The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released a report synthesizing the 42 voluntary national reviews presented during the 2021 HLPF.
All countries reported on SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).
Most countries reported on SDG 5 (gender equality), with gender-based violence frequently mentioned as on the rise everywhere as a result of the pandemic.
The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released a report synthesizing the 42 voluntary national reviews presented during the 2021 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The 2021 synthesis report includes a new section on response measures to COVID-19.
The 2021 HLPF convened in a hybrid format from 6-15 July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Leading up to the session, 42 governments had conducted VNRs, and they presented on these processes during the Forum. The DESA report notes that these governments recognized the second year of the pandemic as “a crucial time to conduct a VNR, in order to align their efforts towards a resilient recovery.”
The report presents trends and actions on each of the 17 SDGs as highlighted in the 2021 VNRs. First, all countries reported on SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). Reports recognized the need to modernize health approaches through innovation and digitalization to combat the pandemic and address underlying issues in health outcomes. On SDG 8 reports stressed the challenges facing informal workers, youth, and tourism as a driver of national economies in some countries. The authors note that most countries reported on SDG 5 (gender equality), with gender-based violence frequently mentioned as on the rise everywhere as a result of the pandemic.
Other themes recurred in many reports, such as:
- SDG 1: Many governments said poverty must be seen as a multidimensional phenomenon, not limited to income and expenditure;
- SDG 4: Several reports noted that humanitarian crises and COVID-19 have put great pressure on education worldwide, and the transition to online learning has exacerbated inequalities;
- SDG 6: Many reports highlighted the importance of providing access to safe water, in particular for hand washing to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Many highlighted challenges from the impact of climate change and inequalities in access to safe drinking water, sanitation services, and hygiene between urban and rural populations.
- SDG 7: Reviews stressed the importance of access to energy for all, energy efficiency, and development of renewable energy sources, with solar energy being the most frequently mentioned.
- SDG 11: Reports described urban renewal actions and efforts made to develop more sustainable cities and communities, and mentioned sustainable transport solutions to make transportation infrastructure more climate friendly, also noting the development of disaster risk strategies to adapt to the changing environment.
- SDG 13: Most governments emphasized reducing emissions as their focus for climate action, along with preparedness for disasters.
- SDG 14: In addition to protecting fisheries resources, many countries focused on marine conservation and expressed commitment to reducing plastic waste and marine litter and addressing the problem of micro-plastics.
Other observations on the 2021 set of VNR reports include:
- In many countries the national development plan or strategy is the main instrument for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, demonstrating a coordinated and integrated approach to sustainable development;
- The VNR reports reflect an increased focus on implementation at the sub-national level, and subnational reviews – Voluntary Local Reviews or Voluntary Subnational Reviews (VSRs) – have become increasingly popular;
- On adapting institutions to implement the 2030 Agenda, some countries explicitly identified localization of the SDGs as critical to their successful implementation, and noted the importance of an effective relationship and vertical integration between national and local governments;
- Some countries reported challenges in making institutional arrangements effective due to the setbacks and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and emphasis on involvement of parliaments and local governments was seen to be slightly more variable than last year;
- The 2021 reports show broad recognition of the 2030 Agenda principle of leaving no one behind;
- Nearly all countries incorporated data into their reviews, and half of all VNRs in 2021 included a Statistical Annex. Data gaps, collection, and disaggregation remain the predominant challenges. To strengthen national statistical capacity, measures include use of new technology and non-traditional data sources; and
- Numerous reports featured the engagement of stakeholders and recognize their important role, and many reported on establishing and consolidating stakeholder consultation mechanisms for the SDGs.