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Source: Small Island Developing States

May 2019: A global workshop for countries presenting voluntary national reviews in July 2019 addressed data, mobilizing resources, ownership, stakeholder engagement and communication, among other topics. The Second Global Workshop took place in February 2019, and the summary was released in May 2019.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized the workshop in collaboration with the UN System Staff College (UNSSC), with support from the Government of Germany. The peer learning event brought together 65 participants, including the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), 47 government officials from VNR countries, representatives of the UN Regional Commissions as well as Resident Coordinators from some VNR countries, the summary notes. It took place at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany, from 19-20 February 2019. A brief overview of the workshop is provided here, based on previously available information.

Per the summary, ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King noted that while the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) provides an opportunity to engage with the international community and to mobilize support for implementing the SDGs, the VNRs are conducted for the countries’ own benefit, and allow them to develop a roadmap of actions for reaching the SDGs. She encouraged participants to set up coordinated follow-up processes to build on lessons learned during the preparation and presentation of the VNR.

The summary compares the 2030 Agenda to a Rubik’s cube, where one must look at all parts at once to foster an approach that is mindful of all dimensions of sustainable development. It describes the VNRs as an opportunity to revisit planning and implementation processes of the 2030 Agenda, and to connect dots in separate monitoring and reporting processes. A national review also can serve as an action plan to advance SDG implementation, and as a process for engaging all stakeholders in a shared vision for implementation.

The UN Statistical Commission has developed a list of global and national proxies to use for SDG monitoring.

Per the summary, no country has available data for all 232 global indicators, and data gaps and lack of capacity are major obstacles to measuring and achieving the Goals. Difficulties with cooperation on data also exist between various levels of government, and that some municipalities barely know about the SDGs. The summary says while countries should try to use the global SDG indicators, national indicators and proxies can be used in the interim to fill data gaps. In this regard, the authors note that the UN Statistical Commission has developed a list of global and national proxies that can be used for SDG monitoring.

The summary also outlines ongoing DESA projects and initiatives to increase data availability and dissemination, such as: a UN Statistics Division (UNSD) pilot project to support SDG monitoring through capacity gap assessments; a Development Account Programme on Data and Statistics to strengthen capacity in key statistical areas; a E-Handbook on SDG indicators; and a SDG Monitoring and Reporting toolkit for UN country teams.

On mobilizing resources for implementing the 2030 Agenda, the summary underlines the importance of aligning national budgets with SDG implementation, and ensuring coordination between planning agencies and the country’s ministry of finance. The summary reports that while countries have successfully aligned the SDGs with their national development plans, they have not identified any separate revenues or funds for the SDGs, and although there is some interest from the private sector in SDG financing, it is difficult to turn this into reality. Among initiatives adopted by countries to mobilize resources, the summary highlights the SDG Investment Fair, which brings countries and investors together. At the SDG Investment Fair that took place from 15-17 April 2019, in New York, many countries that conducted VNRs in 2018 presented at the Fair, according to the summary. The summary further suggests that countries use the guiding questions included in the VNR Handbook to prepare key messages on financing, and to rally action for addressing bottlenecks.

On ensuring ownership of the VNR and coherent engagement by the government and public institutions, the summary outlines a three tier-approach: defining a broad vision and strategic policy direction, as well as national priorities, and integrating global commitments and frameworks (first tier); coordinating with line ministries and government agencies and strengthening of their capacity to implement the SDGs (second tier); and coordinating technical work (third tier). The summary also suggests involving parliamentarians.

On stakeholder engagement, the summary outlines challenges encountered by countries, such as a “multiplicity” of civil society organizations (CSOs) and umbrella organizations that may not represent the variety of stakeholders, making SDG data available to all stakeholders, and adopting an inclusive communication strategy. It notes the need for the UN to provide capacity building for civil society engagement, and reports that some countries that will present their VNR at the July 2019 HLPF plan to include stakeholder representatives in their delegation, while others consult stakeholders on VNR preparation.

On communication for SDG implementation, the summary suggests sharing best practices in tailoring communication to different constituencies, selecting youth SDG ambassadors, and using youth organizations to improve the communication on the SDGs and the engagement of youth.

The summary encourages participants to use the HLPF as a networking platform, and to use VNR Labs, side events and special events to further engage. It notes that the UN Secretariat will look into the possibility of a monthly VNR newsletter, among other initiatives.

The summary indicates that governments’ VNR reports should be submitted to the UN Secretariat by 14 June 2019, and they will be posted on the UN’s VNR database. The document notes that no official report will be produced on individual VNR discussions, but main lessons from the “combined VNRs” will be reflected in the thematic summary of the HLPF session to be prepared by the ECOSOC President.

The summary also announces that the Third Global Workshop for 2019 VNR countries will take place on 14 July 2019 in New York, with official VNR presentations starting on 15 July at the HLPF. [Meeting Summary]

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