Voluntary national reviews: Inconsistencies persist in following up on the SDGs

Aug 3, 2022

About the event

The eighth United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) took place between 5 and 15 July 2022. The theme was “Building back better from the coronavirus disease while advancing towards the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”. During the hybrid event, seven Latin American and Caribbean countries (Paraguay, Argentina, Dominica, Grenada, Suriname, El Salvador, and Jamaica) presented their voluntary national reviews on the progress made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. 

Cepei, the SDG Lab at UN, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) organized a webinar to share the conclusions of the Forum and the progress made toward sustainable development when only eight years remain to meet the 2030 Agenda. 

The session focused on identified challenges to fulfilling the SDGs. Javier Surasky, Program Officer for Governance and Financing for Sustainable Development at Cepei, stated that “the fact that only 6 out of 193 countries have yet to present their first VNRs is a marker of success. However, countries are still centering their reports around the national context, instead of explaining the processes followed to meet the 2030 Agenda”.

Countries still require significant efforts to present quality voluntary national reviews that respond to sustainable development challenges. Today, second and subsequent VNRs are more common, but the construction process still has room for improvement. 


Cepei’s contribution


The lack of data and governments’ wariness of using unofficial data contribute to information gaps in VNRs. There is a generalized lack of knowledge on how the contributions of the remaining sustainable development stakeholders were included, which is a mandatory task when constructing the reports.


The VNRs presented in 2022 show that countries still fail to understand that reports must account for the progress made on the 17 SDGs and not only the Goals under thematic review. There is currently no complete picture of the progress made on the 2030 Agenda, only a fragmented one.


VNRs approach requires urgent change. At this point, after eight HLPF meetings, the reports should describe “procedures” and not “situations.” The latter are disjointed and fragmented presentations that do not provide construction and progress evidence.


If countries do not find a way to improve the quality of the reports with concrete political guidelines, the 2030 Agenda will be left behind.


HLPF 2022: How to take advantage of lessons learned while building VNRs?


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