During the Partners for Review virtual networking event, speakers observed an increasing profile for local-level reviews of SDG implementation.
They said VLRs are a tool for: evidence-based policy formulation, reaching the furthest behind first, attracting investment, and building a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach.
The Partners for Review (P4R) convened a four-day “virtual networking” event for network members. P4R comprises government, civil society, academia, the private sector, and other stakeholder groups who take part in monitoring and reporting on action around the world to achieve the SDGs.
The third virtual networking days were convened from 18-21 May 2021 by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
Some VNRs presented in 2021 are expected to feature Voluntary Subnational Reviews.
During six online sessions over four days, participants heard presentations from network members and exchanged views on their experiences implementing and reporting on the SDGs in their countries. Among the trends discussed, speakers said that voluntary national reviews (VNRs) have become more analytical and substantive over time, and “more genuine” in identifying their challenges and their lessons learned. The VNR reports have also progressively used more and better data to track and demonstrate SDG progress. With increasing public attention to data, “evidence-based policymaking is possible and real,” said one participant.
Speakers also observed an increasing profile for local-level reviews of SDG implementation. One identified several platforms that have arisen, both official and unofficial, to elevate and support voluntary local reviews (VLRs). The 2021 HLPF will include an official session on VLRs, titled ‘Going Local,’ on 8 July. In a related trend, multiple countries presenting VNRs in 2021 will feature “voluntary subnational reviews” in their reports, sharing regional experiences with the SDGs.
Participants also reported findings from research and experiences, such as:
- High-income countries perform better than developing ones on the SDG Index, but they perform more poorly on the International Spillover Index;
- CSOs and parliaments can provide governments with policy continuity and institutional memory; and
- National human rights institutions (NHRIs) and CSOs should be considered key stakeholders in SDG data partnerships.
The discussions yielded several recommendations for governments as they conduct VNRs. First, the process should be used to plan action, not to hold “a review in a vacuum.” Ideally it will form a foundation for joint action, to which both government and stakeholders will contribute. Second, a national census can help fill SDG data gaps, especially if questions are adjusted to capture more information for the SDG indicators. Third, on the VLRs, these represent a tool for: evidence-based policy formulation, reaching the furthest behind first, attracting investment, and building a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach. Finally, on a transformative recovery from COVID-19, participants said the VNRs can be used to investigate specifically how the pandemic has set back vulnerable and marginalized groups, and that children and young people should be included in consultation platforms.
The next P4R network meeting is expected to convene in October 2021. [Partners for Review website] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]