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
Photo: Flickr

How the Technology Gap Censors and Silences the World's PoorTechnology often feels like it has inundated our lives, yet about 60 percent of the world’s population does not have Internet access. Technological progress has jumpstarted globalization and fed growing economies, but the International Monetary Fund shows that it has also created a technology gap that is the driving force in inequality. The voices of impoverished people are almost completely lost in today’s technological world.

China made headlines in the U.S. recently for their technological censorship. The Communist Party holds congress October 18 and as the date has been approaching, the Chinese government has interfered with communications they cannot directly monitor. It is easy to criticize such blatant corruption – the story even made New York Times headlines – but there is comparably little concern over the fact that poverty creates a societal censorship more crippling than any government.

The freedom to communicate has been autonomous for most of history, only hindered by disability or geographical and cultural divide. Technology gave the world a solution to these roadblocks and seemed to “shrink” the world. But now it has been marketized so much that a single shift in Apple’s quarterly earnings will shift the entire Dow Jones Industrial Average. Technology is commercialized and treated as a privilege rather than a right, taking the right to communicate along with it.

The U.N.‘s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development names the technology gap as one of the greatest obstacles to eradicating poverty. The Mexico delegate expressed that bridging that gap means “embracing the information society which was plural, transparent, decentralized, democratic and egalitarian.”

China’s censorship is only one symptom and one example of a government working against that vision. The country ranks 79th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which is even a relatively liberal position compared to some of the world’s poorest countries. The majority of the most corrupt countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and northward into the Middle East. Business Insider’s list of the poorest countries, based on International Monetary Fund data, shows the same pattern and attributes the correlation to “authoritarian regimes where corruption is rampant.”

Two of the best examples of this are the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Ranked the two poorest countries in the world, they are also both on the list of the 20 most corrupt countries. Furthermore, in the Central African Republic, just over four percent of the population are Internet users, whereas just under four percent are Internet users in the Congo. About 10 years ago, that number was less than one percent in both countries. The technology gap means that people who need the world’s help the most unfortunately do not have the resources to ask for it.

The U.S. passed a piece of legislation this year called The Digital Gap Act, which was implemented in September and hopes to bring first time Internet access to 1.5 billion people by 2020. This is just one step – though an important one – in the direction toward a global society that is representative of the entire population, and a step toward helping eradicate poverty by ensuring those who need it most have access to helpful technology.

Brooke Clayton
Photo: Flickr

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is exploring what the future of work will look like around the world.

ILO hosted a global dialogue in early April to discuss the future of work and how various aspects of today’s world, such as climate change, technological innovation and shifts in poverty, affect labor. In addition, the Leaders Forum of the annual ILO conference will focus on the future of work. The conference is scheduled for June 5-17, 2017.

The ILO has seven initiatives to implement by 2019 to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The Director-General set these initiatives in 2013, to plan for challenges that face international labor. These include the Future of Work Initiative, the End to Poverty Initiative, the Women at Work Initiative, the Green Initiative, the Standards Initiative, the Enterprises Initiative and the Governance Initiative.

The Future of Work Initiative will examine trends and issues that explore the challenges the workforce will face over the next century. The End to Poverty Initiative will help implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Women at Work Initiative will work toward the equality of women in the workplace. The Green Initiative will focus on environmentally sustainable employment. The Standards Initiative will focus on revising international labor standards. The Enterprises Initiative will work with enterprises in the private sector in all regions of the world. The Governance Initiative will reform the ILO leadership structure, the International Labour Conference, regional meetings and evaluate the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization

Formed in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, ILO is founded on the values of social justice and human rights. The organization’s first members included Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. The organization, originally affiliated with the League of Nations, became a part of the first specialized agency of the U.N. in 1946. Today, the organization has 187 member states.

In 2017, the ILO is putting together a High-Level Commission on the future of work. In 2018, the commission is scheduled to publish a report and recommendations. At the 2019 ILO Conference, member states may adopt a Centenary Declaration.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

The leading causes of death among children around the world include preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. Malnutrition has been reported to be the underlying contributing factor to these health complications. Although progress is being made in limiting the extent of malnutrition, many starving children from disadvantaged groups are being overlooked in this mission.

Malnutrition makes children more vulnerable to common infections, increases the severity of these infections and also extends the recovery process. If the severity of malnutrition persists, by 2030, there will be an estimated 129 million children under the age of 5 whose growth will be stunted due to malnutrition.

Children can experience wasting if malnutrition is severe enough. In 2015, about 50 million children under the age of 5 were wasted and 17 million children were severely wasted.

Despite the magnitude of malnutrition, some children continue to go unnoticed because of where they live or the circumstances in which they were born. The odds of a child surviving depend on factors such as whether the child is living in a rural area or if the child belongs to a disadvantaged ethnic group.

Children who are disabled or affected by war are disadvantaged when it comes to the aid they receive. Save the Children published a report in 2015 titled “The Lottery of Birth” that revealed in more than 75% of low and middle-income countries, inequalities in child survival rates are worsening.

The Save the Children report explains that although overall progress is being made in reducing the number of under-5 childhood deaths, this change is mostly attributed to the progress being made in more privileged groups of children. The report calls this disparity an “unfair lottery of birth” given that factors that are simply a matter of chance are determining whether children live to celebrate their fifth birthday. The report also notes that if the world were to pursue an equitable means of reducing child mortality, progress would ensue 6% faster over the course of 10 years.

In order to tackle the inequality that underlies the distribution of aid to malnourished children, countries need to follow in the footsteps of countries, like Rwanda, Malawi, Mexico and Bangladesh, that have combined rapid and inclusive reductions in child mortality, thus ensuring that no groups of children are excluded.

The U.N. also adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which is replacing the Millennium Development Goals. This new framework is even more ambitious in its goals for child and maternal survival rates and in its commitment to work toward a more comprehensive solution for global malnutrition. The purpose of the Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all people can “fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.”

Although progress has been made, in order to more effectively and efficiently tackle the issue of malnutrition, poor and marginalized groups need to have access to the same quality services as any other group suffering the same conditions.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr