Voluntary National Reviews 2020
The 2020 meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) featured 47 voluntary national reviews (VNRs), with 26 presenting for the first time, 20 for the second time, and 1 for the third time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries were given the option of livestreaming their presentation, sending pre-recorded presentations, or mixing these two options.
It was still early for governments to paint a full picture of the impacts of the pandemic on their people and economies. Some VNRs did not mention the pandemic at all, perhaps because preparations took place before it struck. This made some of the reviews discordant with the reality on the ground. Others included entire sections describing the already severe impacts of the pandemic, with some expressing concern that with all countries trying to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on their own economies, least developed countries will be left to fend for themselves.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed identified key emerging themes in this year’s VNRs, including: an emphasis on budget and financing frameworks; a continued commitment to leave no one behind; and the growing engagement of local governments in implementation. She said the UN Secretary-General’s updated VNR guidelines, due later in 2020, will reflect the need for a “forward-looking” spirit in the VNRs.
Argentina: Victoria Tolosa Paz, National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies, said the current government prioritizes the fight against hunger and multi-dimensional poverty, which goes beyond income and includes access to drinking water and public health. She highlighted: measures to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 and strengthen the public health system; resource transfers to the most vulnerable groups; and support to companies to preserve jobs. View Argentina’s 2020 VNR (ES).
Armenia: Mher Grigoryan, Deputy Prime Minister highlighted: preparations to formulate Armenia Transformation 2050, a strategy with 16 goals and targets; progress in reforming the judicial system; and the high-tech industry as a driver for growth. He noted challenges with ending poverty by 2023 and reducing the unemployment rate; and mentioned the launch of 20 COVID-19 assistance packages amounting to 2% of GDP. View Armenia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Austria: Karoline Edstadler, Federal Minister for the European Union and Constitution, highlighted three focus areas: digitalization, including expansion of digital infrastructure, digital skills training, and digital access to government services; leaving no one behind, with a focus on women, youth, and persons with disabilities; and climate action, including through the Green Finance Agenda. View Austria’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Bangladesh: Muhammad Abdul Mannan, Planning Minister, listed initiatives undertaken since the first VNR, including: a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Plan; a national data coordination committee; approval of 40 priority indicators for localizing SDGs; a framework of collaboration with government and various UN organizations; and inclusion of the SDGs into school curricula. He said poverty reduction efforts were on track until the pandemic hit, and highlighted, as immediate responses, a national cash transfer programme and support to 19 economic sectors, including health. View Bangladesh’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Barbados: Marsha Caddle, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment, detailed measures taken in response to COVID-19, including: social protection for workers in the informal sector, self-employed, and small businesses; reconnecting water supply to households that could not pay; expanding access to public health; and a farmers’ empowerment drive to support nutrition and food security. Noting that Barbados’ response was held back by a high level of indebtedness, she said the country is a “canary in the mine of the international system” and called for concessional finance for MICs, and objective measures of vulnerability to determine access to concessional funding. View Barbados 2020 VNR (EN).
Benin: Abdoulaye Bio Tchané, Minister of Planning and Development, noted: the localization of SDG targets, achieved by asking local governments to prioritize 10 out of 49 national priority targets; the identification of nine SDGs as entry points in a national push to “leave no one behind” by eradicating poverty and improving human capital; the identification of bottlenecks in SDG implementation; the development of a 10-year framework of actions for accelerating SDG implementation, in response to the 2019 HLPF Ministerial Declaration; and investments in data and statistics. View Benin’s 2020 VNR (FR).
Brunei Darussalam: The VNR focused on: efforts to diversify the economy, with 22.2% growth in the non-oil and gas sectors between 2010-2019; the launch of a digital welfare system designed to lift welfare recipients out of poverty; and the formation of a digital economy council, master plan, and 5G taskforce. View Brunei Darussalam’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Bulgaria: Prime Minister Boyko Borisov noted progress on: the proportion of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; increasing the share of renewable energy; and improving public finances. Among challenges, he listed regional disparities, an aging population, poverty, social exclusion, a shortage of qualified employees and digital skills, and the lack of a national coordination mechanism. View Bulgaria’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Burundi: Denise Sinankwa, Economic and Social Council of Burundi, highlighted: integration of the SDGs into sectoral and national development plans; progress in provision of free education and healthcare, and safe drinking water; and challenges in data gathering and mobilization of domestic and international finance. She noted plans to improve energy access, create resilient investment opportunities, and ensure the green economy becomes a source of decent job creation. View Burundi’s 2020 VNR (FR).
Comoros: The Secretary of State in charge of Cooperation described: a 2030 national plan formulated on the basis of the 2030 Agenda; a reduction in the share of the population living under the national poverty threshold from 34.3% in 2013 to 23.5% in 2019; stabilization of GDP growth to outpace population growth; enhanced transport links; improved governance; and modernization of the tax system. Among challenges, he listed: a fall in remittances; a slowdown in economic activity that has reduced tax revenue and could wipe out small and medium enterprises; and a drop in foreign direct investment. View Comoros 2020 VNR (FR).
Costa Rica: Rodolfo Solano-Quirós and Adriana Bolaños-Argueta, Minister and Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, respectively, noted efforts to translate the 2030 Agenda into a national vision that all stakeholders contribute to, and share accountability for. Bolaños-Argueta highlighted achievements, including: alignment of local planning with the 2030 Agenda by 44% of local governments; growing statistical capacity to track 136 indicators; and development of an SDG-related accountability system for businesses. View Costa Rica’s 2020 VNR (ES).
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Élysée Munembwe, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning, underscored progress including: improved access to safe drinking water; acceleration in the provision of free basic education; improvements in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health; the beginnings of universal health coverage; expanded protected areas; and new legal frameworks to strengthen women’s rights and environmental protection. She said the government is exploring possibilities for mobilizing innovative sources of finance. View Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 2020 VNR (FR).
Ecuador: Sandra Katherine Argotty, Technical Secretariat of Planning, highlighted improvements in indicators on gender income equality, maternal mortality, sanitation services, workforce integration of people with disabilities, housing, poverty eradication, and Internet usage. Identifying COVID-19-related challenges, she listed: economic contraction; reduction in foreign exchange income; challenges in access to remote learning; and rising violence against women. View Ecuador’s 2020 VNR (ES).
Estonia: Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN, reported progress in education and renewable energy, and challenges in waste management, climate change mitigation, biodiversity, gender equality, and disability. He highlighted the effectiveness of digital technologies in increasing energy efficiency View Estonia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Finland: Prime Minister Sanna Marin highlighted: the incorporation of a parallel independent SDG progress assessment by civil society into the national VNR report; a peer VNR dialogue conducted with Mozambique and Switzerland; voluntary local reviews (VLRs) by three Finnish cities; and Finland’s carbon neutrality target for 2035. As challenges, she identified: consumption and production patterns; climate change; biodiversity; gender-based violence and the pay gap; and discrimination against minorities and persons with disabilities. View Finland’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Gambia: Mambury Njie, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, highlighted challenges, including: debt unsustainability; a fiscal deficit heightened by COVID-19; coastal erosion; low levels of investment in science, technology and innovation; and low data availability. He noted progress including the creation of a ministry for women, children and social welfare, and drafting of anti-corruption legislation. View Gambia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Georgia: Lasha Darsalia, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, reported progress in: human capital development and social welfare; economic growth; and democratic governance. Among issues requiring closer attention, he listed: leaving no one behind; investing in young people; decentralized development; and greener energy production and consumption. He said Georgia will aim to: generate better quality data; address pollution and contamination; localize SDGs at the municipal level; and link SDG targets to budgeting. View Georgia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Honduras: The VNR highlighted continued challenges to providing decent work despite significant economic growth; efforts to tackle extreme poverty through programmes such as the Better Life subsidy that provides conditional cash transfers to improve access to health, education, and housing; and a reallocation of public expenditure due to the pandemic. View Honduras 2020 VNR (ES).
