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20 September 2023, Wednesday (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST)
New York | HYBRID

In the margins of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) and its 52 Global Partners from 27 countries are organizing the hybrid SDGs Conference on 20 September 2023, Wednesday to convene world leaders, diplomats, civil society members, journalists and academics to discuss contemporary impediments for the timely and effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs Conference 2023, formerly known as the UNGA Conference, is the flagship event of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, creating a platform for diverse stakeholders to discuss the Global Agenda 2030, offer innovative solutions, strategies, and policy recommendations to advance the culture of peace, human rights, and sustainable development. As 2023 marks the 8th annual SDGs Conference, this global event gathered over 150 high-level speakers across the globe forming an interdisciplinary group of distinguished panelists to discuss a particular set of agenda over three panel sessions and propose a framework for action for the full and effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

While accelerating the recovery processes from COVID-19 is still among the priorities of various UN agencies, progress towards Sustainable Development Goals is appallingly off track. Time is running by as we are already over halfway through the 2030 target deadline. Considering the backward status of the SDGs, while world leaders arrive in New York to address the UNGA78 this September, elaborating on the contemporary challenges of the implementation, building a new momentum to increase progress, and renewing political commitments to reinforce international solidarity to foster multilateralism will be at the core of the diplomatic engagements.

“Leaving No One Behind” has been the foundational vision of the Sustainable Development Goals to thrive towards establishing peaceful, inclusive, and just societies, clean and healthy environment promoting fundamental human rights of all living creatures. Yet, given the current progress of the Global Goals, this promise is in peril. Therefore, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres signals a genuine turning point delivering on commitments around a timely established action plan and indicates that a “Fundamental shift is needed in commitment, solidarity, financing and action – to put the world on a better path.”[1]

To address the gaps and challenges that emerged after erupting wars, increasing humanitarian crisis, and alarming climate change, the SDG Summit (18-19 September 2023) and High-Level Week of UNGA78 will be focal gatherings to strengthen civil society, private sector, intergovernmental and academic partnerships to support Secretary-General Guterres` delivery of a “Rescue Plan for People and Planet” based on three primary areas:[2]

  • Equipping governance and institutions for sustainable and inclusive transformation,
  • Prioritizing policies and investments that have multiplier effects across the goals,
  • Securing a surge in SDG financing and an enabling global environment for developing countries.

As a result of the diligent review of the 2022-2023 agenda items and priority working areas of diverse UN agencies and offices, as well as world-renowned international summits, the SDGs Conference 2023 will address (1) Building a New Momentum Towards the 2030 Deadline for the SDGs (2) Press Freedom as an Instrument to Defend Human Rights for All and (3) Widening Gap between Erosion of Democracy and Rise of Autocracy in the margins of the UNGA 78th Session on 20 September 2023, Wednesday.

The 3 Panel Sessions of the SDGs Conference 2023 will contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals:

Target (5.2) Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation;

Target (5.5) Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life;

Target (10.2) By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status;

Target (16.1) Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere;

Target (16.3) Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all;

Target (16.10) Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements;

Target (16.a) Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime;

Target (16.b) Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development;

Target (17.16) Enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.

Target (17.17) Encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.


20 September 2023, Wednesday (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST)


The long-term social, economic, and well-being challenges posed by COVID-19 Pandemic are still ongoing. Thereupon this unprecedented global crisis, 2022-2023 has been a year of deterioration on various grounds. Positive peace, freedom of expression, fundamental civil and political rights have been declining, while transnational crimes, the influx of forcibly displaced people, and authoritarian regimes across the globe have been on the rise. Day-to-day implications of the climate crisis are now in action in many Global South countries enforcing people to leave their homeland due to food insecurity, violence and political instability responding to this utmost urgent environmental call.

The largest setbacks were recorded in political terror scales and internal conflicts.[3] War in Ukraine, Taliban`s take-over in Afghanistan, and the internal conflict that erupted in Sudan have created inevitable regressions in many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Besides these armed conflicts and internal political instabilities, democratic States fell behind in the progress track as well. Given this critical momentum, Secretary-General calls for an urgent renewal of commitments meaningfully involving all development stakeholders to break through for a better future for all and deliver the promise of Global Goals.

In order to work on effective and transformative action-oriented policy making for the second half of the implementation timeline, our global community must acknowledge

the following critical assessment: “Only about %12 [of the SDGs] are on track; close to half, though showing progress, are moderately or severely off track and some %30 have either seen no movement or regressed below the 2015 baseline”.[4] Another striking unfolded truth is the absence of accountable, up-to-date, gender-disaggregated data. The recently released SDG Progress Report indicates that about 8% of latest available data are from 2023, 21% from 2022, and 54% are from 2020 – 2021. Goal 16: Peaceful, just, strong institutions, Goal 13: Climate change and Goal 5: Gender equality are among the targets with the least current available data. Academic institutions` innovative research methodologies to close the data gap is crucial to scale up the delivery of peace and development promises.  

