18 July 2018
On Day 2 of HLPF Ministerial Segment, 21 Countries Present VNRs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

VNR presentations continued on the second day of the HLPF’s Ministerial Meeting, with 21 countries presenting their VNRs.

Many countries highlighted the role of stakeholder participation in SDG implementation.

Presentations also emphasized progress on the SDGs under review, and challenges related to SDG implementation, including with respect to data collection and monitoring.

17 July 2018: The ECOSOC High-level Segment/Ministerial Meeting of the 2018 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) featured three sessions on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Twenty-one countries presented their reports: Albania; Latvia; Niger; Sudan; Armenia; Ireland; Namibia; Jamaica; State of Palestine; Togo; Bhutan; Uruguay; Sri Lanka; Switzerland; Australia; Andorra; Canada; Dominican Republic; Egypt; Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR); and Senegal.

Albania’s VNR presentation described efforts to: reform public administration and justice systems, with accession to the European Union (EU) as a key driver; protect human and property rights; encourage economic growth and investment, particularly in resilient infrastructure; and improve water and land management. She highlighted two national success stories: an urban renaissance programme; and a justice reform programme. Latvia’s VNR presentation highlighted: a stable and growing economy; increasing employment; progress in meeting climate change targets; efforts to improve human security; and social capital. Among challenges, he identified inequalities with a territorial dimension, requiring out-of-the-box solutions.

Niger’s VNR presentation addressed national challenges, including: large areas of desert; a young population, with 25% below 25; security threats from surrounding countries; and falling commodity prices, including oil. She reported progress on SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals); medium progress on SDG 15 (life on land); and low progress on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), a key priority for the country. Sudan’s VNR presentation showcased three “SDG accelerators:” strengthening justice and good governance; agricultural transformation; and social transformation. The presentation further highlighted: domestic resource mobilization (DRM) efforts and a commitment to reduce poverty by 8% annually.

Armenia’s VNR presentation identified safe drinking water, health, clean energy, disaster risk reduction (DRR), equal rights for women, income inequalities and regional partnerships as key priorities. In response to questions, Armenia highlighted: plans to increase women’s representation in Parliament to 30%; a commitment to address energy, corruption and environmental issues; youth participation in the governance of the country; the role of the international community in overcoming problems faced by landlocked countries; and the Armenian National SDG Innovation Laboratory, which aims to identify innovative approaches for targeted solutions. Ireland’s VNR presentation highlighted: a “whole of government” approach to SDG implementation; plans to increase the housing stock by 50,000 homes by 2021; a €22 billion climate-focused investment plan; and a new international development policy that will prioritize “leaving no one behind,” focused on women and girls.

Namibia’s VNR presentation reported on: decreasing inequality; a policy for gender equality in the public sector; increased investment in rural infrastructure; stabilization of an HIV/AIDS pandemic; increased life expectancy from 58 to 65 years; access to electricity for 54% of households; and the need to harness a high potential for renewable energy. Jamaica’s VNR presentation noted progress on over 60% of the development indicators from a 2007 baseline, while highlighting the challenges of accessing aid and concessional finance as an upper middle-income (MIC) country.

The State of Palestine’s VNR presentation highlighted: the creation of a national working group on the SDGs; progress in education and health; and the impacts of Israeli occupation on efforts to tackle unemployment, provide water and electricity to all, and protect the environment. Togo presented its third VNR, describing: a paradigm shift in the country’s national development plan, designed to make the country a regional logistics and business hub; engaging women, youth, and small farmers; enhanced land tenure laws; and plans to complete electrification by 2030, using a public-private partnership to provide clean and affordable energy.

Bhutan’s VNR presentation discussed the integration of SDGs into a transitional development plan as the country graduates from least developed country (LDC) status in 2023. They highlighted: regional disparities in levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment; reliance on hydropower and vulnerability to climate change; the country’s commitment to retaining 60% forest cover; and its status as a carbon-negative country. Bhutan also described the central commitment to environmental conservation in the Gross National Happiness approach. Uruguay’s VNR presentation emphasized: the importance of a human rights approach, pointing to the right to housing and inclusiveness of civil society; being inclusive of the business sector perspective; and their commitment to localizing the SDGs.