India: Rajiv Kumar, NITI Aayog, reported progress, including: lifting 271 million people from multi-dimensional poverty; the provision of health insurance for 500 million people; and increased access to housing, sanitation, clean fuels, and banking. He said India’s COVID-19 stimulus package of USD 276 billion amounts to 10% of the country’s GDP, and highlighted international initiatives led by India, including the International Solar Alliance, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and the India-UN Development Partnership Fund. View India’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Kenya: Ukur Yatani Kanacho, Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning, highlighted the country’s “Big 4 Agenda” prioritizing food and nutrition security, healthcare, manufacturing, and affordable housing. He noted advancements in renewable energy installed per capita, infrastructure, and domestic resource mobilization. View Kenya’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Kyrgyzstan: Sanjar Mukanbetov, Minister of Economy, highlighted achievements in: expanding access to education to 99% of the population; reducing child mortality; and tackling statelessness. He noted the economic growth rate was insufficient for rapid improvement in livelihoods. Tatyana Tretyakova, representing Kyrgyz civil society, said more than 130 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were involved in the VNR preparation. View Kyrgyzstan’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Liberia: Augustus J. Flomo, Deputy Minister for Economic Management, said a national development plan and legislation, including the Land Rights Act and Local Governments Act, was adopted in 2018 to address entrenched inequality and economic deprivation. He said progress in some areas, including reducing extreme poverty, undernourishment, and maternal mortality, decelerated because of the economic slowdown caused first by the 2014 Ebola outbreak and then COVID-19. Priorities are being reconsidered, he noted, to focus on local infrastructure development, improving agriproduct value chains, and investments in health and education. View Liberia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Libya: Taher Jehaimi, Minister of Planning, and Taher Belhassan, Sustainable Development Committee, Ministry of Planning, noted improving trends in: social safety networks; literacy and education enrolment; reproductive health and child mortality; cleaner energy; and urban planning. As challenges, they identified: road accident deaths; pre-primary education enrolment; wastewater treatment and natural water withdrawal rates; economic growth; spread of slums; desertification; and human displacement and conflict-related deaths. View Libya’s 2020 VNR (AR) Report 1 - Report 2
Malawi: Delegates reported progress in: school enrolment rates; girls attending secondary school; youth literacy; sanitation; and lower maternal and neonatal mortality. Challenges were noted in gender inequality, poverty, and monitoring and evaluation. View Argentina’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Micronesia (Federated States of): President David W. Panuelo, with other delegates, highlighted: traditional practices and knowledge, and protection of natural heritage as values underpinning the country’s development plan; work to mainstream climate change into all policies; support for women’s participation in decision-making; and commitment to the rule of law and equal opportunities for all. He said the government is implementing health and social protection measures to build national resilience to COVID-19 and to support gender and social equality. View Malawi’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Morocco: Nezha El Ouafi, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates, noted achievements in improving living standards, housing, health, education, renewable energy, and ending rural isolation. She said factors contributing to this forward momentum included: strengthening the institutional framework for implementation; adopting a diversified strategy to mobilize financial resources; undertaking a series of national, regional, and thematic consultations; and fostering effective cooperation with the UN Development Programme. View Morocco’s 2020 VNR (FR).
Mozambique: António Gumende, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the UN, reported progress in: poverty and maternal mortality reduction; gender parity in education and women’s representation in government; electricity access; and climate change adaptation and resilience planning. He said Mozambique adopted best practices in: food security governance; fisheries management; resilient infrastructure; and institutionalization of stakeholder dialogues. View Mozambique’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Nepal: Puspa Raj Kadel, National Planning Commission, reported progress in poverty reduction, education, health, and water, and providing electricity access; but noted an annual investment of USD 19 billion is still required to achieve the SDGs. He said COVID-19 is adversely affecting economic growth, resulting in a surge of returning migrant workers and a corresponding decline in remittances, and increasing the likelihood of people falling back below the poverty line. View Nepal’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Niger: Ahmat Jidoud, Minister of Budget, noted progress in reducing infant mortality, combating desertification, and addressing climate change. He said key lessons learned were on the importance of: ensuring inclusive development; communicating and disseminating information; ensuring sustainable use of resources; and maintaining strong economic growth. He noted challenges, including in empowering women and girls, strengthening human capital, mobilizing resources, and harmonizing data collection. View Niger’s 2020 VNR (FR).
Nigeria: Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on the SDGs, said priority SDGs have been integrated into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan for 2017-2020. She noted efforts to build a more inclusive economy and identified the need to invest more in education. Among challenges, she listed: high unemployment rates; maternal mortality; out-of-school children; and regional inequalities. View Nigeria’s 2020 VNR (EN).
North Macedonia: Mila Carovska, Deputy Prime Minister, with other delegates, said her country has five priority Goals for 2018-2020: SDG 1, SDG 4, SDG 8, SDG 13, and SDG 16. They further underscored the importance of: continuing targeted efforts to reduce poverty; investing in quality education and employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, including to prevent brain drain; reforming the social protection system; continuing efforts to combat corruption; supporting women entrepreneurs; and improving air quality and crisis preparedness. View North Macedonia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Panama: The VNR highlighted a national focus on: creating inclusion; fighting poverty and inequality; investing in education and health; and addressing social equality among vulnerable communities. While recognizing the urgency of international cooperation, national intersectoral public health actions in response to the pandemic were highlighted. View Panama’s 2020 VNR (ES).
Papua New Guinea: James Marape, Prime Minister, reported significant progress across many SDGs, including on improving transport connectivity, health, education, community development, life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, literacy, and reducing extreme poverty. He noted the challenge of reducing widening inequalities. View Papua New Guinea’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Peru: Javier Abugattás, National Centre for Strategic Planning, reported deeper integration of SDGs in long-term development plans, and said key priorities include the protection of life and risk management, including through improved decision-making processes, coordination, and research. He also highlighted government measures to support indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon in the fight against COVID-19. View Peru’s 2020 VNR (ES).
