Our Forus Canadian Member, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation CCIC) held a webinar on January 30th to launch the third edition of an independent report which comprehensively assesses the 46 Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports that were submitted to the United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2018.

This report was commissioned by a range of civil society organizations including ActionAid International, Action For Sustainable Development (A4SD), Arab NGO Network for Development, Bond, Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Forus, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Sight Savers, Together 2030, World Vision International and Worldwide Fund for Nature UK.

Besides analysing the 2018 VNRs, the report provides useful insights and suggestions on how governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders can improve their efforts to see the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (SDGs) successfully implemented at national level.

The report identifies ten key pillars that are considered essential to the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It also recognizes emerging good practise and sets out a range of conclusions and recommendations on how countries can both improve their implementation of the Agenda 2030 and use the HLPF as an opportunity for mutual peer learning, knowledge exchange and support.  

The report sets out recommendations on how countries can improve their reporting to the HLPF by meeting and building on the UN Secretary General’s voluntary common reporting guidelines for VNRs. Importantly, the review also compares how VNR reporting is evolving over time through a comparison of analysis of the VNRs in 2016 and 2017 with findings for 2018.

Key findings of the report include:
1. A majority of countries demonstrated some progress in SDG implementation and reporting, and this includes developing institutional mechanisms for implementation and incorporating the SDGs into national policies
2. More progress is needed to establish key SDG building blocks, which include governance structures, institutional arrangements, policies and means of implementation
3. Stakeholder engagement needs further improvement, going beyond ad hoc measures: while there is a noticeable increase in the desire to include non-state actors in VNR consultations, very few VNR reports provide information on regular formal processes for stakeholder engagement 
4. There has been little engagement with the transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda: very few countries reported actively engaging in the more transformative elements of the 2030 Agenda, such as a human rights- based approach or the importance of recognising planetary boundaries
5. Focused efforts to leave no one behind still receive insufficient attention: most countries provide some information on efforts to leave no one behind but only 35% gave a detailed account of focused efforts to deliver concretely on the pledge to leave no one behind
6. Member states still not making the most of VNRs: there are still gaps in reporting on lessons learned or areas in which countries would benefit from hearing from each other about experiences and challenges in implementation. 

Forus was represented at the webinar by its Advocacy Co-ordinator Deirdre de Burca who explained to participants that the capacity development of members was core business for the network. She pointed out that the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (SDGs) calls on civil society to greatly increase its capacities in order to be able to monitor and implement effectively. She described the four-pronged approach of Forus to fulfilling its capacity development role including:

(i) Policy & Advocacy: Forus has developed a position paper called “Developing the capacities of civil society globally to ensure the effective implementation of the Agenda 2030”(see link here) which was launched at the UN HLPF 2017. This advocacy paper calls for a global approach to the capacity development of CSOs around the world through creating an international architecture of capacity development institutes, think-tanks and online platforms supported by a global system of capacity development financing. Forus continues to engage in advocacy linked to this important proposal 

(ii) Research: Forus has analysed the VNR submitted to the HLPF by governments in 2017 and 2018 and has identified how often governments referred to capacity development in those VNRs and what kind of capacity development they were supporting in their countries (ie was civil society targeted?). The findings of this research will contribute to a Forus capacity development advocacy document to launch at the HLPF 2019.

(iii) Funding: Forus provides funding to its members through sub-grants which it makes available for national projects, many of which concern capacity development activities
(iv) Providing capacity development: Forus provides ongoing capacity development to its members covering areas such as leadership development and safeguarding amongst others. Forus has also begun to co-ordinate this year with other networks such as Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD) and the TAP network to provide capacity development workshops for CSOs at national and regional levels linked to engaging with VNR processes.

The webinar was extremely successful and was attended by over 130 people. Further events to promote the report are planned for the different UN Regional Sustainable Development Forums that will be taking place between March and May this year. Forus will also be working with Action for Sustainable Development and other networks to develop a political letter that national members can use to send to their governments to make them aware of this year’s report and its findings. For further information about this advocacy letter please contact Deirdre de Burca at Deirdre@forus-international.org.

Please find links to the summary and the full version of the report * on the Forus website:

Full Report (English) I  Executive Summary (English)  I  Key Findings (English)
Sommaire (français)  I  Principales conclusions (français)  
Resumen ejecutivo (español)  I  Principales conclusiones (español)

* Arabic and Portuguese versions will be available soon.