A note by the ESCAP Secretariat explains the potential of second-time VNRs to provide deeper analysis of the root causes of challenges that governments have experienced, and help advance a country’s capacity to enact and measure progress towards the 2030 Agenda.
The paper also presents examples of good practice in Asia-Pacific government’s second VNRs conducted to date.
The Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development is one of five regional sustainable development forums convening in March 2021 as regions prepare for the July 2021 session of the HLPF.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has issued a paper on “second-generation” Voluntary National Reviews of SDG implementation. It explains the potential of second-time VNRs to provide deeper analysis of the root causes of challenges that governments have experienced, and to help advance a country’s capacity to enact and measure progress towards the 2030 Agenda.
The ESCAP Note will be discussed during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) taking place in March 2021 in the lead-up to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
Issued on 12 January 2021, the paper explains that second VNRs should not be stand-alone reports but directly follow up on the respective government’s first review. In doing so, second VNRs have several potential areas of added value to the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda, both at the national and global levels.
Areas of added value are as follows:
- Building on the baseline established with a country’s first VNR, a second VNR can provide a more comprehensive assessment of SDG achievements, assessing efforts to address findings from the first VNR and the impact of the first report;
- Second VNRs can consider the factors that have driven change since the first VNR, analyze why advances may have been slow, try to attribute improvements that are the result of policy responses, and ultimately explain why and how successes came about;
- Second VNRs should report on the impact the previous VNRs had on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. For example, there may have been little data available on the SDGs and the country may not have yet produced integrated indicators. The second time around, the report suggests, the availability and quality of data should have improved, and national statistical systems may have been strengthened. Countries could now provide a more granular analysis of progress on the Goals.
- The process of developing a second VNR report can spark a re-evaluation of institutional mechanisms or arrangements for SDG monitoring and alignment with national policy processes. Following its first VNR, a country may have a better understanding of the political, technical, and coordination functions of the VNR process, enabling the government to use the second VNR to realign institutional mechanisms with the SDGs.
- Second-generation VNRs should amplify dialogue and debate about the SDGs in the country and encourage more comprehensive stakeholder engagement and outreach with marginalized groups. Thus, the second VNR process can lead the government to assess the inclusivity and effectiveness of the stakeholder engagement process used during the first VNR.
The paper also presents examples of good practice in Asia-Pacific government’s second VNRs, and points to other practical resources for countries preparing a second VNR. The ESCAP note follows on a guidance tool released in November 2020 to help governments develop second-generation VNRs and ensure that second VNRs take stock of the first review in terms of process, content, and impact.
The note is an input to the APFSD’s session on ‘Linking national, regional, and global dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’
The APFSD is one of five regional sustainable development forums convening in March 2021 as regions prepare for the July 2021 session of the HLPF. [Reflections on second generation voluntary national reviews in Asia and the Pacific Note by the secretariat (ESCAP/RFSD/2021/3)]