12 June 2018
Main Messages from 35 VNR Countries Outline SDG Actions and Plans
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Of the 47 countries scheduled to present their Voluntary National Reviews during the HLPF in July, 35 have issued main messages from their reviews.

These include countries from the five UN regional groups, as well as Palestine.

The VNRs will be presented during the HLPF's ministerial meeting from 16-18 July.

7 June 2018: A majority of countries scheduled to present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) have issued the main messages of their reviews. According to the 35 messages currently available online, most of these countries have put in place institutional arrangements to advance SDG implementation, and have outlined the importance of engaging multiple stakeholders.

VNR main messages provide a brief overview of more comprehensive document which is currently prepared by countries to report on SDG implementation efforts. On 7 June 2018, main messages were available for countries from all five UN regional groups, as follows: six from the African Group; eight from the Asia-Pacific Group; eight from the Eastern European Group (EEG); six from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC); and six from the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). VNR main messages were also available for Palestine, a UN observer State.

Countries have taken various approaches to highlight their main messages: some mainly focus on the SDGs under review at the 2018 HLPF, while others take a broader approach by referring to the 17 SDGs as a whole. Two highlight that they are considering an 18th SDG, specific to the national context. Countries generally outline efforts to implement the SDGs at the national level, while a few report on implementation efforts at the sub-national level and on integrating the SDGs as part of their international development frameworks.

African Group

Cabo Verde’s messages note that equitable, universal and sustainable access to energy, and water and sanitation are among the greatest challenges for the country, and mention the municipal Strategic Sustainable Development Plans as an example of local multi-stakeholder SDG platform. Egypt says that ensuring sustainable water resource management is a high priority for the Government, and its national strategic plan ‘Vision 2030’ is in line with SDGs. Guinea announces that its government will organize a national symposium on Sustainable Development and Fragility in June 2018, and plans to produce a VNR report annually.

Niger’s messages indicate that: the country’s VNR focuses on the six SDGs under review at the HLPF, namely: SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible Consumption and Production), 15 (life on land) and 17 (partnerships for the Goals). Niger also reports that: its National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth and its Economic and Social Development Plan 2017-2021 are consistent with the SDGs; and 43 SDG targets and 66 indicators are considered as a priority for the country.

Sudan says its VNR was supported by recommendations resulting from the National Dialogue Conference that took place in 2015-2016, its debt burden is unsustainable (SDG target 17.4), and the “continuing reluctance” to admit Sudan to the group of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) is “unjustifiable.” Togo notes that access to electricity increased from 22.5% in 2008 to 35.6% in 2016, and rural electrification went from 3% in 2008 to 6.3% in 2016. It identifies securing land, decentralization, the digitalization of the economy, national statistics, and the financing of its economy as major SDG challenges.

Asia-Pacific Group

Bhutan notes it is “well on track” to implement the SDGs, and plans to establish an “entrepreneurship ecosystem” to provide a platform to generate green jobs through the participation of corporate and private sectors. As one of the poorest countries in the Pacific,” Kiribati indicates that it has a special SDG Task force as part of its Development Coordination Committee, and is integrating its Mid-Term Review of its Development Plan 2016-2019 with its VNR.

Messages from Lao People’s Democratic Republic say its VNR report focuses on all 17 SDGs, and it has adopted an additional Goal 18 on “Lives Safe from Unexploded Ordnance (UXO),” considering that it is “the most heavily bombed country” in terms of bombs dropped per capita. The messages also note that: Lao PDR was among the “earliest countries to localize the SDGs;” it has a National Steering Committee for SDGs implementation chaired by the Prime Minister that includes members from all concerned ministries and agencies; and nearly 60% of its Eighth National Social-Economic Development Plan indicators are linked to SDG indicators.

According to Lebanon’s messages, its National Committee to oversee the roll-out of the SDGs is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes representatives from all line ministries, civil society and private sector representative. The country also: established a parliamentary committee on the SDGs and a statistical task force; has organized three workshops related to SDGs; and held regional consultations with civil society, while temporarily hosting 1.5 million displaced from Syria. Qatar says it has aligned its National Development Strategy 2018-2022 with the SDGs, and reports that: 100% of its population benefits from safe drinking water services; solid waste generation fell from about 9.6 million tons in 2011 to 4.6 million tons in 2016; protected areas represent 29.8% of Qatar’s total area, which is “one of the highest rates in the world,” and the government intends to establish and operate a biodiversity database by the end of 2022.

