HLPF Participants Discuss SDG Integration at First 2019 VNR Lab
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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The first VNR Lab of 2019 considered ‘Achieving Policy Integration’ and was organized by the Economic Analysis and Policy Division of DESA in collaboration with OHRLLS.

17 VNR Labs are taking place on the sidelines of the HLPF, from 9 to 18 July.

9 July 2019: During the first Voluntary National Review (VNR) Lab of the 2019 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), participants discussed approaches and challenges for achieving policy integration towards the SDGs.

VNRs are presented each year during the official sessions of the HLPF to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned on SDG implementation. Complementing these official presentations and exchanges, VNR Labs were introduced in 2018 on the sidelines of the HLPF to provide an informal platform for exchanges between countries that have conducted VNRs, those that have not, the UN system and other stakeholders.

In 2019, the Labs include 17 sessions convening throughout the whole duration of the HLPF, from 9 to 18 July. An annotated agenda of the Labs is available here.

The first of the 2019 Labs focused on ‘Achieving Policy Integration.’ SDG integration is a key characteristic of the 2030 Agenda, and can take different forms, as reflected here. The Lab was organized by the Economic Analysis and Policy Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).

While coordination is necessary for progress on the SDGs, it is not enough.

During the Lab, participants said national development strategies can provide a framework to integrate policies and interventions across sectors and between levels of government. Some countries reported that they have aligned their national budget and their medium-term expenditure framework with the SDGs, and others said they regularly share SDG-related information through radio programmes to raise awareness.

On challenges, participants noted that: many institutions are still working in silos instead of cross-sectorally; data collection, disaggregation and coordination is an issue, as well as aligning national indicators with the SDG global indicator framework; SDG financing cannot only rely on the national budget and needs additional financing; and there is a lack of awareness of SDG targets, which calls for better communication approaches, especially at the local level.

Many participants noted that integrated approaches are critical for accelerating progress towards the SDGs, as are coordination and coherence among fiscal, monetary, trade and development policy objectives. An expert said that while coordination is a necessary condition to make progress on the SDGs, it is not enough. He outlined the need to change mindsets by explaining the incentives behind the integration process, such as the benefits associated to policy integration, how these benefits are shared, and who pays for the integration process. He also stressed the importance of governance structures for accountability, and of accountability mechanisms, such as budgetary and monitoring frameworks.

A participant remarked that while the international community is already in its fourth year of SDG implementation, progress remains slow, especially for the least developed countries (LDCs). Others stressed that leaving no one behind is a key principle of the 2030 Agenda, but developing countries are indeed being left behind.

One person reported that 11 LDCs, nine landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and eight small island developing States (SIDS) are presenting their VNRs at the 2019 HLPF, which, she said, reflect the “special importance” that these countries attach to the HLPF and the VNRs. [VNR Lab Agenda] [HLPF 2019 Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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