Asia-Pacific Workshop Elicits Lessons for Preparing VNRs, Implementing SDGs
UN Photo/Mark Garten
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UNITAR convened a ‘Learning Conference’ to promote action towards achieving the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region.

DESA, ESCAP and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences partnered with UNITAR to support the two-day event.

UNITAR will be organizing similar conferences in other regions, with the next one planned for the Caribbean region.

24 January 2019: The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) held a conference to promote action towards achieving the SDGs in the Asia-Pacific region. UNITAR highlighted the high degree of representation of small island developing States (SIDS) in discussions on approaches to sustainable development in the region.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) partnered with UNITAR to support the learning conference, which convened in Shanghai, China, from 23-24 January 2019. Almost 100 participants attended the conference, including government officials, academics and staff of national statistical bodies.

Katinka Weinberger, ESCAP, drew attention to the Asia-Pacific Regional Road Map for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, which was adopted in 2017 at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD). She noted that this is the only such road map to have been developed at the regional level through an intergovernmental process.

Lao PDR’s VNR experience showed the importance of starting preparations early, identifying “penholders” to prepare the draft, and engaging stakeholders.

Participants discussed challenges of involving local governments, parliaments and other bodies, and of working across various ministries and institutions. They highlighted the value of raising public awareness through educational institutions, the media and political parties, and emphasized the need to change “values and mindsets,” in addition to norms and standards. They also called for better data collection and monitoring of actions towards the SDGs, and discussed approaches to monitoring and evaluation, including the use of technology in data collection.

Participants shared country experiences of preparing and presenting Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Viengdalat Somphet, Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s (PDR) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presented the process undertaken towards preparing Lao PDR’s VNR at the July 2018 session. She highlighted lessons learned through the process, including the importance of starting preparations early, identifying coordinators and “penholders” to prepare the draft, engaging with a broad range of stakeholders, spelling out “next steps,” and including detailed examples and analysis, rather than only listing the relevant strategies and programmes.

Somphet highlighted that nearly 60% of Lao PDR’s national plan is linked to SDG indicators, and the country formally adopted its own national, additional SDG in 2016: “keep lives safe from unexploded ordnance (UXO).” She added that Lao PDR has established a national SDG secretariat, which incorporates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of International Organizations, its Department of International Cooperation, and the Lao Statistics Bureau. Other countries that shared their VNR experiences were Fiji, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

Weinberger briefed participants on existing follow-up and review arrangements in the region. She explained that countries’ respective VNRs feed into discussions at the APFSD, which in turn inform global-level discussions at the HLPF.

The July 2019 session of the HLPF will review SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reducing inequalities), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which is reviewed every year.

UNITAR will be organizing similar ‘Learning Conferences’ in other regions, with the next one planned for the Caribbean region. [UNITAR Press Release] [ESCAP Presentation] [Lao PDR Presentation]


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