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Source: Small Island Developing States

May 2019: Ahead of the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), 16 Asia-Pacific countries have released the “main messages” of their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of SDG implementation at the national level. The main messages provide a brief overview of more comprehensive reports being prepared by each government, which are expected to be submitted to the UN Secretariat by 14 June 2019.

In accordance with the 2030 Agenda, VNRs are presented during the HLPF session held each July under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to facilitate the sharing of national experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, in order to accelerate SDG implementation around the world.

The 16 countries from Asia and the Pacific that will present VNRs in 2019 are: Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mongolia, Nauru, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan and Vanuatu. Six of these (Fiji, Nauru, Palau, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu) are small island developing States (SIDS), and their VNR main messages are summarized here.

Indonesia’s messages indicate that the SDGs have been institutionalized from the “highest national level” to sub-national entities. They note the involvement of parliament, and of the Supreme Audit Board in SDG implementation, evaluation and review. Per the document, Indonesia’s VNR was developed through an inclusive approach using both online and offline consultations. Among areas of progress, the country says: it has reduced inequality and poverty; job opportunities and education access have increased in all levels; greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and disaster risks have been reduced; and the government has established an SDG Financing Hub to implement innovative financing sources through multi-stakeholder collaboration. Key challenges include limited access to responsive public services, unequal quality education, corruption, lack of inclusive data and the inefficient use of natural resources. Indonesia presented its first VNR in 2017.

According to Iraq’s main messages, the Ministry of Planning serves as the focal point for coordinating, monitoring and reporting on the 2030 Agenda implementation, and a National Committee for Sustainable Development has been established to coordinate action among national and local government actors and stakeholders. The government notes that its VNR preparations involved multiple stakeholders, and that the report focuses on advances and challenges related to the country’s priorities, namely: human development (SDGs 1, 3, 4 and 5), good governance and safe society (SDG 16), economic diversification (SDGs 8 and 9), and a sustainable environment (SDGs 6, 11 and 13). It outlines progress on maternal mortality and poverty, and notes the establishment of a “high anti-corruption council.” The document indicates challenges related to: securing political stability; strengthening national dialogue; establishing inclusive and accountable governance frameworks; addressing demographic pressures, the water crisis and climate change effects; and data limitations, noting the absence of approximately 70% of the global SDG indicators.

At the institutional level, Kuwait notes the establishment of a National Sustainable Development Committee and of a National Observatory on Sustainable Development. It says it has taken steps to reflect all 17 SDG in its national development plan (Kuwait Vision 2035), and in other plans, the budget and the national governance structure. Per Kuwait’s main messages, the country organized over 13 national workshops, targeting over 66 entities from government, non-government and private sector partners to discuss SDGs priorities at the national level. Among the government’s achievements, the main messages outline: the implementation of all-inclusive social protection programmes, which have ensured universal access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, health care, education, transportation and other amenities; and the deployment of capacity development programmes targeting vulnerable groups. They also report that Kuwait’s official development assistance (ODA) increased between 2012 and 2017, maintaining a funding level above 2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Pakistan says it has integrated the SDGs into its national development agenda, a national SDGs framework was launched in 2018, and task forces have been established in the national and provincial parliaments to review progress and facilitate legislative support for implementation. It further indicates that seven SDGs support units have been instituted at the federal and provincial levels to facilitate vertical and horizontal coordination among stakeholders. Among other achievements, the government reports that: it has reduced poverty over the last ten years, and stunting and malnutrition from 2013 to 2018; a new universal health coverage (UHC) initiative (the Sehat Sahulat Program) has been launched to provide health insurance coverage for those in need; and a five-year country-wide tree plantation programme (10 Billion Tree Tsunami) has been established to restore depleted forests and mitigate climate change. On monitoring, Pakistan says it has determined baselines and targets for all SDG indicators, and data collection tools have been modified to improve data availability. Pakistan presented its VNR report during a national conference on 30 May 2019, which is detailed here.

The Philippines introduced a ban on single-use plastics and developed an SCP plan to provide a framework for climate action.

The Philippines reports that its second VNR “emphasizes the synergies between government and non-government actions required to ensure inclusiveness and equality.” It notes that cross-sectoral coordination and orchestration of actions are ensured through existing institutional mechanisms, and the SDGs are integrated into the Philippines Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022. It further notes that SDG targets were identified and reflected in results matrices that accompany the PDP. The Philippines’ main messages announce that the country recently launched an SDG website to provide a platform for broader engagement, including with youth and the Filipino diaspora. The document also outlines government initiatives to make progress on the SDGs, including a ban on single-use plastics, and the development of a sustainable consumption and production action plan “to provide a coherent framework for climate action.” The Philippines presented its first VNR in 2016.

Cambodia, which is a least developed country (LDC), reports that the VNR process, led by the Ministry of Planning, has been “highly consultative” and has involved ministries and local administrations, as well as civil society and business actors. Per the country’s main messages, the VNR includes an in-depth review of six priority areas that correspond to the SDGs that will be reviewed at the July HLPF: quality education (SDG 4); decent work and economic growth (SDG 8); reduced inequalities (SDG 10); climate action (SDG 13); peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16); and partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17). The government notes that the SDGs have been “fully integrated” within planning and policymaking via the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2019-2023, and within budget strategic plans, where the SDG targets “provide key performance measures.” The main messages highlight financial “resourcing,” addressing climate change, as well as data, monitoring and evaluation as part of the country’s implementation challenges.

Three Asia-Pacific VNR reports come from landlocked developed countries: Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Turkmenistan. Mongolia says it uses the SDGs as a “compass” to strengthen consensus around coherent, coordinated actions within the government and across different stakeholders. It reports on the existence of a National Council for Sustainable Development led by the Prime Minister, a Parliamentary Sub-Committee on the SDGs, and a SDG National Development Agency that provides technical support on localizing the SDGs and on ensuring policy integration. It further indicates that a “nationwide effort” is underway to align policy documents with the country’s sustainable development agenda, and the government has created multi-stakeholder working groups to identify national SDG targets and indicators. Per its main messages, Mongolia’s VNR discusses vulnerable groups who are at risk of being left behind, ensuring policy integration and coherence, financing, and effective monitoring and reporting for SDG implementation. The review also features air pollution as an example of a complex, multifaceted development challenge, the messages note, as air pollution in Mongolia affects public health and productivity at considerable cost to the economy.

Turkmenistan reports that a working group comprised of deputy heads of ministries and government agencies, and civil society organizations and academia, has been established to oversee SDG implementation and ensure integration into national, sectoral and regional development programmes. It also notes that its VNR report was prepared with the participation of all stakeholders. The main messages indicate that since the adoption of the SDGs, Turkmenistan has achieved significant progress on social policy, market transformation, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. They note that the country will work on the development of a national SDG indicators framework, and will establish a national SDG database. The document also outlines the need to address financing for sustainable development through partnerships and cooperation with the UN system, the Bretton Woods institutions and international development banks.

Kazakhstan’s and Oman’s messages are only available in Russian and Arabic, respectively.

Main messages from the 47 countries that will present VNRs at the July 2019 HLPF are available via the UN’s database for the 2019 HLPF.

This story is one a series on the main messages of countries that have volunteered to present their VNRs at the July HLPF.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News