Time to Move from Reporting to Review: Partners Consider National SDG Follow-up
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P4R is a network for government representatives and stakeholders who are involved in processes to review and monitor action by countries around the world to achieve the SDGs.

An organizer noted that the sub-national level is “where the 2030 Agenda is being implemented”.

Speakers said a “key signal” from the SDG Summit should address the need to review and strengthen the HLPF itself.

May 2019: Participants at the sixth meeting of the Partners for Review (P4R) network surfaced key observations about SDG follow-up and review. P4R is a network for government representatives and stakeholders who are involved in processes to review and monitor action by countries around the world to achieve the SDGs.

P4R is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, after being initiated in 2016 by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The sixth semi-annual meeting of the network took place in Oaxaca, Mexico, from 22-23 May 2019. Co-hosted with the government of the State of Oaxaca, the meeting marked the first time the network has been hosted by a sub-national government. The meeting placed a special focus on sub-national action to implement, monitor and review the SDGs, and report on them through voluntary reviews.

An organizer noted that the sub-national level is “where the 2030 Agenda is being implemented.” The government of Oaxaca announced plans to release a voluntary state review (VSR), in partnership with GIZ, and said it is working to align its development plan with the 2030 Agenda.

Opening statements also highlighted that heads of state and government will gather in September 2019 for the first such meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) since the 2030 Agenda was adopted. Speakers said a “key signal” from this SDG Summit should address the need to review and strengthen the HLPF itself.

Among other opening remarks, the voluntary national review mechanism (VNRs) was described as “an unexpected success” with “nearly universal compliance.” A speaker noted that, while the VNRs were created to allow governments to share their experiences at the global level, they also generate opportunities at the national level. Furthermore, as more countries present their second or third VNRs, the process grows in value. In an analogy that participants returned to during the meeting, a speaker highlighted that SDG implementation is “not about taking a photo, but making a movie” – the process and ongoing learning are important, and we should not only focus on the current point in implementation. Speakers said the countries who participate in the VNRs are amassing a “growing body of experience,” but there remains a need to connect the VNR process to “political reality.”

The two-day meeting included a panel discussion on sub-national SDG reporting and 13 workshops led by participants. The workshops covered topics such as: citizen-generated data; using VNRs to drive national change; the role of foundations in the VNRs; the role of the private sector in the VNRs; the role of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in follow-up and review; achieving policy coherence in a multi-level governance system; monitoring and reporting on SDG 16; and inclusive national consultation processes – both before and after the HLPF.

Participants expressed a general frustration with slow progress in implementing the SDGs, especially in light of challenges recently brought into focus in the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, weekly protests by young people advocating for climate action, and other triggers that have motivated an emphasis on transformation. One participant remarked that “the transformative character of the 2030 Agenda is not being realized.” In the context of another discussion, a participant articulated the direction in which society must move: towards one that is “high in equality and low in carbon.”

Participants also identified a need to move “from reporting to review,” which entails evidence-based reflection, accounting for diverse stakeholders’ viewpoints, and linking to national policy change. Numerous discussions of policy coherence underscored the importance of a whole-of-government approach, and pointed to a twin need for both high-level political support, and a basis in scientific evidence to support managing trade-offs. It was noted that although it is challenging to localize the SDGs in a centralized political system, such as Afghanistan, many successes and tools exist for making indicators complementary across different levels of government, and for building the capacity of public servants to work together.

Discussions frequently emphasized the importance of including various sectors of the public in VNR preparations, as well as in reporting back to them in “digested” form from the HLPF presentation. The engagement of all parts of society was also stressed in messages about the need for transformation. As one participant said, “everyone must change – business, government, and the whole society.” Two parts of society that were noted as needed much more engagement are foundations and the private sector.

On data, participants underscored the need for governments to draw on outside sources of data, and that SDG 16 is a particularly challenging Goal on which to collect appropriate, adequate data. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [P4R website]


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