ODI Examines ‘Leave No One Behind’ Reflections in VNRs
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The ODI briefing note ‘What do Analyses of Voluntary National Reviews for Sustainable Development Goals Tell us about Leave No One Behind?’ examines VNRs based on 22 publications of various organizations and experts that analyzed VNRs in 2016 and 2017, and on the UN Secretary-General’s VNR voluntary common reporting guidelines at the HLPF.

The note suggests to: conduct a holistic analysis of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 VNRs to identify how 'leave no one behind' has evolved particularly for high, middle and low income countries; delve deeper into the different ways countries are setting up SDG operations to examine how the LNOB commitment is being institutionalized; and analyze ways countries have allocated financial resources for SDG implementation to help gauge government effort towards LNOB.

29 June 2018: Analysts from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report that they are encouraged by countries’ engagement with the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process so far, even though the presentations made at the 2016 and 2017 sessions of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), for the most part, only “met minimum requirements for action on the goals.” The ODI briefing note also finds that the dearth and diversity of reporting on “leave no one behind” (LNOB) mean that trends, approaches and lessons of success and failure have been difficult to identify.

The briefing note titled, ‘What Do Analyses of Voluntary National Reviews for Sustainable Development Goals Tell Us About Leave No One Behind?,’ written by Moizza Binat Sarwar and Susan Nicolai, examines the VNRs based on 22 publications of various organizations and experts that analyzed the VNRs in 2016 and 2017, as well as the UN Secretary-General’s voluntary common reporting guidelines for countries to use in presenting their experiences at the HLPF. The authors note that the 2017 update to the Secretary-General’s guidelines strengthened the call for reporting on LNOB. The guidelines also stress the importance of highlighting SDG implementation challenges, in order for the HLPF to help “troubleshoot” common implementation problems.

VNR reports tend to overflow with data, without any real effort to interpret them in reference to SDG Goals, targets and indicators.

Among commonalities in the publications examined, Sarwar and Nicolai note that while the VNRs show governments’ commitment to the SDGs generally, there is little evidence of political leadership at the national level, “which is crucial for coordinating work across the goals.” However, they say, in a number of VNRs, the political importance of the SDGs is evident considering that responsibility for steering the SDGs is assigned to executive-level offices. The authors also outline a “varied understanding of institutionalization,” adding that most VNRs have only “loosely” followed the UN Secretary-General’s guidelines, and there is a lack of standardization in content. They explain that some countries referred to setting up specific agencies and committees to deal with the SDGs, others discussed institutionalization in terms of alignment with existing national priorities, and some outlined processes for monitoring and evaluating implementation. On progress, the brief stresses that VNR reports often overflow with data, without any real effort to interpret them in reference to SDG Goals, targets and indicators.

The note outlines two angles through which LNOB has been approached in VNRs, namely: the inclusion of this principle in stakeholder consultations during the review process; and the analysis of VNR content for policies that are planned and implemented to reach the most vulnerable populations. The briefing notes states that while most VNRs report on government attempts to consult with non-state actors on mainstreaming the SDGs, the majority gives little detail on the nature of their consultations and how inclusive they have been. It says only a few countries have provided details related to the phases of the VNR process where engagement occurred, the specific stakeholders involved and the mechanisms used, and notes that the VNRs contain limited information on policy and programmatic efforts to implement the LNOB principle. It also reports that an ODI stocktake of progress on the LNOB principle in Kenya’s and Nepal’s health sectors and Ghana’s health and education sectors shows how countries can report on a joined-up approach to data, policy, finance and service delivery in “areas integral to meeting SDGs for the poorest.”

The note suggests to: conduct a holistic analysis of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 VNRs to identify how LNOB has evolved particularly for high, middle and low-income countries; delve deeper into the different ways countries are setting up SDG operations to examine how the LNOB commitment is being institutionalized; and to analyze ways countries have allocated financial resources for SDG implementation to help gauge government effort towards LNOB.

In 2018, 47 countries will present their VNRs at the HLPF, during the ministerial segment from 16-18 July. Including VNRs presented during the 2016 and 2017 HLPFs, more than 100 countries will have presented their reviews by the end of the Forum in 2018. [Publication: What Do Analyses of Voluntary National Reviews for Sustainable Development Goals Tell Us About Leave No One Behind?’] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage on HLPF 2018]


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