UN Committee: 2017 VNRs Paid Limited Attention to Cross-Cutting Issues
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The UN Committee for Development Policy reviews the extent to which 2017 VNRs address cross-cutting issues, such as leaving no one behind, tradeoffs among the SDGs and means of implementation.

It finds that few VNRs provide specific examples of how their country addresses these issues through policies and strategies.

To increase peer learning, the paper recommends that countries describe such experiences in greater detail in future VNRs.

July 2018: The UN Committee for Development Policy (CDP) released a paper on how countries’ Voluntary National Reviews in 2017 addressed three cross-cutting issues of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: leaving no one behind (LNOB); addressing trade-offs through policy integration; and pursuing global partnership as a means of implementation (MOI), as called for in SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

The authors recommend increased attention to these issues in future VNRs, and call for more explicit discussions of strategies for implementation in these areas.

Following VNR presentations by 43 countries in 2017, 46 countries presented reviews in 2018. The 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened from 9-18 July in New York, US.

The CDP background paper titled, ‘Voluntary National Review Reports – What Do They Report?’ is the first in an expected annual series. The paper finds that 39 out of 43 VNRs mention the term “leaving no one behind,” but only 16 countries identify explicit strategies to implement this principle, which suggests that countries may not yet understand how to translate the ambition into concrete policies and strategies. Further, the paper finds that most strategies focus on social protection, few countries mention the need to improve participation of vulnerable groups in decision-making processes, and none of the VNRs reference a commitment to reach the furthest behind first. Among the groups that receive special focus, women receive the most attention (41 out of 43 countries), followed by persons with disabilities (40 countries) and children and youth (31 countries).

The paper highlights Thailand’s description of how it incorporates the concept of LNOB in its strategies for building productive capacity. It reports that Indonesia addressed LNOB in the context of technology, and Uruguay reported on economic and social policies with a redistributive component.

The paper identifies as “orphan targets:” policy space; investment promotion regimes for LDCs; and environmentally sound technologies.

On addressing trade-offs through policy integration, the paper finds that VNRs dedicate “little attention” to addressing trade-offs. Countries use a variety of terms to describe trade-offs, including “negative impacts” or “negative consequences,” “complex interactions,” “winners and losers,” and “at the expense of,” among other phrases. Among the 23 out of the 43 VNRs that refer to trade-offs, eight use concrete examples to describe specific trade-offs, and 13 describe concrete solutions through which trade-offs are being resolved. Further, six countries discuss their use of the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) Tool, which supports countries to mainstream the SDGs into national and sub-national planning, including by helping to determine interlinkages across targets. The paper highlights Botswana and Denmark providing concrete discussion of several trade-offs. The authors recommend that countries increase their reporting on trade-offs, including more explicit discussion on mechanisms and solutions for addressing them, to facilitate peer learning.

The paper finds “limited coverage” of SDG 17 in the VNR reports. It states that general references are more common in the VNRs while specific references to actions or strategies towards targets are less frequent. The paper identifies several “orphan targets” that are only mentioned by three countries: policy space; investment promotion regimes for least developed countries (LDCs); and environmentally sound technologies. Countries with the most detailed or highest references to SDG 17 targets are Belgium, Nigeria and Sweden, while Chile and Indonesia describe development cooperation activities. [Publication: Voluntary National Review Reports – What Do They Report?] [Publication Webpage]

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