30 May 2019
In VNR Main Messages, WEOG Countries Outline Achievements, Gaps
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The six countries from the Western European and Other States Group that have volunteered to present their VNRs at the July 2019 HLPF are: Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Turkey and the UK.

All six WEOG governments have released the main messages of their review of progress on SDG implementation.

The VNR presentations will take place from 15-18 July 2019.

May 2019: In preparation for the exchange of voluntary national reviews (VNR) at the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), six countries from the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG) have released the “main messages” of their reports. The six WEOG countries expected to present VNRs in 2019 are: Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Turkey and the UK. From other regions, 41 additional countries are expected to report as well.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for the presentation of VNRs each year to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, in order to accelerate SDG implementation around the world. They are presented during the HLPF session that takes place each July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The “main messages” of the VNRs are submitted ahead of time, providing a brief overview of more comprehensive documents that are prepared by each national government.

Iceland’s main messages report that the SDGs have been integrated into the country’s “governmental policy,” with a particular emphasis on building a peaceful and just society free from fear and violence. The document notes: the existence of an inter-ministerial working group to lead the government’s SDG implementation efforts; a mapping of the 169 SDG targets and selection of 65 priority targets; the collection of data for 70 of the SDG indicators, adding that more work is needed to strengthen SDG statistics; and the creation of a Youth Council for the SDGs as a platform to give young people the possibility to “express their voice.” The messages identify climate change and responsible consumption and production as major challenges, while noting that Iceland is expected to reach carbon neutrality by 2040.

In its main messages, Israel states that a government decision is being prepared to “continue” SDG integration in the government’s strategic planning. The document adds that the Israeli non-governmental sector took part in and “actively contributed” to roundtable discussions on the SDGs and the 2019 VNR over the course of 18 months. The government notes that additional efforts are required to close gaps in areas such as employment, income disparity, literacy and gender equality, as well mathematical and information and communication technology (ICT) skills.

Liechtenstein underlines the importance of multilateralism and its support for projects in developing countries that relate to almost all the SDGs, with a particular focus on education, advancing the rule of law, and migration. At the national level, Liechtenstein’s main messages report “strong progress” in implementing SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). However, the government highlights the need to better address gender equality (SDG 5), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) given the country’s high dependence on fossil fuels; responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (SDG 13); sustainable transport (SDGs 9 and 11); and protecting biodiversity (SDG 15). The document also notes the need to better align the national indicator system with the SDGs.

New Zealand’s main messages say the government does not measure progress in purely economic terms, but has developed the Living Standards Framework (LSF) for measuring and analyzing the “dynamics of wellbeing,” and risk and resilience across a broad range of economic, social and environmental domains. The framework, they say, is accompanied by the Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand (IANZ), which include wellbeing and sustainable development, and which will be used to monitor the SDGs. In the document, New Zealand further reports that it has increased its Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 30% in response to the 2030 Agenda and the needs of developing countries.

Turkey reports that the Strategy and Budget Office under the Presidency is in charge of coordinating the VNR preparations, and it consulted approximately 3,000 stakeholders including NGOs, companies and municipalities. It notes that most SDG targets have been incorporated into the country’s policies, with significant progress achieved on SDGs 1, 3, 6, 7, 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities). The government further notes that hosts the largest refugee population in the world, and refugees can access public services equally as Turkish citizens, especially for their education, health care and humanitarian needs. Among other challenges, Turkey outlines the need to enhance financial and technical capacities. Turkey is presenting its VNR for the second time, following its first VNR in 2016.

The UK’s main messages indicate that the government has reporting data on 72% of the global SDG indicators, but data gaps remain. The document notes progress on: increasing employment, including for women and those with disabilities; improving standards in schools; and climate change. On the latter, the UK says it is decarbonizing “more than any advanced economy.” Among areas for improvement, the document identifies mental health, supporting a growing and aging population, and ensuring that the housing market “works for everybody.”

According to the draft programme of the HLPF, VNRs are scheduled to be presented from 15-18 July. The 47 countries’ main messages are available via the UN’s VNR database for the 2019 HLPF. [HLPF 2019 Webpage]

This story is one in a series on the main messages of countries that have volunteered to present their VNRs at the July 2019 HLPF.

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