legally binding meetings or there's nothing legally binding about these meetings. But I guess that as in other UN meetings and UN-type meetings, there is kind of an accountability. And Amanuma-san, you actually mentioned this, you know, the fact that countries kind of want to, you know, show other countries that they're doing something. So I guess there's some accountability there and just the fact that the event is happening in the first place, even though there, you know- there's perhaps a temptation to do showcase yourself rather than be critical of yourself as a country because of there's still some accountability just in the fact that the whole thing is happening. Yeah, I think organising this kind of event makes them participate. By making them participate, they're kind of being vulnerable to criticism by different actors. So I think it's one way of, you know, ensuring accountability. So when I think about this, the role of non-governmental participants is quite critical because as Simon said, when you hear a Voluntary National Review presentation from countries, sometimes you feel like, "Oh, that's like a dream destination. Like, when I retire, I need to live in this country." But then when you hear the criticism from civil society, you feel like, "Oh, actually, this country might have a problem with human rights. Maybe I don't want to go there ." So the role of civil society and being critical and also constructive is quite critical to make HLPF more accountable and transparent. So that's- I think that's what actually the UN is working on. My observation is that every year, UN tries to improve the participation of different stakeholders, and increasingly they're inviting youth representatives to give future generations more voice. So I think these things- these efforts are making HLPF and APFSD more interesting places and more accountable places. -Mm-Hmm. And I guess also just the fact that an organisation from one country can offer criticism at another country- that actually means quite a lot, right? Because instead of the less- less free regimes of the world, an organisation, even if they're- even if the forum is happening in a different country, they're not going to be criticising their own governments, or they're less likely to be doing that. Actually, you find examples of organisations that do not have a connection or an open door to talk to their government at home, at the national level about the problems that they're facing. -Mm-Hmm. -Like farmers or others. But when they go to the regional level, there is a space where they can voice their concerns and, you know, maybe they don't do it directly to the government representative because maybe that would be difficult to do. But it gets voiced. And so it has an indirect sort of beneficial role that if you can't say it in one form, then there will be a space for you to to express your concern. And there are also in parallel to the Voluntary National Reviews, there are many organisations and countries where civil society produce shadow reports or spotlight reports, which are parallel reviews of how it's going with either all of the SDGs or particular parts of the Agenda 2030. And so then you get the alternative view, and that's another thing that that this process is producing. How common are those shadow reports that something just pops up occasionally or are there quite a lot of them? We are reviewing the VNRs that the region has produced between 2016 and 2021 in a different project right now. And I think that more than half of the VNRs came with a shadow report or spotlight report - a civil society report. And, you know, in some cases, in countries that have a more open tradition of collaboration with civil society, the spotlight reports can become an annex to the main Voluntary National Review. Or in some cases, even the civil society are asked to produce sections of the Voluntary National Review. So there are many different ways to do this. And we also find that countries that produce more than VNR - the second VNR and now the third VNR, you tend to see a deeper engagement with the material- with the SDGs. So actually, the exercise seems to have some benefit. -Hmm. Yeah, I also agree. I mean, when I look at some particular countries' Voluntary National Review reports and the shadow reports, both of them are improving every time they do. -Hmm. -So, yeah, so I think this system is also working. And another thing about HLPF and APFSD is, as Simon said, you see different countries' approaches to stakeholder engagement, so you can learn from that and think about what is a better way forward for my own country's situation. -Right. -From the perspective of civil society or from the government. Erin, do you want to jump in with- Yeah, yeah, so so I just had a question about the comment earlier on how stakeholders are able to find a place to voice their concerns at these platforms. I understand that with COVID, at least with the UNFCCC climate COP, there are a lot of concerns about it potentially being held online and therefore not having the- like having kind of an asymmetrical participation. I'm just wondering if there were any impacts like that in the last two years that you know of that have led to maybe reduced or changed participation of stakeholders at APFSD or HLPF. It is just difficult, even when you have hybrid meetings. It's usually the national stakeholders- I mean, the people