The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), an annual gathering of all the Member States of the United Nations to review the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by different countries, will convene virtually for a second year running due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The HLPF 2021 will be held from 6 – 15 July, with the theme; “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” The 2021 HLPF will consider Sustainable Development Goal 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, three on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice, and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships.

Forty-three countries (including Japan and Zimbabwe, where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have a presence) will be presenting their National Voluntary Report (VNR) to the Member States. As part of the forum, VNR offers an opportunity each year for the Member States to share experiences, successes, challenges, and lessons learned from implementing the SDGs. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders such as the private sector, academia, and others also participate in the HLPF. The UN Secretary-General in September 2019 declared 2020 – 2030 a decade of action to deliver on the Goals. The Decade of Action calls for the “acceleration of sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality, and closing the finance gap.”

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will be co-sponsoring an event on 14 July, at 7:30 AM EST, with the title, “The impacts of extractivism on the SDGs and Covid-19 recovery.” To access the event on 14 July, click on the following link

Learn more:

High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development 2021;

Follow the HLPF on UN WWBTV from July 5-16:


22 March is observed as World Water Day. The World Water Day celebrates water, raises awareness of the global water crisis, and supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: “Water and Sanitation for All by 2030.” Water is fundamental to the survival of every living thing. It is also a source of livelihood for millions of people worldwide. But this very precious gift of God to humanity is fast becoming inaccessible to many people around the world. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right that governments must provide for their citizens, as they pledged in the 2030 Global Agenda. Various parts of the world are experiencing an acute shortage of safe drinking water due to climate change. Water is a public good and must never be exploited for commercial purposes. The theme of the 2021 World Water Day is valuing water.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Clean Water Project, provides life-saving clean, safe drinking water to the students that the Sisters serve in Africa, South, and Central America.  

According to a 2017 UN report,

  • 2.2 billion people lack safely managed drinking water
  • 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation
  • Two in five health facilities worldwide have no water and or alcohol-based hand rub – 2016
  • Three billion people worldwide lack basic handwashing facilities at home – a practice that is critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19 infections
  • Water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030
  • Some countries experience a funding gap of 61% for achieving water and sanitation targets.

Read more:

UN World Water Development Report:

Sisters of Notre Dame Clean Water Project:


Human activities are destroying nature at a rate much faster than it can replenish itself. A report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that; “over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded, and 66 percent of oceans, 50 percent of coral reefs, and 85 percent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.” Biodiversity is essential for human survival. It provides us with food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme events. “We did not inherit the planet from our ancestors; we only borrowed it from our children.” We all therefore, have a moral obligation to protect our it. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted how our ecosystems and human health are innately connected.  

Seventy-one world leaders have signed the Leaders Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. The UN Biodiversity Summit convened by the President of the General Assembly on 30 September 2020 highlighted the crisis facing humanity, from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development. The Summit also provided heads of state and government and other leaders the opportunity to raise ambition to develop the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which will be adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021. The conference, which was initially scheduled to take place in October 2020, in Kunming, China, has been rescheduled for 17-30 May 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more:

Convention on Biological Diversity:

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services:


All 193 Member States of the UN unanimously adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on 25 September 2015. The Global Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action to end poverty and hunger in all forms; to ensure dignity and equality, to protect our planet’s natural resources and climate for the future generation, to ensure prosperous and fulfilling lives in harmony and nature, and to foster peace, just and inclusive societies. 

With just ten years to 2030, achieving the SDGs is now a race against time for many countries. How would you rate your country’s performance on each of the 17 Goals? And as a citizen/educator, how would you rate your knowledge of the SDGs? Our leaders pledged in 2015 to implement these goals in their different countries by 2030. As citizens, we are responsible for holding them accountable to their pledge to the global community to achieve the SDGs by 2030?

The UN Secretary-General has declared 2020-2030 as a ‘decade of action.’ To save our people and the planet, governments, in partnership with all stakeholders, must commit to achieving the SDGs by 2030. The ongoing global pandemic has amplified the urgency.

The SDGs were very much in the spotlight during the 75th GA. The  Sustainable Development media zone hosted series of conversations on current burning issues, including the impact of COVID-19, the development and availability of a vaccine, virus misinformation, myths, gender equality, and the urgent need to protect the world’s diminishing biodiversity.

