The discussion took place during a virtual launch of the 'Progressing National SDGs Implementation' report, on 31 March 2021.
Speakers stressed the need for civil society to be included in decision making processes with clear entry points for engagement, access to funding, opportunities to build capacity, and a digital enabling environment.
The report on VNRs is accompanied by four policy briefs, which represent the report’s findings on leaving no one behind, gender equality, COVID-19, and civic space.
Representatives from civil society organizations and UN Member States discussed the Voluntary National Reviews prepared in 2020, and identified lessons and priorities for further developing the role that VNRs play in driving national implementation of the SDGs.
The discussion took place during a virtual launch of the fifth annual ‘Progressing National SDGs Implementation’ report, on 31 March 2021. The report provides an independent analysis of VNR reporting each year. The preparation of the report was supported by a coalition of civil society organizations from around the world and prepared by Cooperation Canada. This year’s report showcases positive trends with respect to reporting on partnerships, while underlining the continued silence by Member States in VNRs on closing of the civic space.
Sarah Strack, Director of Forus, offered opening remarks highlighting the importance of working in coalitions. She noted the need for civil society to be included in decision making processes with clear entry points for engagement, access to funding, opportunities to build capacity, and a digital enabling environment. Philipp Schönrock, CEPEI Director, emphasized the importance of transparency to hold governments and civil society to account.
Ana de Oliveira, Cooperation Canada, reviewed the report’s findings, noting that 47 countries reported to the 2020 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). She highlighted that 79% of the VNRs indicated that a council or committee guides national implementation, while 43% of the 2020 VNR countries have placed the leadership of 2030 Agenda implementation at the level of the head of state or government. She said that, compared to other years, the VNRs in 2020 had fewer references to processes for formal stakeholder engagement, and fewer reported on consultations on national priorities. In addition, the VNRs lacked references to accountability mechanisms at the national level, as has been the case in other years.
Among the government representatives who commented on SDG implementation efforts, Christian Schläpfer, Permanent Mission of Switzerland, emphasized the need for governments to take responsibility for reporting but also to take into account as many perspectives as possible through honest and critical debate. He highlighted four points for future reporting: sufficient and effective space must be given for interaction among all stakeholders; delegations should have a diversified composition, to bring in a variety of perspectives; peer learning processes are valuable for countries presenting VNRs; and Voluntary Local Reviews should be encouraged, to take into account the sub-national level and opportunities for engagement and participation there.
The report on VNRs is accompanied by four policy briefs, which represent the report’s findings on issues of particular interest to CSOs. The recommendations included in the policy brief on ‘Leave No One Behind’ highlight the need to build capacity of national statistical offices to improve data systems and the need to work with civil society and other stakeholders to improve data availability. The brief also calls on groups to support the Inclusive Data Charter. With specific regard to VNR reporting, the brief suggests reporting on rates at which progress is being achieved for the most marginalized. It also suggests that VNRs should review outcomes of efforts to leave no one behind.
The policy brief on ‘Civic Space’ recommends that each annual HLPF session include a focus on SDG 16, with discussions covering responsive governance and ways to bolster institutions at all levels to strengthen multilateralism. The brief also suggests developing and adopting an expanded range of SDG 16-related civil space indicators.
A policy brief on COVID-19 recommends identifying new vulnerable groups arising from the context set by COVID-19, or unknown vulnerabilities in the traditionally vulnerable groups.
A policy brief on gender equality includes the following two recommendations: provide information on the collection, analysis, and dissemination of gender disaggregated data by national and subnational institutions; and develop gender-responsive budgeting systems to integrate the SDGs into national budgets and ensure gender-equitable distribution of resources. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Publication: Progressing National SDGs Implementation, 2020 edition] [SDG Knowledge Hub summaries of previous editions of the report: 2019 VNRs; 2018 VNRs; 2017 VNRs; 2016 VNRs]