12 July 2017
CSO Publications Review VNR Main Messages, SDG Implementation
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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Publications released in preparation for the 2017 session of the HLPF review the main messages from Voluntary National Reviews that will be presented at the 2017 HLPF, highlight the role of subnational actors in the VNR process and SDG implementation, underscore the linkages between progress on SDG 1 (no poverty) and other Sustainable Development Goals, and present country report cards on SDG progress.

10 July 2017: In preparation for the 2017 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Together 2030 and World Vision released a review of main messages from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) that will be presented at the 2017 HLPF. Other publications include: a report on subnational SDG implementation by the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD); a position paper by the Poverty Eradication Cluster of the NGO Major Group; and the 2017 edition of the SDG Index and Dashboards Report.

In their report, titled ‘Voluntary National Reviews: What are countries prioritizing?’, Together 2030 and World Vision find that developed and developing countries from all regions describe high levels of commitment among political leadership and significant progress in setting up institutional arrangements and creating an enabling environment for implementation. They further highlight that some countries included diverse stakeholders in consultations, implementation, follow-up and review and referenced women and young people.

Afghanistan, Belize, Benin, El Salvador, Honduras, and Zimbabwe identify political will or a lack of effective policy coordination and coherence as a challenge in their SDG implementation.

The report observes several common challenges reported by countries, including on localization of targets and indicators and data collection, disaggregation, analysis and dissemination; and funding for implementation. Afghanistan, Belize, Benin, El Salvador, Honduras, and Zimbabwe identify political will or a lack of effective policy coordination and coherence as a challenge. Bangladesh, El Salvador and Honduras report challenges related to stakeholder participation and engagement.

The report highlights concerns related to: the pace of implementation, with countries appearing to use their first VNR report as a starting point for implementation; a lack of information on implementation in the majority of the main messages, including in efforts to leave no one behind; failure to cover all 17 SDGs in national reports; and gaps related to plans to share information at the national level and with stakeholders. The report observes that a number of countries describe plans for monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and strategies for follow-up and review but few countries articulate a “clear cycle of accountability” and stakeholder engagement in the process.

To improve the VNR process and SDG implementation, Together 2030 and World Vision recommend countries: increase their pace of implementation; report on all 17 SDGs, recognizing the interlinkages among the Goals; report more substantially on implementation, including on specific progress and challenges; and identify the most marginalized and disadvantaged and explain what countries are doing to target support. The report further recommends countries, inter alia: describe a clear cycle of accountability, including who is consulted; strengthen efforts to publicize processes for national reviews, including opportunities for participation; enhance inclusive and meaningful stakeholder participation; and establish and utilize common guidelines for the format and content of main messages.

Also on SDG implementation, nrg4SD, in partnership with ORU-Fogar, produced a report, titled ‘SDGs at the Subnational Level: Regional Governments in the VNRs,’ based on a consultation with eight of the 44 countries presenting VNRs at the 2017 HLPF. The report underscores the role of international and national associations of regional governments in disseminating and strengthening commitments to achieving the SDGs at the subnational level, noting that 75% of respondent regional governments have SDG initiatives and 58% have mechanisms for monitoring implementation. The report recommends, inter alia: further supporting regional governments to implement the SDGs and review progress; establishing committees and working groups to coordinate input and improve inclusiveness in the VNR process; and addressing data gaps.

nrg4SD’s report highlights Belgium and Kenya as countries with exemplary engagement and inclusivity of regional governments in both SDG implementation and the VNR process. Belgium’s three regional governments contributed directly to the Belgium VNR, underscoring how vertical integration can contribute to a more inclusive follow-up and review process. Kenya’s county governments are fully aligned with national efforts on the SDGs and are receiving training to build subnational capacities and ensure SDG mainstreaming in subnational development plans. To prepare its VNR, Kenya established an Inter-Agency Technical Committee to coordinate inputs from subnational stakeholders and the Council of Governors prepared a template for collecting and organizing county input in a report in collaboration with country directors of planning and economic affairs. nrg4SD will launch the report during an HLPF side event on 13 July.

On poverty eradication, the Poverty Eradication Cluster asserts that poverty should be defined not only by a lack of income but also as a set of deprivations in access to food and nutrition, education, health, housing, decent work, political voice, and human rights, among others. In a position paper, the Cluster recommends ending poverty through a human and environmental rights approach in line with SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The paper outlines linkages between ending poverty and ensuring food and nutrition for all, in line with SDG 2 (zero hunger); access to free, basic health facilities, in line with SDG 3 (good health and well-being); free and compulsory universal elementary education, in line with SDG 4 (quality education), access to water and sanitation, in line with SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); access to full and productive employment, in line with SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth); and safe and affordable housing, in line with SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities). The position paper also supports a green development model and resilience against climate change and disaster, among other topics. The Poverty Eradication Cluster is a sub-group of the NGO Major Group that formed in May 2017 in connection with the 2017 HLPF theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.’

The SDG Index and Dashboards Report, by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, among others, presents a report card of country performance on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, which aims to help countries identify priority areas for action to achieve all 17 SDGs. The Index finds that every country faces “major challenges” in achieving the SDGs, with the top five performing countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and the Czech Republic) scoring “red” on at least one SDG, particularly environmental SDGs. Additional findings include: poor countries face challenges on SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure) and environmental SDGs (SDGs 13, 14, 15); and rich countries face particular challenges on SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 10, SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).

The Index highlights “spillover effects” on the SDGs, stating that rich countries’ actions affect other countries’ ability to achieve the SDGs, such as environmental spillovers from the use of global commons like the oceans or unfair tax competition by tax havens. The Index calls for investments in strengthening data collection and statistical capacity in all countries, including to improve the measurement of international spillover effects.

On access to information, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), in partnership with the University of Washington’s Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA), launched its first annual report, titled ‘Development and Access to Information.’ The report aims to monitor progress on access to information indicators as well as country progress on providing and promoting access to information on the SDGs. The report features thematic chapters on SDG 2, SDG 3, SDG 5 (gender equality), and SDG 9, all of which are under review at the 2017 HLPF, and highlights the role of libraries in promoting more economically and socially inclusive societies.

The Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) launched an online resource to provide access to position papers on the SDGs under review at the 2017 HLPF. The site also features key messages, statements, a calendar of events and other resources. [Publication: VNRs: What Are Countries Prioritizing?] [Publication: SDGs at the Subnational Level] [Publication: Poverty Eradication Cluster Position Paper] [Poverty Eradication Cluster Case Studies] [Publication: SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017] [IFLA Report Website] [MGoS Website]

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