Learn more:

UN SDGs media zone:

Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform:


4Member States of the UN meets annually for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The 2020 forum was, however, held virtually from 7 – 16 July, because of the COVID-19 restrictions. The HLPF serves as an annual stock-taking event to track progress on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the Member States. An integral part of the forum is usually the Voluntary National Views (VNR). The VNR is a process where the Member States share progress made in the implementation of the SDGs in their respective countries. Forty-seven countries gave their voluntary national views during the 2020 HLPF. Among these were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, and a host of others.

The theme for the 2020 HLPF was “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: 5realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development. With just ten years left to 2030, the race against time for achieving the SDGs has begun. The UN Secretary-General declared “a decade of action” during the SDG Summit in September 2019, and called on world leaders to accelerate sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges such as poverty, and gender, climate change, inequality, and host of others.

In the speech given by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, to mark the closing of the 2020 HLPF, she cautioned that the world was “off the track in achieving the SDGs by 2030, even before the COVID-19 crisis erupted.” Ms. Mohammed recommends increasing investment in public services, showing solidarity on financing, and ‘reshaping’ how people work, learn, live, and consume as some of the measures required to turn the tide around. She urged governments to listen to young people, who are demanding justice and equality, and to invest in an inclusive, networked multilateralism, with the United Nations at the center.

The world is currently at a crossroads – the achievement of the 2030 Agenda is possible but requires accelerated action. The economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have once again underscored the necessity for governments to prioritize investment in the implementation of the 17 SDGs as a matter of urgency.  The COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to humanity, but it also provides an opportunity for change and innovation towards sustainability, if governments show the political will.


Read more:

UN Secretary-General’s 2020 Report:

2020 HLPF:










The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution 73/23 on 3 December 2018, designating 24 January the International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education in promoting peace and sustainable development.


Though progress has been made in the past decades in providing access to education for more children, especially children from less-developed economies, a lot more still needs to be done. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.” This is unacceptable. “Education is a human right, a public good, and a public responsibility.” Therefore, it must not become a tool for reinforcing inequality. Providing “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all” by 2030 is goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by Member States of the UN in 2015. Governments must be held accountable to deliver these goals. Education is key to achieving the SDGs. And as rightly pointed out by the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Ms. Amina Mohammed, “failure to attain the educational needs of the population, equals failure to achieve the SDGs.”

SDG 4: Facts and Figures

  • Enrolment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 percent, 4but 57 million primary age children remain out of school.
  • More than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • An estimated 50 percent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.

Read more:

Ten targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4:

International Day of Education:




Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

By Mary Johnson, SNDdeN; Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity University in Washington, D.C: During the week of November 18, 2019, I had the privilege of visiting our SNDdeN NGO office across the street from the United Nations and accompanying Sr. Amarachi to several events at the UN.  I also had the opportunity to attend events sponsored by UNICEF to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other activities of concern to NGOs. Sr. Amarachi also introduced me to several sisters who serve in their congregational NGOs in order to gain their perspective on the relationship of Catholic Social Teaching to the work of NGOs of women religious at the UN, part of my research project during my sabbatical.


 I was so inspired by the work of so many NGOs– secular, religious, Catholic, and those staffed by women and men religious–all representing the thought and experience of civil society.  I was also so proud to observe the hard work and obvious influence of the NGO of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the UN.  I will concentrate here on just a few points.

First, the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN seem to run as life-giving, Gospel-oriented stream through the analysis of the agenda of faith-based NGOs.  Global homelessness is now being discussed through the lenses of the SNGs.


Sisters Mary Johnson and Amarachi Ezeonu

Second, the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was marked by several events that included the voices of children and teens, as well as teachers and social workers. While it was very disheartening to be reminded that the United States is the only nation in the world that has not ratified the CRC, several speakers did comment that progress has been made toward the protection of the rights of children worldwide over the last three decades, but much progress remains to be made.

3Third, Sr. Amarachi introduced me to Teresa Blumenstein, the Coordinator of the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR), a coalition of 18 Catholic organizations which are accredited to the UN. The majority of the organizational members of the coalition are NGOs of religious congregations of women, including the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  The primary aim of JCoR, according to their publications, is “to enhance collaboration among our members, at UN headquarters, and around the world, in our work to address the root causes of poverty, destruction of the natural environment, and unsustainable development.” One method for the Coalition to meet its shared goal is through a series of workshops in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Africa, and India. The workshops include dialogues among the various congregations involving social, political, and economic analyses of regional injustices, with plans for collective action on the local and regional levels, in partnership with their representatives at the UN who work on those issues on the international level.

