SDG Lab News Dispatch: June 2019


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(You can download a PDF version of this newsletter here.)

Dear friends,

Two years ago this month, the SDG Lab was formally launched with our first SDG ‘So What?’ series, organized in collaboration with WIPO. A lot has happened since then.

During this time, the SDG Lab has become known for creating a transformative space for incubation of ideas and partnerships and is recognized as an SDG hub with a relevant, unique model.

We started operations with high-level political support; built a small, agile, multi-stakeholder, cross-regional team; forged key strategic partnerships; and have achieved impressive results. This includes co-creating the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem; developing activities to help shift mindsets (like the ‘So What?’ series); serving as a “go-to” for SDG-related issues; and advancing the SDG financing theme, just to name a few.

With the Lab’s start-up phase successfully behind us, we are shifting gears to the next phase of our growth. Increasing stakeholder appetite for our engagement and interventions, as well as demands to replicate the Lab model require further investments in our work. In addition, we want to build on the Lab’s momentum to further experiment and test new approaches, processes and partnerships. We look forward to working with you in this second phase and to engage with us to fully activate the 2030 Agenda.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank UN Geneva Director-General Michael Møller who leaves his post at the end of the month. Mr Møller created the Lab to advance a mindset shift in thinking, acting and investing in a multisectoral way. This innovative approach is what has made the Lab a success and what all stakeholders are asking us to continue and scale-up in the future.

What’s been happening

  • 2019 UNECE Regional Forum. In our last update we were just about to attend the 2019 Regional Forum for Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region. The two-day gathering was a great occasion for the Lab to test a new activity focused on showing the interconnected nature of the 2030 Agenda. Our “SDG Linkages Board” saw 45 forum participants link the different Goals and share why and how they’re making these important connections in their countries and organizations. We observed that many participants selected SDGs 3 (Good health and well-being), 4 (Quality education) and 5 (Gender equality) as their starting point. When explaining their linkages, they stressed the indivisibility of the Goals, as well as the challenges in making linkages at the policy and programmatic level. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and UN Geneva Director-General Michael Møller also stopped by the board to share and explain their SDG connections. We’ve captured our engagement at the Regional Forum in a short video that includes interviews with several participants, including Ms. Mohammed and Mr. Møller. We hope you find it informative.

  • SDG financing. The Lab is a lead convener of a collaboration focused on sustainable finance that leverages Geneva’s expertise in financial services and development. In April, the participants of the collaboration reconvened to discuss the two initiatives that have emerged from this joint laboratory work where co-creation allowed for ideas to be rapidly turned into concrete projects. They are now ready to be operational and are seeking financial support to be implemented. The projects have the potential to shift mainstream finance towards the SDGs. More details will be shared soon.

  • 2019 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) brainstorm. One of our activities that continues to prove useful is organizing brainstorming sessions for the Geneva 2030 Ecosystem ahead of the annual HLFP at the UN in New York, which this year will be held from 9-18 July. We convene the Ecosystem around the HLPF for two main reasons: 1) to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to knowing the key HLPF themes that will be discussed; and 2) to provide a way for Geneva actors to know who is doing what during the 11-day forum. As in previous years, the Lab will attend the HLPF and manage the WhatsApp group and organize a ‘meet and greet’ of Geneva actors while they are on-site. To help us in effectively sharing information about the HLPF amongst the community, please fill out the following two forms if you meet the criteria:

1)    If you are a Geneva-based organization and will be holding a side-event, please complete this form so that we can promote your event to other individuals from Geneva who will be in New York. 

2)    If you would will be attending the event and would like to be included in the WhatsApp group and/or invited to the meet and greet, please fill out this form.

What’s the HLPF?
The HLPF serves as the main UN platform to capture progress towards the SDGs. This is done through thematic goal reviews (this year on Goals 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, 17) and voluntary national reviews (VNRs). Countries prepare and present VNRs at their own discretion. Since the HLPF started in 2016, 111 VNRs have been presented, with an additional 47 VNRs expected to be presented this July. You can find the 2019 reviews here.

  • So What?’ series: Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace. The Lab’s ‘So What?’ series usually focuses on the linkages between two SDGs with the aim of showing the indivisibility of the 2030 Agenda. Our latest ‘So What?’, which took place on 1 April, deviated slightly from this format to explore the interlinkages between two global agendas: Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace. We invited five practitioners from the worlds of peacebuilding, gender, labour, conservation and diplomacy to discuss the connections and correlations between both agendas and find ways to increase the exchange of ideas and collaboration. Although two hours is a tight timeframe to take forward such broad topics in detail, common themes quickly emerged. An overarching point that the speakers and audience members agreed upon was the correlation between inequalities and conflicts. The discussion also prompted a reflection on the 2030 Agenda and its promise of more peaceful and inclusive societies. You can watch the full ‘So What?’ on the Lab’s YouTube channel or, if you’re short for time, watch one-minute soundbites from the five panellists.

  • Forging blockchain links in Geneva. On 26 March, UNECE and the Lab facilitated a discussion on blockchain for the SDGs for UN agencies in Geneva. Representatives from 11 organizations came together to share information on their different levels of engagement with the technology and to exchange experiences on both what’s working and key challenges. Together with colleagues at UNECE, we were inspired by the diverse range of initiatives already underway using this relatively new technology. A detailed summary of the meeting – including a bit on who’s doing what – can be found here. A follow-up meeting will take place on 27 June.

  • ‘Das Silodenken muss weg’ – ‘Enough of thinking in silos’. This was one of the main messages that our director drove home in a full-page interview in the Swiss German newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), which appeared in a special supplement on occasion of the 2019 Swiss Economic Forum, 23-24 May. It’s a ‘tour de table’ on the SDGs and the interview also gives suggestions on what citizens can do to deliver the Goals. The article is available in German and English.

  • ‘Where do I find…?’: A question we get asked A LOT at the Lab is ‘Where do I find SDG-related resources?’. It’s a valid one, and we’re the first to admit that there’s no one place that pulls together all the great tools and materials available online. So, we decided to compile a set of links to the different resources that we regularly share upon request. Take a look and let us know what you think.

  • Coming soon to a screen near you: SDG Lab Toolkit. With growing interest in our work, and in response to requests for a ‘how-to’ guide on replicating the Lab model, we’ve compiled an online toolkit that captures our journey. It includes a set of tools and recommendations that we think will help individuals and organizations in either creating their own lab or inspiring new ways of working. As soon as the toolkit is ready, we’ll send out a note to let you know where it can be accessed.

In the Loop

If you have an event or activity that you would like the Lab team to be aware of, do not hesitate to reach out to us: sdg-lab@un.org. We would be happy to discuss further.

Best regards,
SDG Lab team