4 October 2018: As of 4 October 2018, 51 countries are planning to present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Of these, 41 will be presenting for the first time.

A central focus for the Ministerial segment of the HLPF has been the presentation of VNRs. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development specifies that Member States should “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven.” These reviews are supposed to draw on contributions from indigenous peoples, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders, “in line with national circumstances, policies and priorities.” National parliaments and other institutions “can also support these processes.”

The 2030 Agenda also indicates, in paragraph 84, that when the HLPF holds its yearly meetings under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it shall carry out regular reviews that are voluntary and state-led, involving ministerial and other relevant high-level participants, and involve developed and developing countries. The reviews are to “provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders.”

On 1 August 2018, ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) informed all UN Permanent Representatives and Observers that the list of countries to present VNRs at HLPF 2019 had been closed. At that time, the 42 countries on the list included 35 first-time presenters: Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Eritrea, Fiji, Ghana, Iceland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Saint Lucia, Serbia, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UK, Tanzania and Vanuatu. In addition, Azerbaijan, Chile, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Philippines and Sierra Leone signed up to conduct VNRs for the second time.

Recently added countries bring the list to 51 countries, with first-time VNR presenters including Cambodia, Eswatini, Guyana, Iraq, Liechtenstein and Rwanda. Newly added second-time presenters are Brazil, El Salvador and Turkey.

HLPF 2016 featured the first presentation of VNRs, with 22 countries participating. The following July, 43 countries presented VNRs at HLPF 2017. Then at HLPF 2018, 46 countries conducted the Reviews. Some countries have already presented VNRs in multiple years.

HLPF 2019 will address the theme, ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’ It will conduct an in-depth review of SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), in addition to SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), which is reviewed each year.

HLPF 2019 will take place under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), in July on dates to be decided. In additional to the annual July session under ECOSOC auspices, HLPF 2019 will also convene at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for one and a half days in September 2019. Only one outcome document will result from the two sessions. [DESA list of VNR countries and links to reports]