Finally, Sr. Amarachi and I were surprised to encounter another SNDdeN connection at the UN.  One day as we walked through the UN building, we passed an exhibit entitled “Irish Educators Abroad.”  Several panels highlighted the work of numerous people born in Ireland who served as educators all over the world.  As we viewed the panels, we came upon one on which an SNDdeN was pictured, Sr. Julia McGroarty, who was born in Ireland in 1827 and immigrated with her family to Cincinnati at the age of four.  She is described in the exhibit as a “pioneer in education” for standardizing curriculum in the SNDdeN schools in the US, and for her founding of schools, as well as Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University.


Youth Climate Strike


Sr. Amarchi Ez

There were several climate-related events around New York and beyond ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit. One such event worth noting is the Youth Climate Strike which took place on 20th September in over 150 countries across the globe. An estimated 4 million young and not-so-young people around the world participated in the youth climate strike. Many Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur marched in solidarity with the


Sr. Amarachi Ezeonu at the NYC Climate Strike


young people in cities like New York, Ipswich, Washington DC, Boston, and other cities across the US and beyond. It was a privilege to march with so many young people for “Our Common Home” The NYC march culminated with Greta Thunberg’s speech. Greta is a 16-year old Swedish climate activist who has galvanized a massive global movement on the environment since she first began her activism in front of the Swedish parliament about a year ago. Click HERE to watch Greta’s NYC speech.



4The UN Climate Action Summit with the theme, “Climate Action Summit 2019: A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win” was convened by the Secretary-General on 23 September. The aim of the summit according to the UNSG, was to challenge states, regions, cities, companies, investors, and citizens to step up action in the areas of the energy transition, climate finance, and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local efforts, and resilience.

The UNSG indicated before the summit that only countries that came with policy plans to reduce carbon emissions are allowed to address the summit. In his words, “I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero by mid-century.”

A report released by the UN Development Programme just ahead of the summit warns that climate change is heating harder and sooner than forecast. Many scientists believe that the climate situation has now reached a crisis or an emergency level.

Read more: The UN Climate Summit:

Greta Thunberg (Young Climate Activist) at the Opening of the Climate Action Summit:

The 2019 UN Climate Report, “The Heat is On”:




For the fourth year since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UN hosted the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals from 9 – 18 July 2019. The theme for the 2019 HLPF is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” The High-Level Political Forum is the UN central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Global Agenda. The HLPF provides for the full and active participation of all Member States of the UN, UN specialized agencies, Civil Society Organizations, and other stakeholders.

collageA vital component of the HLPF is the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) of the SDGs. The VNR provides an opportunity for the follow-up and review of the implementation of the SDGs by the Member States. This year, forty-seven countries presented their national voluntary review for the second time since the adoption of the SDGs. 2019 also marks the completion of the first cycle of the HLPF. The following SDGs; 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 were reviewed.

One of the highlights of the HLPF and most UN conferences is that these provide the


Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN

occasion for governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to sponsor side-events on relevant topics at the margin of these conferences. So, on 9th July, SNDatUN, Society of the Sacred Heart at the UN, International Presentation Association, Associated Country Women of the World, and the Justice Coalition of Religious at the UN (a coalition of 20 Catholic Religious NGOs of women and men accredited to the UN), co-sponsored a side event.  Our side event with the title; “SDG4: Quality Education is at the Heart of Sustainable Development,” had four panelists who spoke on the theme from the viewpoint of their respective organizations


Representatives of the co-sponsoring NGO’s

Sister Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN, presented the Notre Dame perspective. She gave an overview of the two hundred plus years efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education to children and adults in five continents where the SNDdeN have a presence. Sister Kristin who is also the founder and principal of Notre Dame Virtual School (NDVS) then focused the rest of her presentation on the NDVS, explaining how she uses technology to create awareness about the 2030 Global Agenda and other social justice issues. Through the NDVS, Sr. Kristin also makes educational resources available to Notre Dame schools (students and teachers) around the world. According to Sister, NDVS offers her the space to do what St. Julie instructed the Sisters; “to teach whatever is necessary to equip the students for life.”

The SNDatUN NGO Office is grateful to Sister Kristin, for her very insightful presentation on the work of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education. We were also honored to welcome Sister Karen Hokanson, who accompanied her twin-sister, Kristin. It was quite an enriching experience. At the end of the very interactive session, the participants presented some policy recommendations which we intend to integrate into our advocacy strategy at the UN.

Read more:

2019 High-Level Political Forum of Sustainable Development: