16 July 2018: Two sets of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) were presented during the first day of the Ministerial Meeting of the 2018 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The governments presenting their reports were: Bahrain, Benin, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Kiribati, Lithuania, Mali, Greece, Guinea, Mexico, Slovakia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Viet Nam. Governments and stakeholders asked questions of each presenting country.

Among other countries presenting a VNR for the first time, Ecuador’s presentation described a reduction of multi-dimensional poverty, recognition of rights throughout the lifecycle of citizens, and commitment to involve young people in SDG implementation. Kiribati’s VNR presentation highlighted: achievements in education and literacy; high levels of child mortality; the negative impacts of climate change; and challenges around institutional capacity, including a lack of finance for data processing.

Lithuania’s VNR presentation addressed: support for education; reorganization of the residential care system; a low-carbon and circular economy; and renewable energy. Mali’s VNR presentation focused on: appreciation of societal transformation and resilience in the wake of the Algiers Process on peace and reconciliation; and land degradation concerns, including in relation to migration.

Guinea’s VNR highlighted: successes in increasing resilience to economic, social, environmental, and health shocks, including the eradication of the Ebola outbreak; the need to increase statistical capacity for SDG monitoring; and the encouraging results obtained on all six SDGs under review through the promotion of good governance and the inclusive development of human capital. Greece’s VNR presentation described: the endorsement of a national plan for a circular economy; new legal frameworks connecting biodiversity with all relevant sectors; and plans to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 50% by 2030.

Mexico’s VNR presentation emphasized: 31 of Mexico’s 32 states have established follow-up and review mechanisms for SDGs; 12 states have development plans aligned with the 2030 Agenda; and plans are underway for universal water, drainage, and sanitation coverage by 2030, and to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 30% by 2030, and 50% by 2050. UAE’s presentation focused on: the use of data and evidence-based policies in SDG implementation; and the appointment of a Minister of Youth Affairs to increase social inclusion.

Benin’s VNR presentation described efforts to: provide access to safe drinking water to all by 2021; and develop public policies to address the SDGs, including through social safety nets for vulnerable populations and persons with disabilities. Cabo Verde’s VNR presentation emphasized: efforts to integrate the SDGs in national planning, with 74% of the national strategic indicators directly related to the SDGs; and extensive involvement of local administrations.

Slovakia’s VNR presentation highlighted the need to: anchor the SDGs in all public policies; engage in partnerships at all levels, from the regional to the municipal; align budgets with 2030 Agenda priorities; and encourage voluntary actions. Bahrain’s VNR presentation showcased: a people-centered approach to development; establishment of a national information committee to help institutionalize the SDGs; an online monitoring system for monitoring implementation of the national development plan, which integrated 87% of the SDGs targets; and a social protection system that covers 80% of families.

Colombia’s VNR presentation highlighted: plans to achieve universal access to drinking water; the introduction of a carbon tax; and progress in recycling and sustainable consumption and production, including a 30% reduction in the use of plastic bags. Viet Nam’s VNR presentation noted that: 99% of households have access to energy, yet Viet Nam is lagging behind with regards to renewables; rural infrastructure has been expanded to cover 99% of the country; efforts are made to integrate people with disabilities in society and economy; and a national database of genetic resources and traditional knowledge has been developed.

During discussions, participants raised the role of national parliaments and local authorities in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Many countries highlighted the alignment of their country’s national development plans with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Ecuador, Kiribati and Cabo Verde.

Several countries addressed financing challenges, especially for the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS). Cabo Verde described financing challenges unique to SIDS. Lithuania committed to increasing the country’s contribution to official development assistance (ODA). Mali noted increased dependency on ODA. The UAE informed it has reoriented UAE’s foreign aid programmes to align them with the SDGs.

VNR presentations also addressed stakeholder involvement in SDG implementation. Morocco asked how stakeholder engagement can be institutionalized. Ecuador responded that a clear link between participation, planning, and budgeting is essential. Kiribati highlighted the engagement of non-state actors in its VNR preparation. Mali said it has a gender-balanced committee to involve stakeholders. Colombia introduced an online platform that allows multi-stakeholder participation, Viet Nam noted the creation of multi-stakeholder forums for SDG implementation.

Additional VNR presentations will take place throughout the HLS. [IISD RS Coverage of 17 July HLPF 2018] [UN Press Release]