1 July 2019: Most of the 47 countries scheduled to present voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of SDG progress during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) have released their full VNR reports. Issuance of these reports marks one of the last steps before countries present their VNRs at the 2019 HLPF.
The 2030 Agenda calls for the presentation of VNRs each year to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, in order to accelerate SDG implementation around the world. These reviews are presented during the HLPF session that takes place each July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). By the end of the July 2019 HLPF, 142 countries will have presented reviews since the VNR mechanism began in 2016.
Prior to the HLPF, countries submit the “main messages” of their VNRs to the UN Secretariat. These are made available online. The main messages provide a brief overview of each country’s more detailed VNR report. Main messages for the 47 countries presenting VNRs in 2019 were released in May, and SDG Knowledge Hub summaries are available according to country groups, namely the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG), the Eastern European Group (EEG), the African Group, the Asia-Pacific Group, and the small island developing States (SIDS).
As outlined in this SDG Knowledge Hub story, in October 2018, 51 countries had initially volunteered to present their VNRs at the 2019 HLPF, but four withdrew from the list (Brazil, El Salvador, Eritrea and France). Of the 47 remaining VNR countries, 40 are conducting VNRs for the first time. These will make presentations during the three-day ministerial segment of the HLPF, from 16-18 July. These countries are: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Chile, the Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Eswatini, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, the Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the UK, Tanzania, and Vanuatu.
An additional seven countries will be presenting a VNR for the second time: Azerbaijan, Chile, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Turkey. Their presentations will take place in a panel format, on 15 July, according to the HLPF draft programme.
In order to help countries prepare their reviews, the UN has released: voluntary common reporting guidelines outlined by the UN Secretary-General; questions and answers (Q&A) on VNRs; and a ‘Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews’ that provides “basic, practical information” on steps that countries may take when preparing a review.
In addition, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has held two preparatory workshops for the 2019 VNR countries, in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2018, and in Bonn, Germany, in February 2019. A third workshop is expected to take place on 14 July 2019, in New York, US, the day before VNR presentations begin.
Among efforts to reflect on the VNR mechanism, ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King has established a Group of Friends of the VNRs and of the follow-up and review of the HLPF, in order to increase peer learning and sharing best practices and lessons learned. According to this briefing, the Group, chaired by Mexico, seeks to help address the challenge of having only 30 minutes to present and discuss each VNR during the HLPF.