36. How Voluntary National Reviews Are Propelling Us Towards our Goals

The United Nations High-Level Political Forum met on July 18, 2018, to reaffirm its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as to assess the progress that has been made towards achieving its goals thus far.

In an address to the Forum, Secretary-General António Guterres urged that “we need to embed the essence of the 2030 Agenda into everything we do.” This, he explained, will be vital to meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Statements like this have, to some extent, fallen on deaf ears in past years, as some countries failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Voluntary National Reviews: Achieving Transparency and Accountability

In the past, the issues of accountability and transparency have been a focal point for the United Nations and the High-Level Political Forum. Most of the actions that the United Nations and its member states agreed to undertake are voluntary and SDGs are not an exception. For this reason, it is difficult to identify what exactly each country’s “end of the bargain” is. The institution and increased use of Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), however, are addressing this issue.

Voluntary National Reviews have played a fundamental role in facilitating transparency in regards to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. VNRs are state-led analyses of each nation’s contributions to aforementioned Goals. The Reviews are conducted in collaboration with most, if not all, sectors of a nation’s government, making for a wholesome and accurate source of information to be shared and discussed at the High-Level Political Forum, as well as in other assemblies.

Voluntary National Reviews role and responsibility

VNRs allow member states to take note of and critique the ways in which other members of the global community are addressing important issues like poverty, education, environment, and more. The Reviews are not statistical analyses but rather collaborative policy and plan analyses which aim to ensure that each nation is working hard and efficiently to contribute in the best way possible to the goals of the Agenda. Conclusions about levels of commitment and strategies to embed the goals in the framework of each member state can be found in the annual VNR Synthesis Report.

Forty-six countries presented their VNRs at the High-Level Political Forum, adding to the 65 that have already presented in 2018. Participatory numbers have more than doubled each year since 2016, showing that member states are even more committed to upholding their individual goals in order to achieve the United Nation’s ultimate goals.

The virtue of VNRs today has been a vice for the United Nations throughout its history. Their voluntary nature allows them to act as an affirmation of a member’s commitment to the SDGs as well as to fighting poverty, opening access to education and addressing the global issues that have yet to be fully addressed. VNRs are proving and will continue to prove to be powerful catalysts for change and progress towards the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

– Julius Long
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