21 June 2018: All 47 countries that plan to present voluntary national reviews (VNRs) during the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) have released their “main messages,” providing an overview of SDG action and plans, and progress and challenges with SDG implementation. Main messages for Namibia and Switzerland were released on 21 June, bringing to 47 the number of countries for which main messages are accessible on the UN’s webpage for the VNRs.

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. A number of countries present their VNR during the HLPF held under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) each July. Their respective main messages are released prior to the meeting, and provide a summary of more comprehensive review documents that are prepared by governments as a basis for their report and discussion during the Forum.

In its main messages, Namibia states that the SDGs have been embedded in its Fifth National Development Plan that focuses on economic progression, social transformation, environmental sustainability and good governance, and that “an extensive campaign” was undertaken to sensitize the Namibian community on both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 − the long-term strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa. The government also reports that: existing national structures are used to ensure harmonized reporting and accountability; a baseline report was compiled to provide the data status on the SDGs’ indicators; and it commits to complete the development of its national indicator framework in order to provide key meta-data on all the SDG indicators.

In Namibia, growth has not translated into commensurate employment opportunities, instead resulting in increased inequality.

Namibia’s messages indicate that over the last ten years, the country registered “significant progress” regarding economic growth and decreased the level of poverty (SDG1) from 28.8% to 17.4%. However, it says, growth has not translated into commensurate employment opportunities, instead resulting in increased levels of inequality.

On good health and well-being (SDG 3), Namibia’s messages mention “significant progress” recorded on HIV/AIDS, and challenges related to stunting, anemia and neonatal mortality. On quality education (SDG 4), the document reports a 16.2% gross enrolment ratio in tertiary education in 2016, which is “above sub-Saharan African standards,” but explains that quality and relevance of university education “has been a serious concern of both private and public sector employers,” and the transition from secondary to higher education is “very low.” On gender (SDG 5), the messages note that women occupy 43% of the managerial positions in the public sector, 43% of the parliamentarians positions and 40% of the government executive, but the proportion of women partaking in science and other high-paying fields remains low.

On clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), Namibia indicates that access to safe drinking water in both rural and urban areas is at 98% in average in both rural and urban areas, although only 54% of households have access to improved sanitation nationally. On climate action (SDG 13), it says climate change continues to exacerbate land degradation, impacts its marine resources, and has already reversed gains made in the agricultural sector, with the persistent occurrence of drought and floods. On life on land (SDG 15), it notes the “effective implementation” of the Community-Based Natural Resources Management Programme, which empowers communities to meaningfully and legally manage, use, and benefit from natural resources. On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), it indicates that Namibia received the fifth “highest score” on good governance out of 54 African nations, and that Transparency International recognized Namibia as the third most transparent country in Africa. Nevertheless, it adds, 65% of Namibians have expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to fight corruption in the country.

Switzerland main messages report that the country is already at an “advanced stage” in achieving various SDGs and has already fulfilled a number of SDG targets, with the country being free of extreme poverty (target 1.1) and hunger (target 2.1), while education (target 4.1) is free, compulsory and of good quality. Switzerland notes that its Federal Council commissioned a comprehensive baseline assessment and gap analysis of the implementation status of the 2030 Agenda at federal level. The analysis concerned all SDG 169 targets and covered both domestic and international contributions. The government reports that the gap analysis found a “positive trend” for 39 out of 85 chosen indicators, while 12 showed no significant evolution, 14 showed a negative trend, and 20 indicators could not be assessed. The baseline assessment found that consumption of natural resources (SDG 12) is increasing overall.

Per Switzerland’s main messages, a quadrennial strategy, valid until 2019, includes priorities defined by the Federal Council for implementing sustainable development nationally, and the 2030 Agenda is an “important reference framework” for the country’s international cooperation, which “aligns its activities with the SDGs.” On vertical integration, Switzerland notes that the 2030 Agenda is implemented at the federal, cantonal and communal levels, taking into account “current obligations, competencies and established division of tasks.”

The document indicates that: many cantons and communes have defined their own strategies for sustainable development; and the federal government will intensify dialogue and support them in implementing the 2030 Agenda, including through platforms for exchange and networks. According to the messages, an advisory group composed of interested non-state actors provides a platform for further dialogue with the federal government and for partnerships to implement the 2030 Agenda, and Parliament should be more closely involved in the future.

IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub has reported on the other 45 countries for which main messages were available before 21 June. The first 35 main messages are covered here, and an additional ten are summarized here.

The HLPF will take place from 9-18 July 2018, in New York, US, and will consider the theme, ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.’ VNRs will be presented during the Forum’s ministerial segment, convening from 16-18 July. [VNR Website] [Unedited version of UN Secretariat’s compilation of main messages] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on the first 35 VNR messages] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Benin, Mali, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Bahrain, UAE, Viet Nam, Colombia, Ecuador, and Andorra] [HLPF 2018 website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on HLPF 2018 programme] [SDG Knowledge Hub Guide for HLPF 2018]