UN, Governments Prepare for National Reviews
Photo by IISD/ENB | Pamela Chasek
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The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Division for Sustainable Development is organizing an Expert Group Meeting on enhancing Major Groups and other Stakeholders’ engagement in national-level reviews of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The President of ECOSOC held a retreat to facilitate preparations for the 2017 HLPF and to foster synergies with related review processes.

As of February 2017, 43 countries have volunteered to report on their national efforts to implement the SDGs during the 2017 HLPF, including Azerbaijan, Benin and Nigeria.

9 February 2017: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Division for Sustainable Development is supporting participants to attend an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on enhancing Major Groups and other Stakeholders’ engagement in national-level reviews of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The EGM is expected to convene in Bogota, Colombia, in late March 2017.

The focus of the EGM will be on strengthening civil society participation in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), a feature of the UN High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) that focuses on national efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In selecting participants, according to DSD, preference will be given to participants from the 22 countries who participated in the VNRs in 2016, or one of the countries who will present one in 2017. The 2017 session of the HLPF will take place from 10-19 July, in New York, US.

As of February 2017, 43 countries have volunteered to report on national efforts to implement the SDGs during the 2017 HLPF. In addition to the 40 countries that had signed up by January 2017, Azerbaijan, Benin and Nigeria also will present reports. As indicated by DSD at an Expert Group Meeting on the VNRs in December 2016, the tentative deadline for the submission of main messages from the VNRs is 19 May, and for the submission of reports, the tentative deadline is 16 June 2017.

On 20-21 January 2017, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held a retreat, organized by DESA, with 87 participants from the ECOSOC Bureau 2017, UN Member States (including VNR participants from both 2016 and 2017), the Office of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) President, civil society, NGOs, the private sector, and UN entities. The retreat aimed to facilitate preparations for the 2017 HLPF and to foster synergies with related review processes, such as the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development Follow-up (FFD Forum), and the Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI Forum).

The first session addressed ways to ensure the “coherent participation of all relevant stakeholders and policy sectors of the 2030 Agenda.” According to a summary of the retreat prepared by one participant, key messages from this session included that: leadership and national ownership are key to implementation, and the 2030 Agenda requires extensive communication and innovation from all sectors of society; in prioritizing amid capacity limitations, a focus on the most vulnerable is needed; data is extremely essential, and robust operational frameworks are needed, along with monitoring and evaluation on a regular basis to refine the approach based upon lessons learned; and ECOSOC needs to respond to differentiated country contexts, understanding that implementation remains at the country level. The UN system’s support should be provided in a seamless manner, said participants.

The ECOSOC Bureau is considering adding an extra day to the 2017 HLPF to make room for 43 VNRs.

In the second session, participants discussed the thematic SDG reviews and the VNRs. Participants emphasized that the large number of countries volunteering for this year’s VNRs will have to fit into a short time, and already last year there were concerns about adequate time for only 22 countries’ presentations. The ECOSOC Bureau is considering adding an extra day to the 2017 HLPF, and an ECOSOC official said the retreat’s discussion had provided encouragement to “make room” for the larger number of VNRs. Participants also noted that: VNRs at the regional and national levels need to be strengthened and fed into the HLPF; and the greatest benefit to Member States who participated in the VNR in 2016 came from their national-level preparations, which accounted for 80% of the benefits of the process.

The remainder of the retreat addressed the FfD Forum and other aspects of means of implementation. Participants considered how to balance the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on FfD (AAAA) with the SDGs’ means of implementation (MOI), while also allowing for a three-pronged thematic discussion as proposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) report. This three-pronged discussion is envisioned to cover: global context, overview of each chapter of the AAAA, and analyses of thematic issues. Participants said national and regional experiences need to be reflected in the FfD Forum on implementing the AAAA. Some called for avoiding duplication between the VNRs and FfD country presentations, and other comments cautioned against “marrying” the HLPF and the FfD Forum. Participants highlighted that 2017 has marked the start of “a different world,” saying that protectionist tendencies will affect how economies work, with impacts at all levels of the multilateral system.

Regional preparations for the 2017 HLPF will take place in March, April and May, as the UN Regional Commissions convene Regional Fora for Sustainable Development (RFSDs). These aim to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including its follow-up and review process, and provide regional inputs to the HLPF, and support implementation, peer learning and review of the 2030 Agenda.

The Office of UNGA President Peter Thomson informed participants that he will offer a preliminary report on SDG implementation on the margins of the 2017 HLPF. [HLPF 2017 Website] [2017 VNR Guidelines] [Regional Preparations for HLPF] [December EGM on VNRs] [IISD Sources] [Retreat Report]


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