Accountability to citizens and the national reviews of Agenda 2030 Implementation

Picture Naiara Chaves work by Naiara Costa, Together 2030 Secretariat, @naiaracc

When governments adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, they committed to “engaging on systematic follow-up and review of the implementation” (para 72) and agreed that a “robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated follow-up and review framework” would make a “vital contribution to implementation” (para 72).

In 2016, countries will have the first opportunity to report on the implementation of Agenda 2030 at national level and several have already volunteered to do so during the July Session of the High Level Political Forum, in New York. As of March 29, 21 countries have volunteered to present reports during the HLPF session. They are: China; Egypt; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Madagascar; Mexico; Montenegro; Morocco; Norway; Philippines; Republic of Korea; Samoa; Sierra Leone; Switzerland; Togo; Turkey; Uganda and Venezuela. The list is updated here.

Volunteer countries for national reviews
Countries volunteering for national reviews in 2016 as of March 29 2016

It is important to recall that all countries agreed, as a principle and applying to all levels, to undertake reviews that are “open, inclusive, participatory and transparent for all people” and to “support reporting by all relevant stakeholders” (para 74, d), and that inclusiveness should also apply for the sub-national level (para 77).

The UN Secretary-General has also flagged the importance of participation in his report to the General Assembly on follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda. He stated that “Major groups of civil society and other stakeholders, including business, must participate in all parts of the follow-up and review architecture. The HLPF should champion innovative practices and engage non-state actors” (para 15). In his report, the SG also presented a proposal for the “voluntary common reporting guidelines for Voluntary National Reviews at the HLPF”. It is not very clear if all countries will be applying those guidelines though.

From a report of a retreat organized with volunteer countries in New York in February, the expectations are that this first year of voluntary national review would be primarily about how countries are preparing for and managing their transition towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Government delegates expressed their expectation that the voluntary national reviews will focus on sharing lessons learned and challenges identified, creating a peer-learning experience rather than a naming-and-shaming one.

More important than the way the national reports will be framed or how they are going to be presented at the HLPF are what type of recommendations will emanate from the global discussions and the process conducted at the national level to collect inputs for the preparation of the report itself. All Member States were “encouraged to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress” at the national level (para 79) and the volunteer countries have a strategic role to play in setting the tone for the forthcoming reviews.

Together 2030 has developed a perception survey to gather views from civil society and other stakeholders about their engagement on the national review processes. The survey, available in English, Spanish and French, questions about availability of information and awareness and about actual participation in the national reviews. We are hopeful that the outcomes will shed additional light about the levels of participation and the main challenges to strengthen inclusion and leave no one behind. The deadline for participation is March 30.

This is the time for governments to show that they are really committed in promoting accountability to their citizens (para73) and that they are putting the principles agreed at the 2030 Agenda to work.

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