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Progressing National SDGs Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2019

Key Messages

  • Countries are more consistently following guidelines for Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports and providing information on most aspects of 2030 Agenda implementation.
  • Reporting suggests that leaving no one behind is becoming a defining consideration in implementing the SDGs. However, except for leaving no one behind, VNRs continue to pay limited attention to the transformative principles of the 2030 Agenda.
  • While there is evidence of increased engagement with civil society organizations, results are mixed. It is particularly concerning that countries remain silent on closing civic space globally and ongoing attacks on human rights defenders and environmentalists.

The fourth in a regular series of reports commissioned by civil society organizations, this report provides an independent analysis of the 47 English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports submitted in 2019 to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Prepared by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, the report identifies 10 key pillars that we believe are essential to the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also recognizes emerging good practice and sets out a range of conclusions and recommendations with respect to how countries can both improve their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and use the HLPF as an opportunity for mutual peer learning, knowledge exchange and support. Importantly, the review also provides a comparative assessment of how VNR reporting is evolving over time through a comparison of analysis of the VNRs in 2016, 2017 and 2018 with findings for 2019.

This year’s report showcases positive trends with respect to reporting on leaving no one behind and stakeholder engagement. However, it also underlines the continued silence by member states in Voluntary National Review reports on the closing of civic space and discusses how this impacts the ability of all stakeholders to engage and implement the sustainable development goals.