that are in the same country where the event is held - they might be able to attend in-person. Everybody else joins online. In one way, it has flattened the playing field a little bit because, let's say, youth or people in research institutes - people like ourselves - we might be quite used to engaging with YouTube and social media and Zoom or various conference platforms. And then you have government representatives that are joining the same Zoom meeting. But we might be more fluent in using it. And then at the same time, we are just another participant. So if we are bold, we might go in and be able to prepare a quite punchy statement, whereas the government representative may be a bit more constrained. So it has provided some positive changes. But that is only if you have a good internet connection. So if you are sitting in some village in the countryside of a country in the region or in a different time zone in the Pacific, you might have a very hard time to participate. How well do you think that APFSD and HLPF are working? And I think you've both covered this to some extent, but as a whole, would you say that they're fulfilling an important purpose or do you think that there are fundamental changes that could be made to make them work better? So I think they're doing a good job to some extent, but I think there is always room for improvement. When it comes to, for example, APFSD: they're serving as a preparatory meeting to HLPF and they're providing a lot of support to member countries. So in a sense, I think they're doing a great job. But at the same time, not sure how much regional perspectives discuss that APFSD is reflected at the global discussion at HLPF. So in that connection, I think there may be a room for improvement or making it more obvious. -Mm-Hmm. -If you think about HLPF role as a place to accelerate the progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, I think the road is quite tough- the way ahead is quite tough, partly because of COVID and many other challenges that we face. We're quite far away from achieving the 2030 Agenda. I mean, of course, HLPF has been serving as a really nice platform for sharing best practices and, you know, reviewing the progress and so on. But they need to do more to help the world achieve the 2030 Agenda. So in that sense, there are so many things that we need to work on, including strengthening the accountability of Voluntary National Reviews, which might include bringing in more different voices. Or not. I don't know. And also maybe looking at the review mechanism that we have- Voluntary National Review. And, I mean, there are just so many more things that we need to do. Both about the HLPF, but also about different aspects of sustainable development implementation and review. Yeah, I think we are very far from achieving the SDGs, and if we supposed to achieve them by 2030, we are nowhere close to that. So I think the review function needs to be strengthened. I'm not sure in what way. But it's not enough for countries to just report on what they're doing. That's just reporting. That's good for transparency, but the next step would be to add some elements of review, maybe even peer review. You can have some countries help each other or reviewing each other so that it's not one UN body that's reviewing others, but maybe countries could help each other that maybe one [suggestion]. So, yeah, so the challenge is that, I mean, the review doesn't lead to strengthened implementation. Right. -Well, not necessarily, right? -Right. And looking at the progress so far, we will probably agree that no matter how well you review your progress, it doesn't mean that you can strengthen your implementation. So I mean, the review itself needs to be strengthened, but the link between review and implementation also needs to be strengthened. -Mm-Hmm. So in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity, there are two important sort of mechanisms. One is the National Report, which is similar to the VNR and then the other one is a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. And that's basically- that's an expression of what you're planning to do. So I guess this process doesn't have something like that, right? It doesn't have a planning document. It only has an assessment document. In terms of the SDGs, each country has a different approach, but I think it's quite common for national governments to develop a national strategy or national action plan. In the case of Japan, they have both. So I guess in a way, SDG implementation review mechanism and the practical steps is quite similar to other processes in biodiversity, for example, as you mentioned. But even with these action plans and strategies, it's still difficult because I think the SDGs basically- I mean, it encompasses everything, not just environmental issues, but also economic and social. And it has to address systemic issues, which is quite difficult politically sometimes. So making huge progress requires, in my opinion, a systemic change which requires really courageous, honest discussions among different stakeholders. And I think it's probably quite challenging and it's troublesome and it takes a lot of time and costs and all of that. So it's- maybe that's why it's difficult, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a way forward. I guess our role is to find out what can be done realistically, given the constraints.