Sri Lanka’s VNR presentation highlighted the country’s significant progress since the end of its civil war, including: the strengthening of democratic institutions; the reconstruction of public infrastructure; and progress in education and health, including confirmation of the country’s malaria-free status by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016. Switzerland’s VNR presentation showcased: the commissioning of an SDG-related baseline assessment; the inclusion of SDGs in existing statistical indicators; a commitment to circular and green economies; and progress needed in areas such as sustainable consumption. A National Youth Council representative noted a shadow report by civil society and asked that the next VNR focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups and the impact of Switzerland abroad.

Australia’s VNR presentation noted: the significance of the SDGs for indigenous communities and Torres Strait Islanders and their contribution in areas such as conservation; and the contribution of SDGs in generating shared value in the private sector. Andorra’s VNR presentation informed that: the SDGs are now the basis of executive and official development assistance decision-making; and citizen ownership of Agenda 2030 is encouraged. The presentation affirmed a focus on an inclusive education system and on reducing plastic use.

Canada’s VNR presentation recognized synergies between SDG 1 (end poverty) and other Goals, and said Canada will release its first ever national poverty reduction strategy. Canada further highlighted: the centrality of SDG 5 (gender equality) to Canada’s national and international policy; and a commitment to develop a rights framework for and with indigenous peoples and address social exclusion of other groups. The Dominican Republic’s VNR presentation pointed to challenges, including: limited funding, due in part to difficulties in collecting taxes; mass movement of people from rural to urban areas; and vulnerability to weather risks.

Egypt’s VNR presentation focused on: youth empowerment and human capacity development; major investments in infrastructure, especially road networks and electricity; and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. Lao PDR’s VNR presentation highlighted that: SDG focal points have been appointed in relevant ministries; more than 60% of the national social and economic development indicators are based on the SDG indicators; poverty rates are declining; sustainable urban transportation projects are part of a green-growth strategy.

Senegal’s VNR presentation described: integration of environment and sustainable development in school curricula; a 47% poverty rate; efforts to ensure that development benefits are shared equitably between urban and rural areas; continued efforts to reduce neonatal and maternal mortality despite the high cost of health services; 43.9% health coverage in 2017, with plans to reach 53% by 2021; 99% access to drinking water in rural areas; and 68% and 40% access to electricity in urban and rural areas, respectively.

Many VNR presentations addressed stakeholder participation. Sudan said NGOs in the country are engaged in implementation, awareness raising, capacity building, advocacy and data collection for the SDGs. Albania reported that its inter-ministerial national committee for SDG implementation includes civil society and other stakeholders. Ireland shared the establishment of a national stakeholder engagement forum and highlighted a report on SDG implementation prepared through extensive consultations with youth. Jamaica showcased efforts to empower, educate and engage stakeholders and promote local community development plans. The State of Palestine described the inclusion of civil society in political processes, including national dialogues on the rights of women. Uruguay described efforts to institutionalize civil society participation. Egypt highlighted a participatory approach to “Egypt 2030,” its national development plan.

Several participants highlighted the importance of parliamentary engagement in SDG implementation, including lead discussant László Borbély, Head of the Department for Sustainable Development, Secretariat General of the Government, Romania. Ahmed Magzoub Ahmed Ali, National Assembly, Sudan, described Parliament’s commitment to implement the SDGs through a framework of legislation and forward-looking strategies.

VNR presentations also addressed data collection and monitoring, including Switzerland’s VNR. Latvia highlighted progress in citizen-generated data and monitoring. Jamaica described efforts to strengthen data collection and disaggregation. Bhutan shared challenges in producing disaggregated data. Sri Lanka said it is making progress in collecting and disaggregating data, notably through the establishment of digital platforms. Australia highlighted its commitment to gender responsive data. The Dominican Republic identified insufficient statistical capacities as a challenge. Lao PDR said efforts are underway to disaggregate data.

Discussions further addressed, inter alia: alignment between national development plans and the SDGs; political will to implement the SDGs; resource mobilization; and the importance of regional coordination in monitoring progress.

The final VNR presentations for 2018 take place on 18 July. [IISD RS Coverage of 18 July HLPF 2018] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on First Day of VNR Presentations]

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