Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) lab reviews progress towards sustainable development goals

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The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and its sister regional commissions on Thursday hosted a Regional Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) Lab on the margins of the ongoing high level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development.

The Lab was held on the theme; “From presentation to implementation: Regional support to the follow-up on the VNR process.”

The other regional commissions are the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The VNR featured a panel of experts from each of the regions and an interactive discussion with the participants, including representatives of member States, regional organisations, UN agencies and representatives of Major Groups and other Stakeholders.

Setting the scene for the Lab, the moderator, Mr. Amr Nour, Director of the Regional Commissions in the New York Office, outlined the objective of the Lab, which is to provide a platform for member States, regional organizations and stakeholders to exchange experiences and identify good practices and recommendations emerging from the regions to support the follow-up on the VNRs, address gaps and accelerate SDG implementation at the country and regional levels.

The experts from the regions were Ms. Luz Keila Virginia Gramajo Vilchez, Asesora Despacho Superior / Despacho Superior, Secretaría de Planificación y Programación de la Presidencia -Segeplán- Guatemala for Latin America and the Caribbean; Ms Sara Hamouda, SDGs and Agenda 2063 Expert African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), for Africa; H.E. Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, Special Envoy for Sustainability and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel, for UNECE; Mr. Roy Trivedy, UN Resident Coordinator Timor Leste for Asia Pacific; and Ms. Karima El-Korri, Chief, 2030 Agenda Unit, ESCWA for Arab States.

Ms. Hamouda stressed the need for strong institutions and the importance of partnerships at regional level to support the VNRs and implementation of the two Agendas. Ms. Hamouda observed that 19 countries in Africa were yet to conduct VNRs.

She noted that among these countries were those in conflict or post-conflict situations and required focused support for VNRs and implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063. The SDGs expert also highlighted the mandate given to the APRM by the African Union in monitoring and reporting on the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

In this regard she pointed out the existing partnership between ECA and APRM citing ongoing collaboration in capacity development workshops for VNR countries.

Commenting, Mr. Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA African Centre for Statistics and Officer in Charge of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management, noted the challenge for Africa to implement the two agenda in an integrated manner.

“That is why ECA and partners have developed a tool to assist the countries to align their implementation frameworks with the two Agendas and a common set of indicators for the regional level reporting,” he said.

The ECA is also developing a strategic plan to support VNRs. Mr. Chinganya pointed out that the regional forum on sustainable development was providing a platform for peer learning and exchange on VNRs, but the limited time for the forums constrained exhaustive dialogue. He underlined the need for Governments to increase investment in data and statistics.

The meetings recognized the important role of the regional level in supporting countries to conduct and follow-up on VNRs. The regional level plays an important role of providing platforms for peer learning on VNRs and implementation of the SDGs; expanding multi-stakeholder dialogue and motivating acceleration of action; and serving as think tanks and centres of diverse technical expertise, integration of the social, economic and environment dimensions and as a vehicle for addressing shared and cross-boundary challenges including through south-south cooperation.

To strengthen regional level support to VNRs and implementation of the SDGs, the Lab highlighted that the periodic regional progress assessment reports needs to be produced in a more inclusive way and participation of countries.

The regional progress report should be one of the avenues to communicate good practices. Special attention should be given to incentivise and support countries that are yet to conduct VNRs, including those in conflict or post-conflict situations.

The regional level should contribute to cultivating strong political leadership and commitment for the SDGs as well as effectively contribute to closing the gaps between the global, regional, national and sub-national levels.

The UN and its partners were urged to go beyond the platforms to identifying champions and advocates for good practices; go beyond professionals and reach ordinary people with message for action on SDGs; and bolster support to strengthen capacity for data and statistics for evidence-based design of implementation frameworks, monitoring and reporting.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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