The Major Groups and Other Stakeholders (MGoS), in collaboration with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), held a webinar on stakeholder engagement in the voluntary national review (VNR) process. The event sought to reach a broad range of stakeholders from the 42 countries presenting their VNRs in July 2024.

Joop Theunissen, DESA, highlighted that while VNRs are voluntary and state-led, they facilitate communication with all stakeholders and provide a platform for partnerships, including through stakeholder participation in their preparation. He said VNRs facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons learned and are conducted in accordance with national circumstances, together with relevant partners.

Theunissen reminded participants that the theme of the 2024 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is ‘Reinforcing the 2030 Agenda and eradicating poverty in times of multiple crises: The effective delivery of sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions’ and that the Goals undergoing in-depth review are SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 13 (climate action), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and 17 (partnerships for the Goals). He said the HLPF will convene in person, from 8-17 July, with VNRs expected to be presented on 12 July and from 15-17 July. He underscored that stakeholder participation is expected in all its sessions.

Noting that after July 2024, 191 countries and the EU will have presented more than 340 VNRs, Theunissen said 17 of this year’s VNRs are from Africa, ten are from Asia-Pacific, nine are from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), four are from Eastern Europe, and two are from Western Europe. He noted that while not yet finalized, the 2024 modalities for VNR presentation will feature questions from stakeholders, urging webinar participants to organize and prepare.

Among useful resources for stakeholders to consult, Theunissen highlighted:

Nelya Rakhimova, MGoS, said the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders provides the space for stakeholder engagement around the HLPF. Consisting of nine major groups and 12 stakeholder groups, MGoS coordinates stakeholders to ensure their broad, open, transparent, and inclusive participation in the HLPF. It attends official and preparatory meetings of the Forum, intervenes in official meetings, makes written and oral submissions and recommendations, and, with the UN Secretariat and Member States, organizes side events and roundtables, she explained.

Depending on the country, Rakhimova said stakeholders can also engage by: providing inputs to and reviewing drafts of VNRs of their respective countries; representing their constituents as part of government delegations; and participating in the presentation of the VNR to the HLPF. She encouraged participants to identify opportunities to engage at the national level by reaching out to their national governments and local UN offices.

Outlining the process for collaborative stakeholder engagement for 2024, Rakhimova invited expressions of interest, by the end of February, from all stakeholders in being part of the VNR process for their country. She said the main goal of this collaborative process is to prepare a joint MGoS stakeholder statement for each VNR country, to be presented during the HLPF. She highlighted the critical role of early dialogue with civil society organizations (CSOs), to identify cross-cutting issues that reflect the views of a broad range of national stakeholders. She said MGoS and DESA aim to support the preparation and delivery of stakeholder statements in a way that ensures everyone has an equal voice.

Responding to questions from the audience, Theunissen said:

  • countries that have not presented a VNR are Cook Islands, Holy See, Haiti, Iran, Myanmar, Niue, and the US;
  • voluntary local reviews (VLRs) are not presented during the official part of the HLPF but could be included in a VNR report; and
  • main messages are due by 24 April and full VNRs – by mid-June.

Rakhimova clarified that while civil society spotlight reports are prepared independently from VNRs and are not recognized in the VNR process, they can be useful in preparing stakeholder statements.

Also among the issues discussed during the Q&A session were: regional stakeholder engagement; ways to encourage governments to involve stakeholders in the VNR process; and selecting representatives to deliver stakeholder statements.

The webinar was held in English on 5 February. Webinars in Spanish and French took place on 6 February and 7 February, respectively. [MGoS/DESA Webinars on VNR Engagement in 2024] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]