DESA Issues VNR Handbook, Revised Voluntary Guidelines
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The UN Division for Sustainable Development issued a draft unedited version of a handbook for preparing VNRs.

The handbook discusses: initiating, organizing and preparing a review; multi-stakeholder participation; key building blocks for preparing a review; preparatory workshops and VNR submission; presenting VNRs at the HLPF; and "after the presentation".

The handbook also includes a revised version of the UN Secretary-General's voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs.

January 2018: The UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has issued a draft unedited version of a handbook on preparing Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The handbook provides “basic, practical information” on the steps that countries may take when preparing a VNR, and is intended to be used in conjunction with the UN Secretary-General’s proposal of voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs, which were updated in December 2017, and are included in the handbook.

VNRs are part of the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and are presented annually by UN Member States during the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). They are intended to track progress in implementing the SDGs and their targets in all countries in an open, inclusive, participatory and transparent manner.

The ‘Handbook for Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews’ includes sections on: how to initiate a review; organization and preparation of the review; multi-stakeholder participation; key building blocks for preparing the review; preparatory workshops and submission of VNRs; presentation of the VNR at the HLPF; and “after the presentation.” It also features country examples, and a VNR preparation checklist outlining actions related to: initial preparation and organization; stakeholder engagement; VNR preparation; and HLPF presentation.

The handbook states that the process of carrying out the VNRs should allow a country to plan more appropriate policies, structures and processes, in order to effectively achieve the goals.

The handbook states that the process of carrying out the VNRs should not be seen as separate from the implementation of the SDGs, but should allow a country to plan more appropriate policies, structures and processes, in order to effectively achieve the goals. On organization and preparation of the review, the handbook notes that for most VNR countries, preparation time is very short, and therefore it is advisable to begin the process as early as possible. The handbook recommends drawing up a work plan or roadmap that covers the main deliverables and deadlines for the national preparatory process. Components of the roadmap could include: the coordination structure for the review; costs of the review and possible sources of funding; scope of the VNR; a list of bodies and agencies that will be providing data and information; key stakeholders to engage and methods of engagement; ways to access to high quality, up-to-date, and disaggregated data; and allocating time for technical editing as well as a high-level review of the VNR and its main messages.

On timeline, the handbook notes that VNR countries should submit their main messages (conclusive summary of the VNR) by 18 May 2018. The final reviews should be submitted to DESA by 18 June 2018.

The handbook states that the preparatory process for the VNRs includes global workshops based on countries’ previous experiences in participating in the VNR process. The workshops are organized by DESA, and are designed to facilitate peer learning and interaction. The handbook indicates that a first global workshop seeks to cover key components of the preparatory process, and involves current and former VNR countries. A second global workshop facilitates the sharing of experiences among VNR countries, including lessons learned and challenges encountered. A third global workshop covers final preparatory matters, and engages countries in a discussion of anticipated follow-up to their VNRs. In preparation for the 2018 VNRs, the first workshop took place in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 2017. The second workshop is planned for early March 2018, in Dakar, Senegal, and the third and final one is scheduled for 15 July 2018, in New York, US, according to the handbook.

The handbook “goes beyond” the UN Secretary-General’s proposed guidelines, the authors note. Those voluntary common reporting guidelines, which are included in an annex to the handbook, provide a framework for the VNR reports, while allowing for flexibility. They were first issued in January 2016, as part of the UN Secretary-General’s report on ‘Critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level’ (A/70/684), and were updated in December 2017 based on lessons learned from the VNR experiences in 2016 and 2017. The guidelines comprise sections on: follow-up and review guiding principles; structure and content of the VNR report; and making presentations at the HLPF.

The authors of the handbook also highlight other sources may further assist countries in their preparations, such as the synthesis reports of the 2016 and 2017 VNRs prepared by DESA, and the Guidelines to Support Country Reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (2017) prepared by the UN Development Group (UNDG).

In 2018, 48 countries will present their VNRs during the three-day ministerial segment of the HLPF (16-18 July). [Handbook for Preparation of VNRs: Draft Unedited Version] [UNDG Guidelines to Support Country Reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals] 
[Synthesis of VNRs 2016] [Synthesis of VNRs 2017]


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