P4R Network Releases Comparative Analysis of 2017 VNRs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The transnational multi-stakeholder network Partners for Review (P4R) has issued a non-paper titled, ‘Comparative Analysis of 43 VNRs Submitted to the HLPF 2017’.

It examines countries' institutional mechanisms, participation of non-state actors, and statistics and data for the SDGs.

The paper finds that VNR reports vary in many aspects, and it outlines challenges related to the SDG process.

April 2018: In a “non-paper” analyzing the 43 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted to the 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the transnational multi-stakeholder network Partners for Review (P4R) discusses institutional mechanisms for review processes, participation of non-state actors, and statistics and data for the SDGs. Per the paper, almost all the 43 VNRs outline the importance of communication and public awareness regarding the SDGs, and approximately 20 of them refer directly to communication strategies or campaigns targeting the general public.

Two independent consultants on behalf of the P4R secretariat produced the non-paper titled, ‘Comparative Analysis of 43 VNRs Submitted to the HLPF 2017.’ It assesses VNRs from the following countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.

The paper finds that VNR reports vary in many aspects, such as length, structure, and thematic coverage, and that references to national follow-up and review “come in many different shapes and sizes.” For instance, it notes that some VNRs use the term “follow-up” to describe implementation, while others use it as a heading to explain their next steps, and some interpret “review” as “reporting,” although both terms are used interchangeably, with an emphasis on monitoring progress. The paper outlines challenges related to the SDG process, including on: monitoring, evaluation and statistical capacity; general data availability and difficulty of compiling and using disaggregated data; alignment of national strategies and plans, and of institutions; and financing and resource mobilization.

The authors find that the main institutional mechanisms steering the overall SDG process are assigning the responsibility to a specific ministry, or to a cross-sectoral (and sometimes multi-stakeholder) committee or council. Per the report, 23 countries have assigned the lead for SDG implementation to a specific ministry or to the offices of the Presidency or the Prime Minister, and a smaller number of countries are building on pre-existing sustainable-development related councils, commissions or committees to coordinate SDG planning and review. The authors also note that 16 countries have “recently” established lead councils, commissions or committees to steer and coordinate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and that the 2017 VNRs indicate “an increasing recognition” of sub-national level actors and institutions as key to successful SDG implementation, compared to 2016.

According to the paper, all 43 VNRs describe efforts to ensure participation of non-state actors (civil society, private sector and academia) in the SDG process, with some devoting entire chapters or annexes to individual stakeholder groups, describing their roles, the mechanisms of their involvement and/or their contributions to the implementation of specific SDGs. The two main approaches used for non-state actor involvement are representation in institutionalized committees, and participation in special consultations, the paper notes, but both are not mutually exclusive. It adds that while some countries engage in special projects or partnerships with the private sector, countries have established private-sector or academic advisory committees in very few cases.

On statistics and data, the 2017 VNRs show considerable variation, according to the P4R paper, with countries providing different levels and structures of disaggregated data, from “mere numerical presentation” to charts, graphs and verbal explanations, and with statistical annexes ranging from one to more than 100 pages. The paper also outlines few references to the use of non-official data, with 14 countries mentioning big or other “alternative” data. Six VNRs mention data contributed by civil-society and other stakeholders.

P4R is a transnational multi-stakeholder network composed of government representatives and stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and academia. Initiated “on behalf” of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, P4R facilitates dialogue and peer learning on SDG challenges, provides space to explore best practices and lessons learned, and shares expertise on new and emerging issues related to national monitoring and review processes.

The non-paper was prepared in advance of a P4R meeting that took place from 11-12 April 2018, in Tbilisi, Georgia. It adds to a series of reports consolidating and analyzing VNRs, such as the report ‘Progressing National SDG Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the VNR Reports Submitted to the HLPF in 2017’ published by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), in collaboration with other civil society organizations. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has also issued synthesis reports of the 2016 and 2017 VNRs, as well as a compendium that synthesizes institutional arrangements adopted by the 64 countries that presented their VNRs during the 2016 and 2017 sessions of the HLPF. [Publication: Comparative analysis of 43 VNRs submitted to the HLPF 2017: Non-Paper for Discussion] [Partners for Review Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Policy Brief on Progressing National SDG Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the VNR Reports Submitted to the HLPF in 2017] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on DESA Compendium] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on DESA Synthesis of 2017 VNRs] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on DESA Synthesis of 2016 VNRs]

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