18 June 2018: Of the 47 countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the 2018 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July, 45 have made their report’s main messages available. Some of these countries presented their VNRs at previous HLPF sessions (Benin, Colombia, Egypt, Mexico, Switzerland, Togo and Uruguay), and are updating their progress on the SDGs.

The VNRs were called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the SDGs. The “main messages” provide a brief overview of more comprehensive review documents that are prepared by countries to report on SDG implementation efforts during the HLPF.

By 7 June 2018, main messages were available for 35 countries, including all of the Eastern European Group (EEG) countries that will present at the 2018 HLPF. Between 8 and 18 June, 10 additional countries’ messages became available: Benin, Mali, Republic of Congo and Senegal; Bahrain, UAE and Viet Nam; Colombia and Ecuador; and Andorra.

African Group

Benin has made available the opening statement of its VNR, which notes that the country has aligned its Government Programme of Action, its National Development Plan and other strategic documents with SDG priority targets. Per the statement, Benin developed a digital application (app) to help Ministries align their activities towards the SDGs, launched a process to cost the initiatives needed to reach its targets, and prepared a mapping of technical and financial partners and civil society organizations (CSOs) to identify priority targets that require a high level of coordination. Benin also announced the adoption of a country programme document for the Green Climate Fund to ensure coherence between major environmental and climate initiatives, and of a national policy on climate change.

On the SDGs to be reviewed during the HLPF, Benin notes its intention, by 2021, to reach 100% of households with access to safe drinking water (SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation), and achieve energy self-sufficiency with a “good level” of energy mix in which renewable energy plays an important role (SDG 7 – affordable and clean energy). It says it has adopted a law prohibiting the production, import, marketing and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags (SDG 12 –responsible consumption and production), as well as a policy on land degradation neutrality (SDG 15 – life on land), among other documents.

According to its summary, Mali relied on a steering committee composed of representatives of the ministerial departments, civil society, the private sector and parliament to prepare its VNRs, and held a national workshop in May with more than 120 participants to validate the review.

The country also organized trainings and SDG prioritization workshops at regional and national levels, established a parliamentary monitoring and evaluation committee for the SDGs, and proposed an institutional mechanism for the coordination of SDG implementation, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister’s Office. This mechanism is composed of five thematic groups at the national level, and has a decentralized architecture at the sub-regional level, the summary says. On SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), Mali notes that efforts to improve aid effectiveness are underway, with the drafting of a national development cooperation policy and a national aid management policy.

The Republic of Congo’s VNR summary reports that the country has prepared an SDG roadmap that comprises components on: ownership, contextualization, and integration of the SDGs into national development policies and plans; coordination and monitoring-evaluation mechanisms; and capacity building for SDG monitoring. With the help of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and sectoral ministries, it says, the Republic of Congo has carried out a rapid integrated assessment (RIA) to measure the degree of alignment between the SDGs and national development plans and sector strategies, and to identify interconnections between SDG targets and sectors where interventions are likely to have an impact on many Goals.

The country indicates that it has prioritized 14 SDGs, 74 targets, and 113 indicators that will be integrated into national development plans, including in its national development plan 2018-2022 that is currently being finalized. The prioritized SDGs are: SDG 2 on zero hunger, SDG 3 on good health and well-being, SDG 4 on quality education, SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 10 on reduced inequalities, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production, SDG 13 on climate action, SDG 15 on life on land, and SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.

Per its summary, the Republic of Congo established a steering committee in charge of following-up on the SDGs, and is preparing an action plan for SDG implementation that should provide information on related costs for their implementation. It notes mobilizing funding for the effective and efficient operationalization of the SDGs as one of the main challenges facing the country.

Senegal’s messages note that the process of alignment between the SDGs and the ‘Plan for an Emerging Senegal’ (PES)– a policy framework to get Senegal onto the road to development in 2035 –was launched in January 2016 by the government. Its priority actions cover nearly 77% of the SDG targets. It also reports that “inclusive” mechanisms, such as an SDG monitoring platform for CSOs, were established, but that participation of some stakeholders such as the private sector, parliamentarians and local elected representatives, should be further strengthened.

Asia-Pacific Group

Bahrain’s messages state that the Government Plan of Action (GPA) is aligned with 78% of the SDGs, and the country’s Constitution and public policies guarantee universal access to basic services, and gender equality. The country reports that basic education is free and compulsory, healthcare is free and universal, and two committees instituted by the Supreme Council for Women ensure equal opportunities and gender responsive budgeting. It also indicates that: women hold 55% of supervisory positions, with 53% and 33% participation in the public and private sectors respectively; public and civil society-led programs extend to migrant workers to safeguard their rights, provide health insurance and shelter, and combat human trafficking; five new sustainable cities are being developed; and remittances of migrant workers in Bahrain amounted to approximately US$2.5 billion in 2017.

