Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

3rd Network Meeting of the Partners for Review

Mr. Ingolf Dietrich,
Mrs. Christine Guwatudde Kintu,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Partners for Review Network,

It is a great honour to be here today, and to welcome you all from around the world to the 3rd Network Meeting of the Partners for Review Network. I’m especially pleased to share the stage today with Mr. Dietrich and Mrs. Kintu.

I would like to start first with my deep appreciation for BMZ and GIZ, for the tireless efforts and care devoted to the Partners for Review network, and for shaping it to the meaningful peer-learning gathering it is today. I also thank Uganda for the generous offer to host the meeting this week.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we know, the High Level Political Forum is the only forum where the 2030 Agenda is discussed globally in its entirety. It provides us with a global platform to take stock of progress made. And the importance of global follow-up and review cannot be over-emphasized.

Among the many mandates of HLPF, there is the Voluntary National Reviews, or VNRs, held during the 3-day ministerial segment of the forum each year. It allows Member States to share best practices, lessons learnt, highlight challenges facing their implementation efforts, and even find new partners for their implementation efforts.

From 22 countries in 2016, to 43 in 2017, the number of countries volunteering to participate in the VNRs is growing rapidly. For 2018, there will be 48 countries presenting their national reviews at the High Level Political Forum. Next year will also see the second review by three countries (Colombia, Egypt, and Switzerland) and the third by Togo.

As was done last year, DESA is preparing a synthesis of the 2017 VNR reports. I am pleased to share with you a few advance findings from this exercise.

The clear majority of 2017 VNR countries included SDG specific analysis and reviews in their reports. About a quarter of countries addressed all the SDGS. A slightly larger number of countries covered the set of – SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17 – subject to in-depth review at the 2017 HLPF.

Other countries included a set of goals of their own choosing, based on national circumstances.

Several countries included sections on the challenges they are facing with SDG implementation. Zimbabwe, for example, structured its review of the SDGs around sections on Policy environment, Status and Trends, and Challenges.

Countries highlighted a range of issues and challenges, among them:
• The pivotal role of strong partnerships for SDGs implementation and realisation:
• Low capacity of national statistical institutions to address new challenges, leading to poor monitoring and inadequate setting of indicators.
• Improving the institutional capacity of local governments and promoting greater coordination between the different spheres of public administration.
• Accelerate the integration of the sustainable development agenda into the policies and programmes of all line ministries.
• Inculcating a “whole-of-society” approach where the SDGs are “localized” to ensure that the achievement of the goals and targets becomes a truly national endeavour, rather than a public sector driven set of commitments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know that many of you have an integral part to play in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in your respective countries, including in the VNR preparatory process.

What I would like to emphasize to you is that the processes leading up to the VNR presentations themselves are equally, if not more, important.

In their VNR reports, some countries reflected on the benefits of the VNR process itself. One country stated that the review: “Helped deliver for first time a wide-ranging overview of the panoply of actions which, domestically as well as externally directed, are currently ongoing and contributing to SDG attainment.” (Belgium)

While preparing for VNR reports and presentations, countries have strengthened their inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral coordination mechanisms. They have put an enormous amount of efforts into awareness raising and stakeholder engagement, forming the necessary basis for a whole-of-society approach. All of these are there to stay after the presentation.

VNR participation should not be treated as a one-off project, leaving a report on the shelf to gather dust. Rather, it should be part of a cycle that leads to enhanced implementation and robust follow-up.

And that is why the Partners for Review network is a welcome complement for DESA’s work. It is a community; an alumni network for VNR countries if you will, one that will support you along the way.

As I mentioned, in July 2018, there will be 48 countries conducting VNRs at the HLPF. This is an unprecedented number, perhaps the maximum that can be accommodated at the ministerial segment of the HLPF. And many of you are here today at the beginning of your preparatory process.

DESA would like to ensure the best possible support we can provide as Secretariat of the forum. As per usual practice, there will be global and regional workshops of VNR countries organized by the Secretariat in the lead-up to the VNR presentations. These will be guided by the voluntary guidelines of the Secretary-General as well as experiences gained in the past two years. We look forward to welcoming you, the 2018 VNR countries, to the first global workshop, to be held in Geneva from 4 to 5 December.

In the next three days, the Partners for Review network meeting will give you a great opportunity to meet and connect with colleagues who would be sharing this VNR journey with you.

I wish you all fruitful discussion in the next three days.

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