The UN Secretariat has issued a note (E/HLPF/2023/5) compiling the main messages for 32 out of the 40 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to be presented at the July 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Most of the 31 countries are second-time presenters. Chile is a third-time presenter. Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as the EU as a region, are presenting their VNRs for the first time.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development invites countries to prepare VNRs to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating implementation of the SDGs. The “main messages,” published on 5 May 2023, provide a brief overview of more comprehensive review documents that are developed by countries to report on SDG implementation efforts during the HLPF.

Second-time VNR presenter Bahrain reports that it maintains “deep-rooted institutional alignment” with the SDGs and that “sustainability” and “fairness” are among the guiding principles of its Economic Vision 2030. Bahrain highlights its 2023-2026 Government Plan titled, ‘From Recovery to Sustainability,’ which integrates the SDGs into government projects to accelerate implementation. The main messages cite Bahrain’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060 and identify fiscal sustainability as its key challenge.

Other presenters from the Asia-Pacific Group include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Syria. The main messages from six presenters from the Asia-Pacific Group (Fiji, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam) are not included in the Secretariat’s note.

Also presenting for the second time, Barbados outlines its major SDG initiative – The Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Plan 2.0. The Plan aims to place the country’s economy on a path towards strong, sustainable, and inclusive growth, “while safeguarding the financial and social sectors.” Vulnerabilities to “prevailing and often concurrent crises,” such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine, pose challenges to sustainable development in Barbados, according to the main messages.  

Barbados is one of seven small island developing States (SIDS) presenting their VNRs in July. The other six are Comoros, Fiji, Guyana, Maldives, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Timor-Leste.

The other three countries from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) presenting their VNRs in 2023 are Chile, Guyana, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. 

In its main messages, Belgium emphasizes that it used a whole-of-society approach in the preparation of its second VNR. It highlights that in 2022, the country “was on track to meet the targets for only 20 of the 51 indicators examined,” citing the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing geopolitical uncertainty, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, and social inequalities among key challenges.

Canada, France, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, and Portugal are among the other 2023 presenters from the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).

The EU’s first VNR highlights its whole-of-government approach to SDG implementation. Noting that achievement of the SDGs has been hindered by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, growing inequalities, climate change, environmental degradation, and the impacts of “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” the EU’s main messages point to its “internal and external actions in support of the implementation of the SDGs, as well as considerations on policy coherence between action at both levels, including potential synergies and trade-offs.”

According to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s main messages, the country links progress in SDG implementation to the EU accession process. Bosnia and Herzegovina highlights is efforts in promoting regional cooperation to exchange experiences and address bottlenecks in achieving the SDGs.

Other Eastern European States presenting their VNRs in 2023 are Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

Rwanda’s main messages summarize the country’s progress on the five Goals undergoing in-depth review in July – SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). They also outline Rwanda’s efforts to leave no one behind and build back better, as well as key lessons learned.  

Other 2023 VNR presenters from the African Group include Burkina Faso, Comoros, the Central African Republic (CAR), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Tanzania’s and Zambia’s main messages are not included in the Secretariat’s note.

According to the 2023 edition of the ‘Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews’ by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), full VNR reports should be submitted by countries to the UN Secretariat by 9 June 2023. Main messages from the 40 countries that will present their VNR in 2023, as well as the underlying review documents, are available via the UN’s HLPF database. [Publication: Advance Unedited Version: Compilation of Main Messages for the 2023 Voluntary National Reviews]