Saudi Arabia’s messages note that its VNR highlights progress on the 17 SDGs, and key SDG priority areas include: continuing the alignment of state programs and strategies with global SDGs targets and indicators; strengthening the role of SDGs at the sub-national level; and enhancing monitoring and evaluation infrastructure on SDGs. Singapore reports that its Inter-Ministry Committee on SDGs has organized multi-stakeholder consultations to assess progress, and that it used international rankings and indices to get an independent perspective of its progress vis-à-vis other countries. Sri Lanka says increasing multi-stakeholder engagement for the 2030 Agenda has been a key objective of its VNR process, and mainstreaming the SDGs into institutional plans is its main strategy to achieve the Goals. It reports that: its National Budget 2018 focuses on a “Blue Green Economy;” 89.5% of its population has access to safe drinking water; and renewable sources account for 53% of total primary energy supply.

Eastern European Group (EEG)

All EEG countries that are volunteering to present their VNR at the 2018 HLPF have submitted their main messages. Albania reports that its parliament has unanimously approved a resolution confirming Albania’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, and the country has prepared an SDG baseline report which indicates that 83% of the SDG targets are directly tied to specific components of its National Strategy for Development and Integration 2016-2020. Armenia says it has established a National SDG Innovation Lab, in addition to other structures such as the ‘SDG Nationalization Inter-agency Task Force,’ and data for indicators have been developed by the National Statistical Service to assess SDG progress.

Hungary stresses the importance of building the SDGs and targets on the principles of guaranteeing human rights, solidarity and global partnership. It reports that 75% of the global SDG indicators are available in the country, and that all line ministries and other stakeholders, including the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the Office of the Ombudsman for Future Generations, youth and the business sector, contributed to its VNR.

Main messages from Latvia state that its VNR sets the baseline for all 17 SDGs, based on a mapping of the 169 SDG targets against its policies and plans, and the Cabinet of Ministers will decide on Latvia’s medium-term goals, indicators and targets within available funding limits. Lithuania reports that its VNR has been prepared by a group of experts that involved representatives of various ministries, NGOs and municipalities. It identifies, among other priorities, social inclusion and the promotion of eco-innovation and investment in new technologies. Poland says its VNR, prepared by ministries and other stakeholders through a “participatory approach,” includes a diagnosis, priorities, and key actions on SDGs.

Romania reports that it is in the process of reviewing its National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) based on the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs. A process of localizing the SDGs started in 2016, and has fed into both this VNR and its review of the NSDS. In its main messages, Slovakia expresses its commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda by integrating it into “all its public policies” at all levels, and outlines six national priorities that integrate the 17 SDGs: 1) education (SDGs 4, 8 and 10); transformation towards an environmentally sustainable and knowledge-based economy in the context of demographic change (SDGs 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12); sustainability of settlements, regions and the countryside in the context of climate change (SDGs 6, 7, 11, 13 and 15); social inclusion (SDGs 1, 2 and 10); rule of law, democracy and security (SDGs 5 and 16); and good health (SDGs 3 and 10).

Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Bahamas’ main messages report that youth unemployment rose to 30% in 2015, and that the government in collaboration with civil society and other stakeholders has created a pilot initiative for a traditionally marginalized region known as the “Over the Hill Community,” that focuses on social and economic empowerment, rejuvenation, smart and green technology and programmes on youth and the elderly. The Dominican Republic says work is underway to identify objectives and policy mixes that will boost synergies and accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda through reducing multidimensional poverty, more competitiveness and decent jobs, promoting sustainable production and consumption, making populations resilient to climate change and other risks, and achieving a strong and inclusive institutional framework at the State level.

Jamaica’s document notes that it has a national coordination mechanism for the 2030 Agenda, and there is a 91% alignment between both its Vision 2030 Jamaica and the SDGs, but policy coherence and building capacity on policy integration need to be improved. It adds that it has a roadmap for SDGs implementation and 66 indicators to monitor the goals, and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica leads the process to establish a coordinated national statistical system.

