12th Report - UK progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Voluntary National Review Contents

3What next?

103.The publication and presentation of the UK’s first Voluntary National Review (VNR) is an important moment for the Government to show its continued, and shared, commitment to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, as a Committee that has been at the forefront of scrutiny of this agenda since 2015, we acknowledge that what is important is what comes next in terms of the UK’s implementation of the SDGs. The UN Secretary General’s Handbook on VNRs presents a number of options for follow-up, which require further consideration. (see Box 3) We also offer here our own recommendations for the Government.

Box 3: UN Handbook for the preparation of VNRs: After the presentation

In order to get full benefit from the resources invested in the VNR, countries could consider concrete follow-up steps. Points to consider are the following:

  • Ensure wide dissemination of the VNRs. For example, countries could convene a press conference to present outcomes of the VNR presentation at the HLPF.
  • Debrief the VNR project team on the outcomes of the presentation at the HLPF. This could include a summary of lessons learned and good practices from other countries which presented during that session.
  • Promote concrete action on priorities contained in the VNR. For example, convene a cabinet meeting or other appropriate decision-making body to consider VNR follow-up.
  • Develop an action plan/road map covering who, what, where and when for priority follow-up.
  • Consider meeting, where applicable, with the UNCT and bilateral donors on follow-up and support for priorities identified in the VNR.
  • Take initiatives to simplify the review for wider public consumption.
  • Consider presenting an annual report to Parliament on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
  • Consider sharing the VNR and lessons learned at the regional level.
  • Institutionalise the collection of the material for the VNRs.
  • Use lessons from the VNR process to refine and enhance institutional arrangements.
  • Consider initiating a decision on preparation and presentation of a follow-up VNR

Source: UN DESA, Handbook for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews: The 2019 Edition, p. 52

104.To make up for the limited and hasty consultation during preparation of the Voluntary National Review (VNR), and to allow for detailed scrutiny of the Review (so that a more neutral baseline for future assessments can emerge), the Government should commit at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to a process of public review meetings on the VNR with UK stakeholders. The meetings should include, amongst others devolved administrations; human rights institutions; trades unions; NGOs; Parliamentarians, and UK academia and should take place during the autumn. This review should aim at learning lessons from the VNR and supplementing the limited review of progress and performance contained within it. It should address both domestic and overseas implementation, and have a component addressing the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. Key points and recommendations could be summarised, appended to the VNR and submitted to the UN at next year’s HLPF.

105.This process would allow the Government to raise awareness of the Goals by launching a national conversation about the VNR alongside these meetings. It would also ensure an accurate and comprehensive baseline for future reporting.

106.In a spirit of peer learning and global engagement, the Government should assemble a peer review panel comprised of experts from global partner countries, both developed and developing, to provide input to this domestic review process. This process would be two-way, also allowing for key learning from the detail of the UK’s VNR to be drawn out and applied elsewhere. In the absence of leadership by Government, this process could be taken forward by Parliament

107.This national review process would kickstart implementation, but also aim to establish an ongoing process of inclusive national review of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals with parliament at its core, as outlined in the 2030 Agenda.136 This mechanism would be a powerful legacy of the VNR.

108.We were keen to publish our initial assessment of the VNR process and the final Review in time to coincide with the UK’s presentation at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). However, we are aware that there is more to be said on future implementation of the SDGs and how the VNR can be followed up by substantive Government action and parliamentary scrutiny. We will therefore publish a further short report on ‘UK Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: Implementation of the 2030 Agenda’ later this year, once a new Prime Minister and a new Government are in place to take forward these crucial Global Goals.

136 UN, Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, September 2015, para 79 states: “regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels which are country-led and country-driven. Such reviews should draw on contributions from indigenous peoples, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders, in line with national circumstances, policies and priorities. National parliaments as well as other institutions can also support these processes.”

Published: 16 July 2019