47 countries including 10 African Member states have submitted their voluntary reviews on the Sustainable Development Goals at the high level political forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development happening in New York this week in a session that started on 9th July.
The Forty-seven countries – both developed and developing – presented on the actions they are taking to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals during the three-day ministerial meeting from 16 to 18 July when they present their Voluntary National Reviews.
The Voluntary National Reviews are part of the follow-up and review mechanism for the 2030 agenda which states agreed to in September 25, 2015. As stipulated in paragraph 84 of the 2030 Agenda, regular reviews by the High Level Political Forum-HLPF are to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and involve multiple stakeholders.
On the 29th of June, 2018, The Chief of Intergovernmental Policy at the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs, Ms. Irena Zubcevici in a webex meeting addressed journalists gathered at the UN Information Centres dotted cross the globe about the High level political forum so that they in turn inform the public about this very important meeting which involves everybody.
She said, “Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed this year include goals on water, energy, cities, environment sustainable consumption production, SDG 17 Partnership on means of implementation (Goals 6,7, 11,12 and 15, with Goal 17) and the outcome of the meeting is the Ministerial Declaration which gives political guidance on the review and implementation of the 2030 agenda.”
The Economic and Social Council-ECOSOC is responsible for convening the High Level Political Forum whose aim is to discuss the progress being made among states on the SDG’s and the 2030 agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals knowledge online platform further informs that, “The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The VNRs also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The theme for this year’s High Level Political forum is, “Transformation towards Sustainable and Resilient societies.”
Irena pointed out that, The number of countries presenting reviews at the High Level Political Forum in New York keeps increasing each year. “In 2016, 22 countries opened doors to the voluntary reviewing process, in 2017 there were 43 countries and in 2018, 47 countries are in the process of submitting their VNR’s including 10 African countries namely, Benin, Cape Verde, Congo Brazaville, Egypt, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.”
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is not an option, it is an imperative for a safe and secure future of prosperity, opportunity and human rights for all, and it is within our grasp. This will require greater attention and more resources, but the investments will pay dividends for years to come. Taking action on the Sustainable Development Goals isn’t just the right thing to do—it makes economic sense as well.
During the webex meeting, journalists from Ghana-asked about the African representation and why only few countries presented their reviews. In response they heard that the voluntary national reviews are only 47 due to the limited time available for countries to present. The criteria for these countries, is on first come first served basis and the limitation is for the three days. After this, other countries express their intention to present next year.
Besides the 47 countries submitting Voluntary reviews, there are some 198 countries participating in the High Level Political forum as a whole-following up the process. This forum carries the all State Formula meaning more than the 193 UN member states participate. Observer states like Palestine also participate. Journalists from Bahrain, specifically from The Gulf Daily News were informed that besides Bahrain, other Gulf States that would present their reviews were Qartar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Palestine.
While most African countries are yet to submit even one review, Egypt which represented its VNR in 2016 is presenting again in 2018. Togo has submitted each year since 2016. A website has been dedicated to Egypt on the VNR on the report and submissions. There is a lot of information on the Voluntary National reviews on the SDG knowledge platform there is also a synthesis report for all countries that submitted reviews in 2016/2017. The countries presenting VNRs are Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Congo, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, and Viet Nam. Uganda submitted in 2016, Kenya in 2017.
Tanzania will submit its Voluntary National Review in July 2019. This was said during a meeting convened to discuss and coordinate Tanzania’s Sustainable Development Goals implementation at the Julius Nyerere International Convention centre recently. According to ECOSOC already 30 countries have registered for 2019. In that meeting, One ECOSOC Youth champion, Rahma Mwita from Tanzania called for the engagement of young people to participate in the review process. Youth affirmative actions are key to the achievement of the goals.
Tanzania has a number of good stories including fight against corruption, infrastructure development, health sector developments, free education, the Standard Gauge Railway and the reviving of Air Tanzania. Sectoral reforms can be showcased and fingers can point on existing evidence. The standard of living is improving-the road towards 2030.
During the webex with journalists, The Intergovernmental Policy Chief, Irena informed journalists that “Member states are encouraged to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” The national reviews are expected to serve as a basis for the regular reviews by the high-level political forum (HLPF), meeting under the auspices of ECOSOC.
Last year, some 2500 stakeholders including civil society, academia, UN system officials, Governments and youths participated in the High Level Political forum and the same number is being recorded this year. 55 ministers confirmed participation to the on going event.