In its messages, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announces that the SDGs and sustainability will be a central focus of Expo 2020 Dubai, and its SDG National Committee serves as a platform for multi‐stakeholder engagement. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of State for International Cooperation, is vice-chaired by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, and comprises 17 federal government organizations, according to the VNR messages.

On progress related to SDG implementation, the UAE indicates that the SDG National Committee has: prioritized targets “to pursue on an annual basis;” determined criteria for incorporating SDG targets into the national development agenda; assessed the scope of SDG implementation “given resource capacities and constraints in a particular year;” and developed a comprehensive communication strategy to engage societal stakeholders on the SDGs. The UAE also notes that: a Private‐Sector Advisory Council reports to the vice‐chair of the SDG National Committee; it has a Minister of State for Youth Affairs; it launched the Emirates Youth Council; and seven emirate‐wide Local Youth Councils are involved in official deliberations concerning SDG implementation.

Viet Nam states that the 17 SDGs have been nationalized into 115 Vietnamese SDG targets and in its national action plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It adds that sustainable development principles have been mainstreamed into its 2011-2020 Social and Economic Development Strategy and its 2016-2020 Social and Economic Development Plan. The country’s key messages note that the Viet Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development aims to enable the business community to share and spread good practices, and to play an “important role” in realizing the SDGs.

Per the messages, Viet Nam has a number of policies aimed at promoting social equality to ensure that no one is left behind, and the country has achieved a number of SDG-related results. For instance, its national multi-dimensional poverty decreased from 9.9% in 2015 to less than 7% in 2017; 93.4% of households in 2016 had access to safe water, and 99% of Vietnamese households had access to electricity during the same year.

Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Colombia’s executive summary notes that in addition to the SDG initiatives it reported on in its 2016 VNR, it has developed a national strategy (CONPES 3918) to implement the goals. The strategy, it says, includes, inter alia: a monitoring process with national indicators and quantifiable targets; institutional responsibilities; a plan for strengthening statistical capacities; and a communication strategy seeking to promote alliances with non-governmental actors.

The summary indicates that the website www.ods.gov.co comprises updated information on the country’s progress towards the goals, and that a mapping of resources from different public domestic sources and their allocation to each SDG has been prepared as a starting point for the development of a financing strategy. It also reports that a joint initiative is being developed with the private sector where companies can provide information that will enable them to make their SDG support more visible, and dialogues took place in different parts of the country to highlight SDG challenges and successful experiences.

According to its main messages, Ecuador has developed SDG “Flagship Interventions,” and has established mechanisms for the alignment, monitoring and evaluation of its planning with the 2030 Agenda. Among the SDGs to be examined in depth at the HLPF 2018, the VNR messages report that: guaranteeing universal access to water (SDG 6) is a priority for the Ecuadorian government and the “Safe Water and Sanitation for All” strategy is being implemented; and various programmes have contributed to maintain more than 16% of the national territory under conservation or environmental management (SDG 15). The messages also note that the VNR’s preparation was based on contributions from the government, private sector, academia, civil society and local governments.

Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Andorra reports that each “action” submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval must be associated with the SDGs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has aligned its annual master plan for international cooperation with the goals. Its VNR summary notes that the Andorran private and financial sectors have integrated the 2030 Agenda into their social responsibility strategies, and education for sustainable development is a key concept of the Andorran education system, which it says, also integrates in a transversal way, education for human rights and democratic citizenship. It stresses the need to strengthen the production of statistical data, adding that the government has approved it statistical plan 2018-2021.

On SDGs examined in the VNR, Andorra says that in addition to the six goals reviewed in depth at the 2018 HLPF, it has also included Goals 4 (quality education) and 13 (climate action), which are of particular importance for the country. On the VNR preparation, the Andorra’s summary states that an inter-ministerial team was set up to draft the report, national bodies representing civil society were asked to participate in the drafting process, and an emphasis was placed on the collection of statistical data. It also reports on the launch of a public consultation on the Internet and on an awareness and information campaign on the VNR.

The UN Secretariat has posted online an unedited version of a compilation of main messages made available by countries that are presenting their 2018 VNRs. Taking into account VNRs presented during previous HLPFs in 2016 and 2017, by the end of the Forum in 2018, 103 countries will have presented their reviews. [VNR Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the first 35 countries that submitted their VNR messages] [Unedited version of UN Secretariat compilation of main messages made available by countries that are presenting their 2018 VNRs] [HLPF 2018 website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on HLPF 2018 programme] [SDG Knowledge Hub Guide for HLPF 2018]