By Angel Mendoza, Forus’ communication team
Given the situation linked to COVID-19, the UN has decided that the Hight level political Forum (HLPF) and all side-events and exhibitions will be held virtually.  Since this decision was agreed, Forus and its members have acted to ensure the participation of civil society in this virtual HLPF format, some others have been able to be considered to contribute to the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), however in other countries unfortunately civil society has found it difficult to link up with local governments presenting VNRs in 2020. The following information includes the latest news and updates on the HLPF.

Updates on side events 

The first virtual or online HLPF raises concern about the meaningful participation of CSOs, some are worried that the voices of CSOs will be “muted” or excluded. For this reason, Forus’ member in Denmark, Globalt Fokus along with other CSOs including Forus, Action For Sustainable Development (A4SD), Fingo and Civicus, developed a joint advocacy letter aimed at the UN and its Member States. Which was signed by 500 organisations from 115 countries. You can find a look at this joint letter here, and you’re also invited to spread the message on social media using the hashtag  #InclusiveUN.  
On this topic Globalt Fokus has submitted a proposal for a side event to the UN along with the Danish Government, which is entitled “Protecting civic space during the COVID-19 pandemic: Examining the role that SDG 16+ can play in responding to current threats”. In order to leverage the theme of HLPF 2020 “Realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development” to assess the gaps and opportunities in SDG 16 to effectively advance civic space.  

Forus is also involved in the following side events for which we still wait for confirmation from the UN in the following weeks. In case they are not confirmed, these events will be anyways held as “non-official side events” (exact dates TBD). 
Forus/A4SD side event on “CSO inclusion in VNRs” 
Forus /ADA side event on Monitoring Goal 16 (& launching joint Goal 16 report) 
Forus/ADA Goal 16 side event on Innovative Partnerships 
SDG Watch Europe -led side event in which CCIC is participating as Forus member

Joint actions of Forus & its members
Forus organized two online workshops dedicated to the HLPF: one on Advocacy on May 25th and another one on Communication on June 10th. The aim was to share experiences & ideas, to better plan our advocacy & communication actions and to identify opportunities so that our members can be more visible.
In addition, Forus along with ADA, the Asian platform have prepared two reports about Goal 16 and 17, for which they are preparing Space Case Study along with other Forus members to get relevant information and inputs, but specially to check any new civic space restrictions that have been put in place as part of Emergency Measures introduced since the onset of the COVID 19 global pandemic.
Successful outcomes in Finland, Slovenia & India
Forus welcomes the invitation by the Finish Prime Minister’s Office to the national development NGOs umbrella organisation Fingo, Forus’ member in Finland; to take the lead in bringing together the views and reflections of the civil society on the SDG progress to be incorporated into Finland’s VNR2020. You can have a look on the reports made and the VNR here
Given this interest from Finnish government to integrate the critical voices from CSOs into the official VNR, CSOs decided not to elaborate a shadow report in 2020.  As a reminder Finland presented a 1st VNR in 2016. It was the first country to allow space for CSOs in its national delegation presenting Finland’s VNR at the UN HLPF.
Slovenia is presenting its second VNR this year, Adriana Aralica from SLOGA, said that this year much more inclusive than the first one in 2017. Regional consultations integrated multiple stakeholders, including CSOs. However, since the first draft didn’t mention the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) thematic and that COVID-19 cancelled the remaining meetings, CSOs decided to elaborate a shadow report,  with the help of Forus.
India is presenting a second VNR this year. The good news is that the government included CSOs much more than the first time in the elaboration of the report.  According to Nivedita Datta Programme Manager from VANI, Forus’ member in India. Thematic consultations were organized across the country, mostly by the CSOs. They are considered as key actors to implement and monitor the SDGs.  However, CSOs decided to produce a report, especially about the Leave No On Behind thematic, in order to identify which actors have been left out.
This virtual edition will thus be a challenging one for many of Forus’ members ! Stay tuned!
Sources : Globalt Fokus, Fingo