19 November 2019
DESA Issues Handbook for Countries Preparing 2020 VNRs
Photo Credit: Kiara Worth/IISD
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DESA released the 2020 edition of its VNR handbook with practical information on steps that countries may take when preparing VNRs.

During the HLPF presentations, first-time presenters will have 30 minutes, and second-time presenters will have 20 minutes each.

The handbook also provides information on the three VNR global preparatory workshops that will take place before the 2020 HLPF.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released the 2020 edition of the handbook for the preparation of voluntary national reviews (VNRs). The handbook targets countries that have volunteered to present their VNRs of progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda during the 2020 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). It provides practical information on steps that countries may take when preparing VNRs.

VNRs are a component of the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. They are carried out voluntarily by national governments, and are intended to track progress in implementing the Agenda and its SDGs at the country level. VNRs are presented during the annual HLPF sessions convened under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Since 2016, 158 VNRs have been presented by 142 countries at the Forum. For the 2020 session, 50 countries have volunteered to present their VNR, including 23 countries that have already conducted a VNR in the past (Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Honduras, India, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Samoa, Slovenia, Uganda and Zimbabwe).

The 2020 VNR handbook was released in November 2019 as an updated version of the 2019 and 2018 editions. It includes sections on: ways to communicate the intention to conduct a VNR; SDG ownership; incorporation of the SDGs into national frameworks; the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development; leaving no one behind; institutional mechanisms; structural issues; means of implementation; and next steps. It also provides, in annex, a checklist for VNR preparations, and the UN Secretary-General’s proposal for voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs that were revised in 2017 to reflect lessons learned from the practice.

On presentation guidelines for the 2020 HLPF, the handbook notes that the 26 countries conducting their first VNR will each be allocated 30 minutes (15 minutes for the government’s presentation and 15 minutes for questions and answers) during the three-day ministerial segment of the HLPF, from 14-16 July. The remaining 24 countries, which are second-time reporters, each will have 20 minutes (ten minutes for the presentation and ten minutes for questions and answers). Their reviews will take place in a panel format on 13 July.

The handbook notes that DESA is organizing three global workshops for working-level officials closely engaged in the VNR national preparatory process, as follows:

  • on 19-20 November 2019 in Oslo, Norway, to cover key components of the preparatory process;
  • in the spring of 2020 to feature more in-depth exchanges on the preparation and presentation process, and how to draft sections of the VNR report and make VNR presentations at the HLPF; and
  • on 12 July 2020 in New York, US, to cover final preparatory matters and engage countries in a discussion of anticipated follow-up to the VNRs.

The handbook also indicates that the five UN Regional Commissions will organize workshops on the margins of their respective regional fora for sustainable development to discuss specificities of each region and exchange experiences and lessons learned among the VNR countries. More details on these regional preparations are available here. 

On deadlines for this year’s VNR countries, the handbook notes that the main messages of the VNR, which are intended to indicate the principal findings of the reviews, are due to DESA by 21 April 2020, and the full VNR report should be submitted in electronic format by 12 June 2020 (one month before the HLPF).

The 2020 HLPF is scheduled to take place from 7-16 July 2020, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on the theme ‘Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.’ [Publication: Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews: the 2020 Edition] [HLPF 2020 Website]

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