Republic of Moldova: Adrian Ermurachi, Deputy Secretary General of the Government, noted progress in: combating non-communicable diseases; school enrolment of children with disabilities; and women in managerial positions. He highlighted as policy commitments: health and education services; social protection and insurance systems; addressing risky behavior among young people; energy efficiency and renewable energy; labor market inclusion; vocational training; improved water and soil quality; climate resilience; participatory decision-making; and investments in a national data system. View Republic of Moldova’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Russian Federation: Dmitry Chumakov, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, highlighted achievements, including: the eradication of extreme poverty, with 12.6% still below the national poverty threshold; subsidies to increase housing opportunities and promote balanced regional development; COVID-19 recovery measures, such as a three-fold increase in unemployment benefits; and the formulation of a comprehensive national plan for modernizing infrastructure. View Russian Federation’s 2020 VNR (RU).
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, and Information Technology, highlighted progress on: reduction of maternal mortality; access to secondary education; reduction of HIV transmission; increased access to electricity; clean water and sanitation services; and reduction of gender-based inequalities. He called for development finance, technology transfer, capacity building, cooperative partnerships, and genuine systemic reform or sustainable development will remain “illusory.” View Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2020 VNR (EN).
Samoa: Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, highlighted progress in: literacy and numeracy; engaging stakeholders; integrating the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway into national development planning; women’s representation in Parliament; and strengthening disaster risk response. View Samoa’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Seychelles: Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, Minister of Finance, Trade, and Economic Planning, highlighted: attainment of high-income status; broad provision of health care and education opportunities; issuance of “blue bonds” to support marine protected areas; and the need for economic diversification away from tourism. View Seychelles’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Slovenia: Zvone Černač, Minister for Development, Strategic Projects and Cohesion, highlighted: efforts to ensure accessible and high quality public services for all; subsidized school meals and free public transport for school children and pensioners; access to drinking water for all; and a policy to provide one year of maternal leave. View Slovenia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Solomon Islands: Rexon Ramofafia, Minister for National Planning, highlighted: integration of the SDGs into the national development strategy; progress towards achieving universal health coverage; the need to reduce reliance on imported diesel for fuel; and the role of free education in increasing enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools. View Solomon Islands 2020 VNR (EN).
Syria: The VNR highlighted: a commitment to national reconciliation; prioritization of the return of internally displaced persons and refugees; a post-war national development programme containing the Syria 2030 plan, which integrates the SDGs; and an economic plan through 2030 based on four phases, namely relief, resilience, recovery, and sustainability. A video presentation stated that, due to the war, agriculture has shrunk by 23%, and 28% of Syrians face food insecurity. View Syria’s 2020 VNR (AR).
Trinidad and Tobago: Pennelope Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the UN, highlighted progress in: reducing maternal and under-five mortality rates; increasing the representation of women in Parliament; and the integration of eight priority SDGs into policy frameworks. She noted a multi-dimensional approach to financial and economic measures to minimize the impacts of the economic contraction from COVID-19. View Trinidad and Tobago’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Uganda: Mary Karooro Okurut, Cabinet Minister in Charge of General Duties, highlighted improved access to electricity, reduced unemployment, and increased manufacturing capabilities. She attributed the progress to social protection programmes, rural electrification projects, and a sound economic growth rate. Immaculate Akello, representative of Uganda’s Youth Coalition for the SDGs, highlighted achievements in “go back to school” interventions, and efforts to raise SDG awareness in remote areas. View Uganda’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Ukraine: Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, with the Director General of Policy Planning in the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers, highlighted: a recent Cabinet decision to treat the SDGs as a policy benchmark; ongoing efforts to integrate the SDGs into budgetary and planning processes; and progress in 15 SDGs, including poverty reduction, higher wages, and increased housing. View Ukraine’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Uzbekistan: Tanzila Narbaeva, Chair of the Senate, and Jamshid Kuchkarov, Deputy Prime Minister, highlighted progress in: the adoption of a national SDG tracking framework; the role of the Parliament in overseeing reforms; gender equality; reporting by the Ministry of Finance on the SDGs; and measures to reduce corruption, improve the investment environment, and support entrepreneurial activities. For further improvements, they identified: statistical capacity; effectiveness of the public administration; structural reforms to strengthen the market economy; and the coverage and quality of education. View Uzbekistan’s 2020 VNR (EN).
Zambia: Alexander Chiteme, Minister of National Development Planning, and Chola Chabala, Ministry of National Development Planning, highlighted: institutional arrangements for SDG implementation; a reduction of multi-dimensional poverty to 44%; investments in infrastructure and energy production; and improvements in health and gender equality. Precious Mulenga, civil society representative, called for a more inclusive process for civil society organizations to participate in SDG implementation. View Zambia’s 2020 VNR (EN).
The complete VNRs are available here.