UN High-Level Political Forum: Digital takes centre stage

ITU News

The annual United Nations mid-year policy discussion on urgent global issues focused this year on “Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at all levels.”

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2023) took place in New York between 10 and 19 July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). More than ever before, discussions underlined the need for digital solutions to meet climate, education, energy, and human rights goals, as well as to drive sustainable agriculture, industrialization, and tourism.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as the UN tech agency, addressed several sessions, with ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan Martin contributing an official statement and ITU delegations addressing meetings organized by other UN organizations and partners.

“In a world where 95 percent of the global population is within range of a mobile broadband network, mere connectivity is not sufficient,” observed ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “Too many people who could go online decide against it because they do not have the digital skills — or because the experience is not safe, beneficial, or affordable.”

UN agencies increasingly recognize the need for a digital perspective to achieve each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Digital solutions for sustainable development

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) worked closely with ITU in organizing expert meetings on industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9) and sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).

In SDG 9 discussions, ITU emphasized the need for meaningful connectivity, and for continuous collaboration between governments, the private sector, and civil society, to drive digital transformation and bridge the global digital divide.

During the 10-day forum, ITU hosted side events on universal and meaningful connectivity, the metaverse and cities, and the ongoing Action Lines of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The ITU delegation spoke on 17 July about accelerating achievement of the SDGs and climate action through digital public infrastructure and digital public goods.

HLPF 2023 saw the release of two new reports from the UN Secretary-General:

Both reports highlight the impacts of digitalization and emerging technologies on the achievement of the SDGs and COVID-19 recovery.

ITU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with knowledge partner Boston Consulting Group will bring together partners from the UN system and beyond on 17 September for SDG Digital, putting data and digital technologies front and centre to catalyse action on all 17 of the UN’s global goals.

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