25 October 2018
DESA Issues Handbook to Guide Preparation of 2019 VNRs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 2019 edition of DESA's 'Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews' provides “elementary building blocks” for preparing a VNR, and elaborates on the UN Secretary-General’s voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs at the the HLPF.

The handbook notes three global workshops and four regional workshops in advance of the 2019 VNR presentations.

DESA requests that countries submit their VNR main messages by 17 May 2019, and their final VNR reports by 14 June 2019.

October 2018: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has released a handbook to guide countries’ preparation of voluntary reviews of SDG implementation for the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The 2019 edition of the ‘Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews’ (VNRs) provides “basic, practical information” on steps that countries may take when preparing a review. Currently, 51 countries are planning to present a VNR in July 2019.

According to the report, 111 VNRs by 102 countries have been conducted so far, with 22 presented in 2016, 43 during the 2017 session and 46 VNRs in 2018. Of these, eight countries have conducted more than one VNR. As described in the DESA handbook, VNRs are not an end, but a means to exchange experiences, identify challenges and accelerate implementation, and are also intended to track SDG progress in countries.

The 41 countries presenting their first-ever VNRs will do so during the ministerial segment, while the remaining VNRs will take place in a panel on 15 July.

The handbook provides “elementary building blocks” for preparing a VNR, and the 2019 edition takes into account “over three years of shared experience in undertaking and supporting VNRs” at the HLPF. It elaborates on the UN Secretary-General’s voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs, which are contained in an annex to the handbook, and which the authors stress should be considered as the main guidance for the review.

The handbook comprises lists of questions to assist countries in preparing their review, as well as country examples, and a VNR preparation checklist. It includes sections on: how to initiate a review; organization and preparation of the review; multi-stakeholder participation; key building blocks for preparing the review; monitoring and review; preparatory workshops and submission of VNRs; presentation of the VNR at the HLPF; and “after the presentation.”

On the global preparatory process for the 2019 VNRs, the handbook outlines a series of global workshops:

  • The first global workshop will be based on peer learning, fostering exchange between countries conducting their VNRs in 2019 and those that have carried out VNRs previously;
  • A second global workshop will facilitate the sharing of experiences among the 2019 VNR countries, and discuss the preparation and presentation of VNRs; and
  • A third global workshop, scheduled for the day before VNR presentations begin in July 2019, will cover final preparatory matters and VNR follow-up.

At the regional level, the publication notes that regional VNR workshops for Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa will take place on the margins of the regional fora for sustainable development convened by the respective regional commissions. Dates are still to be determined.

On deadlines, the handbook requests that countries submit their VNR main messages by 17 May 2019, and their final VNR reports by 14 June 2019 (a month before the HLPF).

On dates for VNR presentations, the handbook reiterates that in 2019, the HLPF will meet twice – in July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and in September under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), at the level of Heads of State and Government. It explains that VNRs will be presented in July during the ECOSOC-convened session. In an updated format for the VNR presentations, the 41 countries conducting their first VNR will present them during the three-day ministerial segment of the HLPF, which is scheduled to convene from 16-18 July. The first-time presenters will be: Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Eritrea, Eswatini, Fiji, Ghana, Guyana, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UK, Tanzania and Vanuatu.

The handbook indicates that the ten countries who are “presenting subsequent VNRs” will do so on 15 July in a panel format. Those countries are: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Turkey. According to the handbook, each country will have 15 minutes for its presentation, with a similar amount of time for questions from other countries and stakeholders.

The 2019 session of the HLPF under ECOSOC will address the theme, ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’ According to ECOSOC draft resolution E/2019/L.1, the meeting will take place from 9 to 18 July 2019, with 16-18 July comprising the three-day ministerial meeting, which is held jointly with the ECOSOC high-level segment.

The HLPF under the auspices of the UNGA is scheduled to convene from 24-25 September 2019 (per UNGA decision A/72/L.66). [Publication: Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews: the 2019 Edition] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on 51 countries presenting VNRs in 2019] [VNRs webpage]

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