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Minister Smerkolj at High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2018

New York, 19 July 2018 – States Members of the United Nations and states members of specialised agencies met at a series of panels and events between 9 and 18 July to mark this year’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development which is convened each year under the auspices of the United Nations. Slovenia enjoys a reputation as a strong performer in terms of delivering on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Minister Smerkolj delivered a statement at the high-level segment of the Forum.


‘’It gives me great pleasure to see Slovenia mentioned as one of top performers in this year’s edition of SDG Report which highlights the progress made in the areas of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Slovenia ranks 8th in terms of implementing SDGs; yet this excellent result places a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders - to keep the momentum going and live up to the expectations in terms of successfully delivering future activities, underlined Minister Smerkolj on Wednesday. ‘’I truly believe that the 2030 Agenda is the right and most universal development strategy for our world. However, if there is no integration and interconnection of basic pillars – the economy, the environment and the society – there will be no results,’’ added Smerkolj by reminding that not enough attention is being devoted to this interconnection in Slovenia. ‘’Our top results make us a credible discussion partner for other top performers and the countries that are still seeking the right path. This fills us with energy as we reaffirm our commitment to continue making progress.’’


Slovenia’s development strategy lead, Mr Timotej Šooš explained that, in terms of SDG Index, Slovenia progressed from ranking 17th three years ago, to last year’s 9th place, while securing rank 8 this year. Mr Šooš stressed that the index is regularly updated and revised and gets more demanding by the year. Scandinavian countries, i.e. Sweden, Denmark and Finland , followed by Germany, France, Norway and Switzerland are top performers among 156 surveyed countries. They precede Slovenia which is closely followed by Austria.  


Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the UN, Darja Bavdaž Kuret, highlighted that the 2030 Agenda addresses all pillars identified by the UN, including peace and security. Because of that, Slovenia’s excellent ranking did not go unnoticed and made Slovenia much more recognisable. ’’These results place us among leaders, a fact which we still fail to grasp at home.’’ When asked why Slovenia was not the top performer and where it found most obstacles in implementing the development agenda, the Minister replied that the fields where we considered ourselves to be excellent performers were actually our weak point, i.e. the environment and fight against climate change. ‘’We think of ourselves as green and refer to our country as Green Slovenia, but it is here that we are most lagging behind. We have not done enough to protect our sea and fight climate change,’’ added Smerkolj.


The Minister continued that as Head of Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy she was tasked with coordinating action between government departments, the economy, and the civil society, which was, more often than not, a difficult job given each party’s strong voicing of their interests. On the one hand, the country is aiming at infrastructure development, which brings more traffic and increases pollution; on the other hand, the country is striving to curb down GHG emissions.


HLPF has been held for the past three years as the central multi-stakeholder mechanism established by the UN for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, and a platform for experience sharing and discussing future work.


Under-five mortality rates fell by a staggering 47% between 2000 and 2016, levels of maternity mortality in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 35%, the number of child marriages in South Asia has been down by 40 %, and less than one billion people still live without electricity.


Yet, pockets of extreme poverty which count as many as 783 million people living on less than two dollars a day, failure to eradicate malaria by 2030, the fact that more than half the world’s children are out of education, 60% of global population without access to adequate water-related sanitation are just some of the causes of growing concern. This year, the HLPF was held under the theme ‘’Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’’, putting into spotlight water, energy, cities, sustainable consumption, environmental protection and partnerships.


Slovenia’s former president, Dr Danilo Türk in its role as Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace participated as panellist in debate on water and peace. Slovenia also organised a special event on tapping potentials of blockchain technology for development.


The high-level segment which kicked off on Monday included an event organised by Slovenia on creating global partnerships for sustainable development. ‘’The discussion did not evolve only around connecting and integrating stakeholders, we also focused on the challenges and obstacles we are facing individually or having in common. I am certainly more interested in learning how countries tackle problems that are similar to those we have to deal with,’’ explained the Minister who also underlined that ‘’now, more than ever, we need to turn words into action. Partnerships in themselves are just not enough, we need to make sure to deliver policies that are realistic and place-based.’’ In her statement delivered on Wednesday, Smerkolj said the voluntary national reviews submitted by Member States so far showed that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is falling behind in most of the areas that require wider partnerships. Having adopted a new national development strategy in December 2017, Slovenia is taking the first steps to integrate the 2030 Agenda into its budgetary process while developing partnerships with businesses and local communities. It has also revamped its international development cooperation programme to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. “Development is not a project. It is a continuous process that never stops,” she said, adding that the pace of change requires governments to learn faster and govern smarter.