Source: Small Island Developing States
May 2019: The small island developing States (SIDS) that are expected to present voluntary national reviews (VNR) of SDG progress during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) have released the main messages of their reviews.
Nine of the 47 VNR countries for 2019 are SIDS. Of these:
- Six countries are from the Asia-Pacific Group (Fiji, Nauru, Palau, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu);
- One (Mauritius) is from the African Group; and
- Two (Guyana and Saint Lucia) are from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).
VNRs are presented each July by countries during the HLPF session that takes place under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to facilitate the sharing of national experiences in order to accelerate SDG implementation around the world. “Main messages” from the VNRs are submitted ahead of time, providing a brief overview of more comprehensive reports that are prepared by each national government.
Fiji’s messages say the country has mainstreamed the SDGs in the thematic areas of its national development plan, and has considered SDG 10 (reduce inequalities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action) as cross-cutting issues across the plan. Per the messages, Fiji has integrated the Goals into sectoral strategic plans and policies, including on education, health and agriculture. The messages highlight vulnerability to the impacts of climate change as a key challenge. The document outlines free education and the reduction of maternal and child mortality rates as areas of progress towards the SDGs. The government further reports that: Fiji’s universal health coverage (UHC) is the highest among Pacific Island Countries; the national economy has achieved nine years of consecutive growth, resulting in declining poverty and inequality and in massive investment in infrastructure; on a per capita basis, Fiji’s financial commitment towards the expansion of legal aid services ranks Fiji as a world leader in funding access to justice (SDG 16); and successful partnerships have been fundamental in delivering critical services ranging from large-scale infrastructure projects to community-based development initiatives.
Nauru reports that its Ministry for Finance spearheaded the VNR process with guidance from a technical working group, and the VNR is aligned with the review of its National Sustainable Development Strategy to avoid duplicating efforts. According to the main messages, the government conducted inclusive consultations with diverse groups of stakeholders through sector-specific consultations, district open forums and questionnaires.
On challenges, the country notes: issues associated with its small size, remote location and narrow production base; a lack of funding and capacity; a “significant burden” posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs); school retention; and risks posed by projected sea-level rise that will require relocation and restoration of the “higher grounds.” On next steps, Nauru says it will implement monitoring and evaluation systems for each priority area, and SDG implementation will be monitored through a Three-year Medium-Term Strategic Framework linked to a multi-year budget.
Palau indicates that it identified 89 national SDG targets after mapping global targets and indicators against domestic priorities, and it plans to integrate the SDGs into planning and budgeting frameworks. According to its main messages, Palau’s 2019 VNR presents a baseline report against the national framework and outlines a pathway to 2030 and beyond. On challenges, the country’s main messages outline the need to close gaps on ensuring quality education, ensuring water safety and drought resilience, protecting sensitive marine ecosystems, conserving near-shore fish stocks, sustainably managing terrestrial ecosystems, and ensuring inclusive economic growth in harmony with nature. Also on challenges, the government highlights access to modern renewable energy, transportation infrastructure, and adapting to climate change.
Timor-Leste reports that in 2017 the country developed an SDG roadmap, and that a commitment to peace, inclusion and institution-building is the foundation for achieving all the SDGs. Among other elements of progress, the government notes: the creation of independent human rights, anti-corruption and electoral institutions; an increase of school attendance; a reduction of maternal and child mortality rates; and improvements related to women’s representation in the National Parliament and in decision-making positions related to peace and security. The main messages indicate that Timor-Leste saves proceeds of its natural oil and gas resources for future generations through its sovereign wealth Petroleum Fund. On challenges, it highlights: school access for children with disabilities; nutrition; high rates of gender-based violence; enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and climate-proofing investments and promoting climate adaption.
