16 July 2019
VNR Lab Discusses National Follow-up, Challenges and Way Forward
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
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During the sixth VNR Lab of the 2019 HLPF, participants outlined follow-up experiences, challenges encountered during VNR preparations, and shared ideas for the way forward.

The Lab titled 'Follow-up to the VNRs: Accelerating Implementation' was organized by Partners for Review and the UN Division for Sustainable Development Goals in DESA.

12 July 2019: Delegates discussed how national governments have followed up on their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) during the sixth VNR Lab of the 2019 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Presenters and attendees outlined follow-up experiences, challenges encountered during VNR preparations, and ideas for the way forward.

VNRs are presented each year during the sessions of the HLPF under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned on SDG implementation. Complementing these official presentations and exchanges, VNR Labs were introduced in 2018 on the sidelines of the HLPF to provide an informal platform for exchange between countries that have conducted VNRs, those that have not, the UN system and other stakeholders.

The Lab on ‘Follow-up to the VNRs: Accelerating Implementation’ was organized by Partners for Review (P4R) and the UN Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and took place on 12 July 2019 under Chatham House Rules. A total of 17 VNR Labs are convening throughout the 2019 HLPF.

Participants heard about Germany’s experience on follow-up to its 2016 VNR. It was noted that soon after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda by the international community, Germany decided to revise its National Sustainable Development Strategy, including by conducting consultations and a peer review process. The peer review, carried out by an international team mandated by the government, resulted in recommendations for consideration into the updated strategy, which was adopted by the Government in November 2018. It was also noted that Germany plans to present a second VNR in 2021, and will incorporate conclusions from the National Sustainable Development Strategy’s revision to be completed in 2020, so the VNR will reflect language “already agreed” at the national level.

Participants then heard about the experience of Oaxaca, Mexico in developing its Voluntary Subnational (or State) Review (VSR), which it did in 2019. It was noted that Oaxaca’s challenges in preparing the VSR included that:

  • the review is mostly based on qualitative considerations, since indicators are still being developed;
  • poverty has different meanings based on different local contexts; and
  • outreach on the 2030 Agenda has not been easy, partly due to the geographical characteristics of the State.

It was mentioned that work is being undertaken with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to create guidelines to help municipalities prepare development plans that are aligned with the SDGs. A participant also noted that the Mexican government has been proactive in reaching out to and involving the subnational level in SDG follow-up and review.

Among other elements of discussion, participants exchanged views on the importance of building trust with politicians and other actors to ensure ownership of the VNR process, and discussed the need to develop SDG implementation and review mechanisms that consider “what the SDGs mean” in each country. Based on Indonesia’s experience, it was noted that meetings between the media and government entities involved in the VNR preparation process are key for promoting access to information.

One person suggested that national reviews of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation should be carried out more systematically and frequently at the national level, and these can be used for the VNRs presented to the HLPF. Another participant remarked that, considering that VNRs have been conducted since 2016, future reviews should build on that experience, go “way beyond” the description of institutional arrangements, and reflect mostly on initiatives taken to implement the Goals and their impact. [VNR Lab Concept Note] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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