Like many global conferences and events, a number of side events take place around the official meetings. UN has recorded over 120 side events on partnerships, business forum, labs for voluntary national reviews, SDG learning platforms which are taking place and where participants can come to learn about SDG’ goals and agenda. Please visit https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf/2018; for the Local and Regional Governments’ Forum (16 July) and the SDG Business Forum (17 July)
This means that at next year’s event, Tanzania’s multi sector partners can also utilize the side-events platforms to speak on specific success stories undertaken in the country. For example, on Sustainable Tourism, UN World Tourism Organization has released a manual on how to develop a sustainable tourism. A link between Tourism and sustainable growth-the circular economy- managing wastes protecting life on land/anti-poaching-could be presented by TANAPA at the global event. Many success stories lie in wait and the global platform could be utilized fully.
Data and developing countries;
A journalist from Tanzania expressed concern about data gaps or missing data which may hinder many African countries from submitting their reports. A question was also asked on the status of funding for SDG’s in Africa.
Irena clarified that this was a million-dollar question in that “all countries have a serious issue with data-it cuts across the board-different countries have different challenges.” However, she continued to say that, “in the (UN)department, we are working on statistical capacity of developing countries including Tanzania. Not a single country has all indicators to measure the goals. The UN system is looking for the best ways to assist the countries to develop statistics office to develop data.” In Tanzania, The Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics is already serving in this area.
However, data is a major challenge in many parts of the world. Disaggregated data is missing and even when data exists it may not provide finer reliable details. For instance in Tanzania while the country conducted a census which included people with disability which is great progress, work may still need to be done to identify how many people live with the different types of disabilities. This is one tiny bit of the whole equation, on the development side overral- more reliable data needs to serve as a baseline for measuring the targets and indicators.
Progress is being made—more people are living better now than just ten years ago. But a far greater effort is needed to achieve the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind on the road to a better life and a hopeful future. Only data can help provide evidence to this effect.
Without data, it is not easy to mark the level of success with the outlined indicators. Each of the Sustainable Development Goals has targets and indicators to measure its implementation. Without data you cannot know how far you have advanced. Irena explained to journalists that funding and resource mobilization needs also to focus on the need for nations to develop their data and statistical developments. “There are a number of workshops, capacity building workshops looking every day how to improve so that countries can measure but also to collect and use the data.” Added Irena.
The High Level Political Forum is a good example of how the convening power of the UN can help nations to adopt and improve of their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Member states can now hear lessons learned and gain experiences from other countries. Countries can imitate good practices that have worked in other countries and apply them locally depending on the culture and matter at hand.
The Intergovernmental Policy Chief- Irena also informed that all Voluntary National reviews sessions will be preceded by a statistical detail on where we are globally with each SDG’s. General data on the prominence of the SDG’s given before country presentations. Countries can then relate to that global picture and see where they are and what needs to be done.
The good thing overall with the Sustainable Development Goals Review process is that this is not a finger pointing exercise but a platform for member states to show case what has been accomplished and sharing with others so that others can learn-its more of a cherry on the cake. More work has been done by the country nationally and at the High Level Political Forum it is more of sharing the success/challenges story of countries’ progress. No one should be left behind in this process. Individual actions are important. Personal adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by people in both developed and developing countries move us closer to achieving them.
What next after reviews
After the reviews The Economic and Social Council- ECOSOC prepares a synthesis report indicating the categories, institutions, means of implementation, a number of analytical studies have been looked at before for instance in 2017 they looked at old Vienna reports from the angle of Policy coherence, partnerships and leaving no one behind. Other studies also analyses the reports. Irena informed that, “After countries present the report, the idea is we work closely with UN Country Teams- UNCT so that they follow up with the country and see after the report was done what are the areas where the country still face challenges and to see how they can best support them.” She also confirmed that, “We also hear from donors in their support for these countries-what are the identified challenges they want to see how they could support countries to curb these challenges.” The important thing is for the civil society to work closely with government and private sectors to follow through these processes and harness the opportunities.
The Department of Public Information has since the inception of the Sustainable Development Goals informed people around the world about the developments of the goals. A number of websites and social media platforms have been provided globally for everyone to follow; The global statistical information is also available in the SG report on the progress with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Please visit these websites for more information. The SDGMedia Zone programme, will during the Ministerial Segment of the have full day sessions (16-17 July) that feature government officials and mayors, civil society and business leaders on broadcast. More information is available here; http://www.un.org/sdgmediazone/ ; https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/vnrs/; https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/monitoring-and-progress/
by Stella Vuzo,Information Officer, UN Information Centre in Dar es Salaam
email: firstname.lastname@example.org twitter:@stella_vuzo