20 September 2019: The Centro de Pensamiento Estratégico Internacional (CEPEI) issued two reports aiming to improve SDG implementation, follow-up and review. One report focuses on second and third voluntary national review (VNR) reports submitted by countries for discussion at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The other report includes a comparative analysis of VNRs presented by Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries to the HLPF.

Both reports, authored by Javier Surasky, cover the period 2016 to 2019.

The report, titled ‘Second Generation Voluntary National Reviews: Renewing the Commitment,’ analyzes the second and third VNR reports submitted by countries, and indicates that half of the 52 VNR reports to be submitted in 2020 are part of the second and third generation of a country’s VNR.

Per the author, the 15 VNR reports assessed in the study do not all include references to and often repeat the approaches used in the first VNR. He suggests that a second generation of VNRs should present the continuity and evolution of progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level, while using the first VNR as a reference. As an example of continuity, he notes that Switzerland presented a “transitional phase” of preparation for SDG implementation in its first VNR report. It then analyzed that stage and presented a new work strategy in its second report.

According to Surasky, a second generation of VNRs should also:

  • retrieve “future steps” committed in the previous VNR and comment on what progress has been made;
  • provide traceability on progresses, stagnations or setbacks and reflect on their causes;
  • express how the inputs generated at the regional and local levels were incorporated in the report as a result of the presentation of the first report;
  • allow non-state actors to assume the drafting of short chapters in which they express their own opinion on the evolution of the implementation of the SDGs at the national level in the period between reports;
  • identify whether the processes carried out to achieve the SDGs produce changes in the most vulnerable groups or if as part of the implementation, there are new groups that are at risk of being left behind;
  • be clear on the process of and on progress related to integrating “silos” in favor of an integrated approach to sustainable development; and
  • be clear and specific in the identification of future steps and programs to be implemented, challenges to be faced, and external support needed, considering that these are the basic lines that allow building continuities between successive reports.

Surasky notes that VNR presentations should be made only when the reporting country considers that the changes in the results or the information available on progress are sufficient. Thus, second and third reports that do not provide new relevant information should be avoided, he says.

The report ‘What are the countries of the LAC region talking about in their reviews on the implementation of the SDGs?,’ is a comparative analysis of the VNRs presented by LAC countries at the HLPF from 2016 to 2019. It follows a similar analysis to the one undertaken on 22 LAC VNR reports submitted by countries from 2016 to 2018.

Per the analysis, 21 out of 33 LAC countries submitted at least one VNR between 2016 and 2019. This includes seven of the eight from the Central America sub-region, 10 of the 12 South American countries, and four of the 13 Caribbean countries.

Among other observations, the report finds that:

  • there is a clear deficit in the region regarding the integration of global agendas, and policy coherence should receive greater attention;
  • parliaments are the least included actor in the 2030 Agenda’s national implementation and monitoring, and in the VNR processes;
  • of 33 countries, only 14 countries have mentioned financing sources to implement the SDGs at the national level;
  • SDG related statistics is a general challenge;
  • a balanced reference to the three dimensions of sustainable development is still weak; and
  • in the case of countries that submitted more than one VNR report, continuity between the different reports cannot always be identified, which hinders a “cyclical consideration” and analysis of the information.

The report further notes the need to provide support to the Caribbean region so that it does not lag behind the regional average in terms of reporting national progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

From 2016 to 2019, 142 of the 193 UN Members States submitted at least one VNR to the HLPF. [Publication: ‘Second Generation Voluntary National Reviews: Renewing the Commitment’] [Publication: ‘What are the countries of the LAC region talking about in their reviews on the implementation of the SDGs?’]