Countries Prepare for Voluntary SDG Reviews
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Countries held a two-day expert group meeting in preparation for their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the 2017 session of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Among other preparatory meetings and initiatives underway, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in collaboration with DESA has developed an online course for government officials on mainstreaming and review of the SDGs.

Four regions will have HLPF preparatory meetings in March, April and May 2017.

January 2017: Countries held a two-day expert group meeting in preparation for their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the 2017 session of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). A number of other UN meetings and initiatives are underway to support countries in preparing for the VNRs, which will be the second round of such reviews.

The HLPF oversees a network of follow-up and review processes at the global level, working with the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other relevant organs and fora. In 2016, the HLPF began holding presentations of VNRs to enable countries to report on progress, actions, challenges, gaps and lessons learned related to national implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the 2017 VNRs, countries are expected to begin to share progress and accomplishments, as well as gaps and lessons learned in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

A Q&A document provided by the UN Secretariat on the 2017 VNRs notes that, since countries are in the second year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, “they are expected to report on the actions and measures taken” to advance implementation, and “where available, to provide information on progress made.” The document elaborates that “there may still be focus on baselines, strategies, and policies that are being put in place to facilitate implementation, but it is also expected that countries will begin to share progress and accomplishments, as well as gaps and lessons learned, related to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

The expert group meeting (EGM) took place on 15-16 December 2016, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, to discuss: the VNR preparatory process; the importance of institutions to ensure coherence in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the format and content of VNR reports; presentation at the HLPF; ownership, awareness-raising and stakeholder participation; national priorities and areas of progress; and next steps.

As noted in the report of the meeting, Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic and Vice President of ECOSOC, said the large number of countries that are participating to the 2017 VNRs shows that there is a strong commitment towards the 2030 Agenda at the national level. During the meeting, some countries that volunteered to the 2016 VNRs (including Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Switzerland and Venezuela) shared their experiences and lessons learned.

Forty countries have volunteered to take part in the 2017 round of VNRs: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Nepal, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

The EGM report identifies early areas of progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including integrating the 2030 Agenda into national development plans, identifying resources, data collection and indicators, awareness raising, institutional arrangements and coordination frameworks. It also outlines elements that should be considered for future VNRs, including: enhancing dialogues during VNR presentations; emphasizing the global relevance of the 2030 Agenda; addressing strategic issues and avoiding details that make the reviews too process-oriented; and putting a stronger focus on data collection and monitoring, taking into account the need to provide support to address capacity and resource constraints of countries.

Other preparatory meetings are planned for the near future and coming months, including an EGM of the ECOSOC President on ‘Advancing implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through effective policy integration,’ which will convene from 20-21 January 2017. According to the concept note for the meeting, it will seek to facilitate preparations for the 2017 HLPF and foster synergies with the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up (FfD Forum) and the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the SDGs. The EGM is also expected to consider policy integration, partnerships and ensuring coherence in follow-up and review. The meeting is organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in collaboration with DESA has developed an online course for government officials on mainstreaming and review of the SDGs. The course, which is aimed particularly at countries who will participate in VNRs in 2017, seeks to provide tools and guidelines to structure governments’ approaches to stakeholder engagement. The first session of the course took place from 5-21 December 2016, and the learning material is expected to be made available later in 2017, according to the UNITAR website.

At the regional level, the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) will hold their annual fora on sustainable development in March, April and May 2017, in preparation for the HLPF.

The 2017 session of the HLPF will be convened under the auspices of ECOSOC, and take place from 10-19 July 2017, in New York, US. It will include a five-day expert-level meeting (10-14 July) followed by a three-day ministerial-level meeting (17-19 July). [Report of December EGM] [HLPF Website] [UNITAR-DESA Online Course] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Q&A for VNRs] [IISD Sources]


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