Panel Session 1 – Building a New Momentum Towards the 2030 Deadline for the SDGs will discuss:

  • The latest progress of the Sustainable Development Goals halfway through the 2030 deadline: Emerging challenges 
  • Strengthening institutions and political commitment in timely achievement of the SDGs: local, and regional governments aligning with the private sector 
  • Sounding an alarm for urgent action on increasing internationally comparable, gender-disaggregated, available data collection
  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals as a pivotal actor to break through a sustainable, peaceful future 
  • The New Agenda for Peace: A Pack for a transitioning era of geopolitical complexities


Freedom of the press is a prerequisite and catalyst for all human rights. Despite the fundamental role of the media and journalists in enabling a free and independent flow of information to foster peaceful and inclusive societies, there is a constant decline in press freedom recorded over the last decade. Misinformation, disinformation, technology and oppressive governance trends are bonded together fueling undemocratic state actions. Committee to Protect Journalists indicates that “the number of journalists jailed around the world set yet another record in 2022 as authoritarian leaders doubled down on their efforts to silence dissenting voices and stifle press freedom”.[5]

We are, therefore, at a crossroads to better defend press freedom and rebuild independent journalism to combat the rise of tyranny and uphold human rights for all. Polarized political discourses majorly fueled by government authorities over heavily controlled media outlets further manipulate and marginalize different ends of society resulting in widespread hate speeches. The 2023 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders indicates that 69 countries are in problematic situations, while 38 are in difficulty and 20 are in extreme situations. Silencing critical voices of diverse media outlets jeopardizes pluralism in society. This year`s index particularly reflects on the challenges brought into light by the “digital ecosystem`s fake content industry”.[6] Despite this fact, there is also a virtual reality that social media platforms provide democratized platforms for dissident journalists and human rights defenders, whose space has been shrunk by respective illiberal governments. 

Rapidly evolving information environments, digital platforms and technological advancements create contemporary challenges to ensure the safety of journalists, foster systemic attacks on dissident media outlets and increase online harassment on social media platforms.[7] Women journalists continue to be on the frontline facing various forms of gender-based violence. Even though digital harassment and online aggressiveness pose serious threats to journalists` physical and mental well-being, these venues serve as a new way to raise global awareness of the recent humanitarian crisis and mobilized civil society members calling on state actors and intergovernmental organizations to uphold international human rights law.

Panel Session 2 – Press Freedom as an Instrument to Defend Human Rights for All will discuss:

  • A decade of decline for the global press freedom
  • Digital transformation and technological advancements creating new media outlets: Freedom on the Internet and social media
  • Rising threats for journalists: politicized judiciaries and online harassment
  • Disinformation campaigns and state`s use of media as a venue of propaganda
  • Gender-based violence and violations against women journalists


The intermediate distance between democracies and autocracies is increasing as 2023 remarked the 19th consecutive year of decline in democratic governance worldwide.[8] There is a formidable increase in the number of transitional/hybrid regimes particularly in Central Europe and Asia in the last decade. With the rise of various state-led crimes and conflicts, many formerly democratic nations are trapped in the cycle of autocracy prioritizing political interests over human rights norms, oppression of citizens` right to peaceful protests, increasing forms of violence, consolidating power at the expense of ruling out checks and balances systems.

Populist leaders continue to abuse the will of the voters, polarize societies, induce hatred within communities and limit political pluralism. In 2022 – 2023, there were many critical elections that the global citizens, journalists, and intergovernmental observatories closely monitored. Many polls took place in electoral autocracies where multiparty candidates existed but only in the sphere of limited freedom of expression and insufficient components of free and fair election processes. In many of the elections that took place under the shadow of oppressive regimes, civic activism still strived to protect their fundamental civil and political rights despite the high cost of imprisonment or forced displacement.

Under these circumstances, responsibility on the shoulders of democratic states and intergovernmental organizations increases as decisive actions must be taken through multilateral diplomacy to support democratic governance and uphold human rights for all. Supporting civil society which operates under high risks of reprisals in hybrid regimes and global advocacy for the release of political prisoners and human rights defenders are vital actions.

The Widening gap between democracies and autocracies is not only an impediment to local governance but the oppressive regimes pose a global threat to the rule of law and human rights as transnational repression are reportedly on the rise. Direct attacks on dissidents living in exile, co-opting other countries to act against international human rights law, mobility impediments, online intimidation and surveillance remains among the primary methods of repression.[9] The security of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and civil society members who sought protection in another state remains in a dilemma as the extra-judicial acts of autocratic leaders continue their coordinated mobilities in host countries.

Panel Session 3 – Widening Gap between Erosion of Democracy and Rise of Autocracy will discuss:

  • Elections under electoral autocracies: Recent analysis from country cases
  • Civil society resilience and solidarity against the authoritarianism
  • Keeping a spotlight on human rights defenders in distress and advocating for the release of political prisoners
  • The proliferation of transnational crimes for global peace and security
  • Rising trends of populism




20 September 2023, Wednesday (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST)

18 September 2023, Monday
(6:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST)
JWF High-Level Reception 2023 In-person, New York
19 September 2023, Tuesday
(10:00 AM – 12:30 PM EST)
20 September 2023, Wednesday
(10:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST)

10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
10:30 AM – 12: 00 PM
12:15 PM – 01:45 PM
02:00 PM – 03: 30 PM
03:30 PM – 04:00 PM
In the Margins of the UNGA78 In-person & Online, New York

Opening Session
Panel Session 1: Building a New Momentum Towards the 2030 Deadline for the SDGs
Panel Session 2: Press Freedom as an Instrument to Defend Human Rights for All
Panel Session 3: Widening Gap between Erosion of Democracy and Rise of Autocracy
Closing Session
27 September 2023, Wednesday
(11:00 AM – 12:30 PM EST)
PIONEERS IN SDGs Awards Ceremony Online, via Zoom

[1] Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet, Report of the Secretary-General (Special Edition),

[2] Ibid (1).

[3] 2022 Global Peace Index – Key Results, Institute for Economic and Peace,,deteriorated%20by%200.3%25%20in%202021.

[4] Ibid (1).

[5] Attacks on the Press, Committee to Protect Journalists,
[6] 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders,

[7] World Press Freedom Day 2023, Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights, UNESCO,

[8] Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2023,

[9] Transnational Repression as a Growing Threat to the Rule of Law and Human Rights, Council of Europe,