UN Secretariat Issues Guidance on 2017 HLPF Voluntary National Reviews
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Forty countries have volunteered to be part of national voluntary reviews (VNRs) at the 2017 session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

To assist countries in preparing their VNRs, the UN Secretariat has posted a document titled, ‘Q&A for Voluntary National Reviews at the 2017 HLPF,’ which states that VNRs should not be a stand-alone exercise, but should be part of a cycle of review and national implementation.

The document addresses, inter alia, VNRs scope, guidelines, themes and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be considered, statistics and indicators, format of the VNR presentations at the HLPF, support provided by the UN, and involvement of Major Groups, other stakeholders and partnerships.

December 2016: Forty countries have volunteered to take part in voluntary national reviews (VNRs) at the 2017 session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). To support countries in their preparations, the UN Secretariat has issued a list of questions and answers (Q&A) on VNRs that addresses, inter alia, scope, guidelines, themes and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be considered, statistics and indicators, format of the VNR presentations at the HLPF, support provided by the UN, and involvement of Major Groups, other stakeholders and partnerships.

The VNRs are part of the follow-up and review mechanism of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They seek to provide an opportunity for countries at the HLPF to report on progress and actions, and on challenges, gaps and lessons learned related to the implementation of 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.

According to the HLPF Website, the 40 countries that have volunteered for the 2017 VNRs are: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Nepal, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

The document titled, ‘Q&A for Voluntary National Reviews at the 2017 HLPF,’ states that VNRs should not be a stand-alone exercise, but should be part of a cycle of review and national implementation.

To assist countries in preparing their VNRs, the UN Secretariat has posted a document titled, ‘Q&A for Voluntary National Reviews at the 2017 HLPF,’ which states that VNRs should not be a stand-alone exercise, but should be part of a cycle of review and national implementation. In this regard, it encourages countries to continue engaging in the peer-learning exercises within relevant VNR networks after the HLPF, and to apply lessons learned to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at their national and local levels.

The HLPF 2017 will consider the theme ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.’ It will include in-depth reviews of seven SDGs, namely: SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), SDG 5 (Gender equality), SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 14 (Life below water), and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals). The Q&A document indicates that countries do not necessarily need to address the theme and the group of SDGs that will be considered at the 2017 session, but can do so if they find it relevant to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in their national context.

On format, the document states that VNR countries are expected to: present a focused written report at the HLPF; submit their report and/or their report’s executive summary to the UN Secretariat prior to the Forum; and make a brief presentation during the Forum.

On guidelines, the document suggests to refer to the proposal for voluntary common reporting guidelines included in annex of the UN Secretary-General’s Report titled, ‘Critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level’ (A/70/684). These guidelines outline a set of indicative components and a broad structure to help countries frame their VNRs. According to the Q&A document, these guidelines will be updated “in due course, based on feedback from countries” although they remain applicable for the 2017 HLPF, it says.

The document also notes that it is up to individual countries to see how they want to include statistics and indicators in their VNRs. For instance, countries may want to use figures showing trends, or include an annex with data using national indicators and/or the global SDG indicator framework proposed by the UN Statistical Commission.

On UN support, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and other UN entities will, upon request, work with countries to identify their needs and provide capacity building, the document states, and “a space” will be created for exchange of experience and lessons learned before the HLPF, at regional and global levels.

On Major Groups’ and other stakeholders’ participation, UN Member States are encouraged to involve stakeholders in their VNRs, but the specific modalities for engagement are likely to vary from country to country and are to be decided by national governments.

On outcome, a synthesis report highlighting good practices and lessons learnt from VNR countries will be prepared by the UN Secretariat after the HLPF. In addition, a factual summary of discussions at the HLPF, prepared by the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in consultation with the ECOSOC Bureau, may also reflect key points from the VNR presentations, the document indicates.

The HLPF’s central role is to oversee a network of follow-up and review processes at the global level, working coherently with the UN General Assembly (UNGA), ECOSOC and other relevant organs and forums. Its 2017 session will be convened under the auspices of ECOSOC from 10-19 July 2017. It will include a five-day expert segment (10-14 July) and a three-day ministerial segment from 17-19 July 2017. [HLPF 2017 Website and List of Countries Volunteering for the VNRs] [Q&A for VNRs at the 2017 HLPF]


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