Tonga’s messages note that the country’s Strategic Development Framework 2015-2025 is aligned with the 2030 Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway, the Addis Ababa Aaction Agenda on financing for development, and the Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction. Per the document, Tonga’s priorities include ensuring social protection and human rights with a focus on vulnerable groups, strengthening access to vocational training and accreditation to meet international standards, and addressing climate change. Among its achievements, the government says that it continues to honor its commitment to UHC, and regulations are in place to make education inclusive, taking into account students with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. It also reports that: the country has achieved 10% of the 50% share of renewable energy target by 2020; its National Climate Change Policy and Joint National Action Plan 2018-2028 provide strategies for climate actions; and a Climate Change Trust Fund has been established to strengthen coping capacities of all vulnerable communities.
Vanuatu’s main messages say that ‘Vanuatu 2030: The Peoples Plan’ serves as its national sustainable development plan for the period 2016-2030, and is accompanied by a monitoring and evaluation framework. The government reports that it has endorsed gender-responsive budgeting, and recognizes that gender and women’s empowerment should be mainstreamed across ministries.
On education, the messages note that Vanuatu’s National Sector Development Plan mandates that every child, regardless of gender, location, education needs, or circumstances must be able to access the education system. On climate change, the document indicates that the country strives to be a “global leader in disaster recovery” and is in the process of finalizing its National Disaster Recovery Framework, which maps and links all “disaster types.” Vanuatu also notes that the country has adopted a National Anti-Corruption Strategy to eliminate corruption.
African SIDS (AIMS)
Mauritius says it conducted a “SDG mapping” in 2016, and is working towards establishing a permanent national structure to monitor continual progress on the Goals. It notes that its VNR preparation has involved close consultations with different stakeholders.
Its main messages provide an overview of progress on SDGs 1 (no poverty), 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 13, 14 (life below water) and 17 (partnerships for the Goals). They outline the challenge of being a middle-income country (MIC) without easy access to grants or concessional loans. It further calls for more resilient infrastructure, the sustenance of a welfare system, and the need for more funds to build capacity.
Guyana’s main messages note that the country’s long-term development strategy, the ‘Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040,’ reflects principles of a “green agenda” and highlights the need for resilient development for all its citizens. Per the messages, Guyana has undertaken a suite of reforms designed to achieve this vision through a whole-of-government approach, and has carried out programmatic interventions towards advancing the SDGs. Those include: climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives through multi-sectoral approaches such as smart-health facilities; expanding the use of information technology in classrooms; promoting community participation through local government elections; and adapting cleaner energy and resilient infrastructure for expanded connectivity and trade facilitation.
On challenges, Guyana outlines: climate change impacts such as intense flooding in many areas; a lack of human capacity for education reform; the need for “significant” human capital development and institutional strengthening in all sectors; and financing the SDGs. The country also notes the need to reform its national statistical system, including building the relevant capacities for data collection, analysis and reporting, in order to monitor progress.
In its main messages, Saint Lucia reports on the 2017 establishment of a National Coordination Mechanism for the 2030 Agenda that includes the Sustainable Development Goals National Coordinating Committee. Per the messages, the Committee is multi-sectoral and multistakeholder, and seeks to guide the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs in the country. It also has a mandate to engage with faith-based and community-based organizations, and with persons with disabilities, women’s groups and the wider public to ensure that no one is left behind.
As national priorities, Saint Lucia outlines tourism, agriculture and infrastructure, health care, education, citizen security and addressing the adverse effects of climate change. Its messages also identify challenges that limit effective SDG implementation, monitoring and review, such as financial resources, human, technological and institutional capacity, and the need to strengthen the national statistical system.
While not part of the SIDS, two other countries from the Latin American and Caribbean Group (Chile and Guatemala) are also scheduled to present their VNRs at the July HLPF. These two countries have released their main messages in Spanish only. Both presented VNRs previously at the 2017 HLPF.
The July 2019 HLPF will take place under ECOSOC’s auspices on the theme ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.’ According to the draft programme, VNRs are scheduled to be presented from 15-18 July. The main messages are available via the UN’s VNR database. [HLPF 2019 Webpage]
This story is one in a series on the main messages of countries that have volunteered to present their VNRs at the July 2019 HLPF.