Are National Voluntary Reviews promoting awareness and inclusion?
Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 9:18AM
Richard in HLPF

Perceptions survey on civil society and stakeholder engagement in voluntary national reviews and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Together 2030, in partnership with the Newcastle University Politics Department, has carried out a perceptions survey on civil society and stakeholder engagement in voluntary national reviews (VNRs) and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. There were 462 responses from a range of stakeholders, including national, regional and global organizations to a total of 20 questions (although not all questions were directed to all respondents). The survey report addresses:

Its main findings include:

1          Introduction

“Whilst there is wide agreement that stakeholder participation is crucial to meaningful national planning, review and follow-up, two years into the SDGs there is little or no evidence on how far this is being realized in national contexts.”

The report recognizes that the regional level has a role to play and “The Regional Forums on Sustainable Development are expected to become spaces that facilitate regional reviews…” with the outcomes should be brought to the attention of the HLPF

At the global level, the follow up and review process is expected to complement and support national and regional reviews. It is voluntary and state led; respects national ownership; emphasizes means of implementation, inclusiveness, and use of existing platforms; and has a rigorous and data and evidence-based nature. It should draw high-level political attention to gaps or areas where commitments are lagging behind and provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations for follow up to accelerate progress.

2          The survey

Data gathered allowed for disaggregation along combinations of three axes, being collected from four regional groupings:

3          Voluntary national reviews  – Awareness and inclusion

3.1      Awareness of VNRs:

Most respondents from VNR counties (68%, 146) were aware that their country had volunteered to engage on a national review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to be presented during the 2017 HLPF session. 32%, 68 of the respondents were still unaware that their countries had volunteers to present national reviews. 76% of CS respondents were aware that their countries were volunteering to present national reviews at HLPF in 2017. Academic respondents were evenly divided (50-50%)

Levels of awareness of VNRs were: Asia-Pacific (76%); Africa (74%); Europe, Canada and USA (63%); Latin America and Caribbean (59%)

(Lower level of awareness on LAC surprising as 25% of 2017 VNR countries come from this region – negative impact on the inclusivity of consultation in preparation for reviews) 

3.2      Awareness of how VNR processes are being conducted:

25% of CS respondents were aware of the process their governments are following to prepare the VNR; 38% not aware; 37% somewhat aware.

All regions show low levels of awareness about the process to be followed by their governments in preparation for the voluntary national reviews: Africa 20%; Europe, Canada and USA 27%; Asia/Pacific 30%; Latin America and Caribbean 31%.

Being aware of the commitment of a country to present a VNR at the HLPF does not translate into knowledge of the process governments will be following to prepare their national reports

3.3      Civil Society and Stakeholder Engagement on VNRs

65% of all respondents agreed that “civil society and other stakeholders would be able to engage in the preparation of the VNR in their country; 15% strongly disagreed or disagreed; 20% did not know, or neither agreed or disagreed. Respondents referred to presence or absence of obstacles to participation, highlighting a shortfall in how participatory and inclusive some NR processes are. 62% of the civil society sector, answered that they were able to engage in preparation of the VNR; 20@ disagreed; 18% were not aware or did not know.

Regional variations

Respondents agreeing that CS and stakeholders were able to participate in country’s VNR: Europe, Canada and USA 50%; Latin America and Caribbean 66%; Asia/Pacific 67%; Africa 70%.

3.4      Means of engagement for stakeholders

Respondents answered that CS was engaging predominantly through coordinated approaches by coalition/groups (44%), national consultations (38%) and multi-stakeholder committees (31%).

4          Global awareness of, and participation in, national plans and processes

4.1 Global awareness of national implementation plans

41% of respondents (VNR and non-VNR countries) were unaware or only somewhat aware of their countries’ plans to implement the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. 58% (34% aware and 24% very much aware)

Regionally: Africa -- 29% not aware, 46% aware, 25% very much aware; Asia/Pacific -- 32% not aware, 41%     aware, 27% very much aware; Europe/Canada/USA -- 54% not aware, 18% aware, 28% very much aware; Latin America & Caribbean -- 40% not aware, 30% aware, 30% very much aware.

4.2 Access to information

44% of respondents in VNR countries agreed they had the necessary information to engage and contribute to national review; 37% strongly disagreed or disagreed; 18% either did not know or neither agreed or disagreed. The proportion indicating lack of information increases to 49% when non-VNR countries are included and further data shows that at least 1/3 of respondents in non-VNR countries lacked awareness of the global VNR process.

4.3 Qualitative data on awareness and participation

On the one hand, there was a call for more publicity and awareness around countries’ plans to implement the 2030 Agenda and processes for national reviews, on the other,  there was an enthusiasm to participate with a belief that stakeholders can add distinctive value to SDG implementation. Meanwhile there was frustration at the slow pace of government action and lack of opportunities to engage, recognizing a need for capacity building for meaningful engagement.

5          Key findings and recommendation

5.1 The low awareness of VNRs constitutes a major barrier to meaningful participation by stakeholders.

Report recommendation: “Governments need to strengthen efforts to publicize their plans and processes for national review, and opportunities for participation, sharing common challenges and identifying best practices in stakeholder engagement.

5.2 High expectations for civil society and stakeholder participation in national VNR processes has not universally translated into genuine spaces and opportunities for engagement.

Report recommendation: Governments will need to match the willingness and enthusiasm of civil society and stakeholders for engagement by setting up and communicating a transparent, participatory and inclusive national review processes. Those should be broad and include all stakeholders and sectors. Processes must be publicized and organized in a timely manner.

5.3 Respondents have shown interest in engaging on national review processes via several approaches, including coordinated spaces for civil society engagement on national review processes.

Report recommendation: “The participatory processes of review established by governments, and facilitated by global and regional support requires several approaches for participation of civil society and stakeholders. Exploring self-organization and setting up of cooperation platforms at national and regional levels may facilitate coordination and inclusion at national and regional levels. It will be important to continue advancing on adapting new and existing collaboration models to the 2030 Agenda.

5.4 Global awareness of national plans and the VNR process amongst civil society is limited.

Report recommendation: “Governments should publicize national SDG-oriented plans and governance structure, and should be supported in doing this by regional and global levels of review. More effort should be made at all levels to promote knowledge of the VNR system.

5.5 The universality of the agenda is not clearly reflected in data for European VNR countries, nor on awareness of national plans in Europe, Canada and the United States.

Report recommendation: European, Canada and the USA governments should make especial efforts to publicize the SDGs as a universal agenda with meaningful domestic and external policy implications, and should plan and publicize participatory processes of national review. Governments in Europe, Canada and the USA should, in line with A/RES/70/1, prepare ambitious national responses to the SDGs, publicize these responses, and engage with civil society and stakeholders on them.

Article originally appeared on NGOs Beyond 2014 (
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