Among its institutional arrangements for SDG implementation, Mexico’s messages outline its SDG Specialized Technical Committee for the SDGs, which coordinates the generating and monitoring of data. The messages also indicate that Mexico can follow up on 169 of the 232 global SDG indicators, and that it conducted an analysis of the contribution of federal budget programs to the SDG targets in 2017. At the sub-regional level, it reports that: by May 2018, 28 out of 32 Mexican states had SDG monitoring mechanisms in place; the federal government has developed a guide to incorporate the 2030 Agenda approach into state and municipal development plans; but capacity of sub-national governments need to be strengthened.

Paraguay says it has been working since 2016 to advance the alignment of the National Expenditure Budget with its national development plan ‘Paraguay 2030’ and the SDGs, and has created the Inter-institutional Coordination Commission for the implementation, follow-up and monitoring of the SDGs, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Related to the SDGs to be reviewed in depth at the HLPF, Uruguay reports that 95.2% of its population has access to safe water, and it is one of the most electrified countries in Latin America. It also indicates that work related to raising awareness on the SDGs was initiated in 2017.

Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Australia stresses the value of a “fair go,” calling for action on fairness, justice and equality of opportunity, and adding that the government has adopted an approach to the SDGs that gives policy responsibilities and priorities to the “relevant” agencies and levels of decision. Its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, it says, highlights Australia’s responsibility to contribute to global efforts to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering and promote sustainable development.

Canada notes its commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs at home and abroad. It reports that: federal departments and agencies have been tasked to further examine how their policies and programs are contributing to the SDGs and their targets; Canada’s 2018 Federal Budget allocated new funds to establish an SDG Unit to track Canada’s progress on the SDGs; the government will mainstream a gender-responsive perspective in the implementation of the SDGs; and it will launch a process to develop a national strategy on the 2030 Agenda through collaboration with all levels of government, Indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders.

Exiting a period of “prolonged economic crisis,” Greece says the country has endorsed eight national priorities for adapting the SDGs to national needs and circumstances, in line with the recent adoption of the National Growth Strategy, and it plans to implement a “whole-of-government” approach coordinated by an Inter-Ministerial Coordination Network, steered by the General Secretariat of the Government. It also plans to develop a National Implementation Plan for the SDGs in 2019, by engaging “all stakeholders at all stages,” and to involve actively the Hellenic Parliament in the overall SDG follow-up and review process.

Ireland says its VNR addresses the 17 SDGs at the national and global levels, it has mapped existing policies and programmes against each of the 169 SDG sub-targets, and a national stakeholder forum will have its inaugural meeting in June 2018. It notes that its SDG National Implementation Plan 2018-2020 is a framework for SDG implementation, and announces that the government will publish a new White Paper on International Development in the second half of 2018 to further strengthen the alignment of Ireland’s aid programme with the SDGs.

Malta says the Sustainable Development Act adopted by the government in 2012 mandates the government to mainstream sustainable development in its policies, and the government plans to launch ‘Vision 2050,’ as a framework for the mainstreaming of sustainable development across all levels of government. On institutional arrangements, Spain indicates that a High Level Group on Inter-Ministerial Coordination, chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, reports directly to the President of the Government on progress related to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. It also notes that an Action Plan for the Implementation of 2030 Agenda assigns Ministerial responsibilities for each SDG, and the Autonomous Communities and local entities have been asked to localize the Agenda.

UN Observer State

Palestine reports that its Council of Ministers issued a decree establishing a national team headed by the Prime Minister’s Office and “composed of all relevant partners” to head SDG monitoring and implementation. It says its National Policy Agenda 2017-2022 includes 75 of the SDG targets, and it has adopted a set of principles to ensure the active participation of non-governmental actors in SDG implementation. Palestine proposes a 18th SDG on “Ending the occupation, and the consolidation of the independent State of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” and states that “the continuation” of Israel’s occupation, and its “systematic and widespread violations of international law” is the biggest impediment for Palestine to achieve the SDGs.”

The HLPF will take place from 9-18 July 2018, in New York, US, and will consider the theme, ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.’ VNRs will be presented during the Forum’s ministerial segment, from 16-18 July. [HLPF 2018 website] [VNR 2018 webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on HLPF 2018 programme] [SDG Knowledge Hub guide for HLPF]

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