16 March 2021
Afghanistan, Niger, Saudi Arabia Join 2021 VNR Countries
Photo by Children and Young People Living for Peace, Nigeria
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The latest list of governments conducting Voluntary National Reviews in 2021 has 44 countries.

Djibouti, Pakistan, and Slovakia are no longer listed, while three new countries appear on the list: Afghanistan, Niger, and Saudi Arabia.

A series of global workshops is underway to support the officials conducting the VNRs, which will be presented during the July 2021 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The latest list of governments conducting Voluntary National Reviews in 2021 has 44 countries. A series of global workshops is underway to support the officials working to prepare the VNR reports, which will be presented during the July 2021 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Since the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) announced the 2021 VNR countries, three are no longer listed: Djibouti (first VNR), Pakistan (second VNR), and Slovakia (second VNR). Djibouti is now listed to conduct a VNR in 2022 instead. 

Three countries are newly included on the list for 2021: Afghanistan (second VNR), Niger (third VNR), and Saudi Arabia (second VNR).

The current list is thus as follows, organized by region:

  • Africa: Angola, Cabo Verde, Chad, Egypt, Madagascar, Namibia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zimbabwe
  • Asia and the Pacific: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand
  • Eastern Europe: Azerbaijan, Czech Republic
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay
  • Western Europe and Other States: Denmark, Germany, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Sweden

The deadline for countries to submit the main messages of their VNR reports is 3 May 2021. The full report is due by 11 June.

To support countries with the VNR process, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is holding a series of preparatory workshops. The first took place in October 2020, and provided for peer learning and exchange with countries that had previously carried out VNRs. DESA head Liu Zhenmin told participants that in recent years: VNR reports have had a stronger focus on sub-national implementation; most VNR countries include a dedicated section on the principle of leaving no one behind; more countries provide data on their progress; and more countries involve stakeholders in preparing the report and presenting it during the HLPF.

Liu also encouraged countries to use the Secretary-General’s guidelines for preparing VNRs. The guidelines are updated each year. The latest edition of the VNR guidelines recommends that countries:

  • review all of the SDGs, not only those under review during the HLPF session that year;
  • include a section on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on SDG implementation, measures undertaken to ensure a sustainable, green recovery, and impacts on VNR preparations;
  • show progress made since their previous VNR, and avoid repeating information presented in a previous VNR;
  • address how they overcome challenges in SDG implementation and share lessons learned and good practices adopted;

Liu said applying the makes reports more comparable. He added that when conducting second or third VNRs, it is important to address issues raised in the previous report.

The second global VNR workshop takes place from 13-14 April 2021. It is intended to cover the preparation process, drafting sections of the VNR report, and presenting it during the HLPF.

The third and final workshop for the 2021 VNR countries takes place immediately before the HLPF in July 2021, addressing final preparatory matters as well as follow-up actions to be taken after the VNR presentation.

At the regional level, the annual forums for sustainable development also include a session on VNR preparation for governments in the respective region. At the African regional forum held from 1-4 March 2021:

  • Namibia said it is preparing its second VNR and the report will build on lessons learned from the first review. Outcomes from the 2021 report will then be incorporated into policy frameworks and Namibia’s next national development plan.
  • A stakeholder representative said civil society will prepare its own versions of African countries’ VNR reports to ensure accountability. 
  • A roundtable on the local-level counterpart to VNRs – voluntary local reviews (VLRs) – highlighted SDG implementation reports from Victoria Falls and Harare.
  • The ARFSD 7 outcome document calls on VNR countries to draw on lessons from past completed VNRs when engaging in their second, third, and fourth VNRs, and urges the UN System to strengthen the capacity of Member States to integrate VLRs in their VNRs.

The 2021 HLPF is scheduled to convene from 6-15 July 2021. [HLPF preparation timeline] [List of VNR countries by year]

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