7 June 2017
Workshops, Papers Look Ahead to 44 VNRs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

IIED published a paper on the potential contribution of evaluation processes to national and global reviews of the SDGs, while a Together 2030 paper finds that awareness of the VNR is low overall.

The UN regional commissions held workshops for the participating countries in each region, and DESA provided a workshop for the VNRs "class of 2017" in Incehon, Republic of Korea.

30 May 2017: The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has published a paper on the potential contribution of evaluation processes to national and global reviews of the SDGs. National reviews are also the subject of a report from Together 2030, and the 2017 round of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) has been the focus of preparatory workshops in recent months.

The 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will include three days devoted to the VNRs of 44 countries. These are scheduled to take place on 17-19 July, during the Forum’s ministerial segment, according to the draft programme released in May.

The IIED briefing paper, titled ‘Evaluation: A missed opportunity in the SDGs’ first set of Voluntary National Reviews,’ finds that most of the 22 VNRs presented in 2016 indicated “little awareness about just what evaluation is and how it could be used to support the 2030 Agenda.” It offers recommendations to strengthen and improve future reporting on VNRs, noting that “there is still time to ‘put more E into M&E’.” Recommendations include: VNRs should clarify the limits of macro indicators, and emphasize evaluation as complementary to indicators when judging the effects of policies; countries should organize evaluation processes using a four-year pattern to fit the HLPF’s thematic cycle; and the VNR process should require all countries to explain the role of their M&E system in reviewing progress toward the SDGs, and the UN Evaluation Group could help develop this element. The authors also call for the VNRs to help build “an interlinked picture” addressing the avoidance of counterproductive interactions among SDGs and the reinforcement of synergies between stakeholders. The briefing is part of a series published by IIED and the EVALSDGs network.

Another report on the VNR process was published by Together 2030 in partnership with Newcastle University. Titled ‘Are National Voluntary Reviews Promoting Awareness and Inclusion? Perceptions survey on civil society and stakeholder engagement in voluntary national reviews and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda,’ the report finds that awareness of VNRs, and especially how to engage in VNR processes, is low overall, with different levels of awareness in VNR countries and variations across regions and sectors around reporting and the process for reporting. The authors write that low awareness “constitutes a major barrier to meaningful participation by stakeholders.” On opportunities for engagement, the report finds “high expectations” for stakeholder participation in national review processes, but insufficient spaces and opportunities for such engagement. Stakeholders desire “coordinated spaces for civil society engagement on national review processes,” as well as coordination mechanisms among civil society and other stakeholders, the authors explain. Together 2030 is a civil society initiative that promotes national implementation and tracks progress of the 2030 Agenda.

To support countries’ preparations for the 2017 VNRs, the UN regional commissions held workshops for the participating countries in each region. The informal workshops preceded the Commissions’ fora to prepare regional contributions to the 2017 HLPF, and took place as follows: ESCAP for Asia-Pacific and ESCWA countries: 28 March; UNECE: 24 April; ECLAC: 28 April; and UNECA: 17 May.

DESA also provided a workshop for the VNRs in Incheon, Republic of Korea, from 2-3 March 2017. Addressing the “class of 2017,” the 44 countries participating in this year’s VNRs, ECOSOC President Frederick Shava said the national reports “are useful not only as a review mechanism, but also as a source of information and solutions” for all countries and stakeholders. According to a questionnaire circulated ahead of the workshop, countries had made progress with respect to institutional coordination, strategies and plans, including stocktaking, mapping and gap analyses, and identifying priorities. They reported challenges including: securing adequate stakeholder engagement; overlapping responsibilities among government departments, including other branches of government, especially legislative; and obtaining data and updating indicators or creating new ones.

The summary report of the Incheon workshop highlights progress and challenges encountered in national preparatory processes by: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Honduras and Nepal. It also outlines discussions on creating awareness and stakeholder engagement, and data collection, monitoring and follow-up at the national level. [IIED Briefing Paper] [IIED Evaluation Project] [EVALSDGS Webpage] [2030 Agenda Perceptions Survey 2017] [Summary of Incheon Workshop] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on HLPF Preparations] [DESA Website for VNRs]

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