19 March 2018
Stakeholders Launch SDG Report Outlining VNR Best Practices and Recommendations
Photo Credit: Lynn Wagner
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CSOs launched the collective report titled, ‘Progressing National SDG Implementation: an Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017,’ during a global webinar hosted by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

The report outlines VNR recommendations and best practices, based on an analysis of the 2017 VNR reports.

The report and its summary are available online in different languages, and will be disseminated during the 2018 HLPF in July.

15 March 2018: Civil society organizations have launched a report that identifies best practices and recommendations for improving SDG implementation and strengthening accountability on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report, published by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), shows that “the majority of countries reporting in 2017 appear to have established foundational elements for implementation.” Still, “much can be learnt and applied from emerging standard practice and best practice to date by different countries.”

The collaborative report titled, ‘Progressing National SDG Implementation: an Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017,’ was launched during a global webinar hosted by the CCIC on 15 March 2018. It is based on an analysis of voluntary national review (VNR) reports submitted by 45 countries and civil society reports produced in advance of the 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Written by Shannon Kindornay, Independent Consultant and Carleton University, with inputs from Javier Surasky, Centro de Pensamiento Estratégico Internacional (CEPEI), and Nathalie Risse, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the report examines VNR countries from all regions, namely: Afghanistan, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Monaco, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Sweden, Tajikistan, Thailand, the Netherlands including Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, Togo, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

The report’s analysis is based on a common framework composed of ten pillars of implementation that cover policy, institutions, stakeholder engagement, implementation challenges and reporting. It also examines the VNR reports against the UN Secretary-General’s 2016 proposal for voluntary common reporting guidelines, and is complemented, in an annex, by country profiles that present a summary of key findings for each country analyzed.

During the webinar launching the report, Fraser Reilly-King, CCIC, indicated that approximately 800 participants had registered for the event, and announced that the report will be disseminated during the 2018 session of the HLPF, convening in July. He added that the report is currently available online in English and Spanish, and its executive summary is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.

In most cases, national priorities have yet to be matched with national targets and indicators for SDG implementation.

Among the report’s key findings, Kindornay noted that: most countries covered all dimensions of sustainable development in their VNR reports, but linkages between the SDGs as well as between the sustainable development dimensions are less prominent; national priorities related to the 2030 Agenda have often been identified in consultation with non-state actors, but in most cases these priorities “are yet to be matched with national targets and indicators” for SDG implementation; and there is a “wide variance” in the localization of the SDGs, with cases where local governments were very involved, and others where local authorities were only consulted.

On the comparison of VNRs with the 2016 UN Secretary-General’s proposal for voluntary common reporting guidelines, Kindornay said that while a majority of countries included most elements of the guidelines, the reports often were not structured according to them. In addition, limited details were provided on challenges, lessons learned, best practices, and areas in which countries would like to learn from others.

Naiara Costa, Together 2030, said civil society is taking the VNRs “very seriously,” and the report is a reflection of that at the global level. She noted that the report is “very strong” on flagging governance structures in place to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, adding that countries should provide more information on the impact of these structures on implementation. She also remarked that 42% of UN Member States have not yet volunteered to present their VNRs at the HLPF. She suggested that the VNR reports could focus more on gaps and challenges that governments are facing as they implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, saying that this focus would allow better use of the HLPF as a space for discussion and cooperation on implementation.

On civil society engagement and enabling environments, Deirdre de Burca, International Forum of National NGO Platforms (IFP-FIP), noted the need to formalize non-state actors’ engagement in governance structures. She remarked that, per the report, inclusion of non-state actors such as civil society in SDG governance is “patchy,” and their representation is more prominent in technical working groups than in councils or committees linked to political engagement. Hitomi Rankine, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said stakeholder engagement should be supported by a mapping and a planning of their engagement. She also outlined the importance of “feedback loops,” noting that the VNR report is not the end of the process, but follow-up and review are very important as well.

Adrián Moreira Munoz, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy, Costa Rica, highlighted the importance of fostering the involvement of all stakeholders and incorporating their views at the national level for advancing implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Reilly-King remarked that Costa Rica was the first country to sign a National Pact for the SDGs, by which the government, civil society, religious organizations, businesses and citizens pledged to promote and comply with the SDGs and monitor and report on the implementation. Costa Rica presented its VNR in 2017.

On the concept of leaving no one behind, Oli Henman, Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD) and CIVICUS, said the concept represents a complex topic that requires consideration of various aspects, such as geography, gender, disability, income and age, that can lead to marginalization. He also stressed the importance of considering inter-sectional challenges related to leaving no one behind, giving the example of a woman in a rural community with a disability. Per the report, he said, 33 countries gave some indication of those at greatest risk of being left behind; 14 countries included information on the availability of data to report on leaving no one behind; and 11 suggested the need for further data disaggregation.

Karen Del Biondo, European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, reported that in June 2017, the 2030 Agenda was translated into the ‘New European Consensus on Development,’ which presents a shared vision and framework for action for development cooperation for the EU and its Member States. Among other initiatives, she announced that the European Commission, together with its member States, will prepare a Joint Synthesis Report on the implementation of the European Consensus on Development for the 2019 session of the HLPF, and that it has established a multi-stakeholder platform on SDGs, comprising 30 members from various sectors including civil society, NGOs, companies and academia.

Florence Syevuo, SDGs Kenya Forum, pointed to theweak role” of parliaments and other stakeholders in implementation, the lack of adequate capacity for reporting, and the need to actively engage in regional reviews as part of the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. She said the report highlights “worrying trends” regarding the lack of countries’ serious commitments to eradicating poverty, promoting prosperity and investing on effective data and statistical systems.

The report is a collaborative work guided by a Steering Committee comprising representatives from: the CCIC (lead); A4SD; Bond; the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD); IFP-FIP; Together 2030; and WWF-UK. It also received support from the CEPEI, the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, IISD, Sightsavers and UKSSD. It follows a report published by Bond in 2016 that focused on the assessment of the 2016 VNR reports. [Publication: Progressing National SDG Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017] [Together 2030 webpage on webinar, with access to report and summary in different languages] [Webinar draft concept note and agenda] [Webinar announcement] [SDG Knowledge Hub policy brief on report] [Bond Report on ‘Progressing National SDGs implementation: Experiences and Recommendations from 2016]

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