During the first weeks of this month, an Eritrean delegation led by Ambassador Sophia Tesfamariam took part in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2022, under the theme “Building Back Better from Sickness to coronavirus (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Meeting in New York under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (which is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations), the HLPF saw a total of 44 countries present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: 11 countries (including Eritrea) presented for the first time, 28 for the second, three for the third, and two countries presented for the fourth time (Togo and Uruguay). Breaking down the participating countries further by region, 21 were from the Africa region, nine from Europe, seven from Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven from Asia and the Pacific.
What are NRVs?
The HLPF on Sustainable Development, first established in 2012 at the conclusion of the Rio 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, represents the main global platform for reviewing and monitoring progress towards the development goals sustainable development (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.
At the end of September 2015, Eritrea, alongside the other 192 United Nations Member States, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations General Assembly. This global initiative is a powerful call to action for all countries – large and small, developed and developing – to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all can enjoy peace, equality and prosperity. At the heart of the 2030 Agenda are the SDGs, a diverse set of 17 comprehensive, closely interconnected goals, subdivided into 169 targets, to be achieved by 2030.
As a cornerstone of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages all Member States to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at national and subnational levels, which are country-led and driven,” and also “take into account national realities,” acknowledging that “country ownership” is central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda states that these regular reviews should be voluntary, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and involve the active participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders. Other important recommendations are that it should encompass all dimensions of sustainable development and consider means of implementation, as well as be evidence-based, rely on solid data sources and pursue a multi-pronged approach. .
The core of the VNR process involves countries assessing and presenting their progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs. The VNRs provide important insight into where countries stand in implementing the SDGs, with a view to helping accelerate progress through experience sharing, peer learning, identifying gaps and good practices and the mobilization of partnerships.
Taking stock after the conclusion of the recent July 2022 session, the HLPF has now heard a total of 292 VNR presentations from 187 different countries since the reporting process began in 2016. (Countries that have not yet conducted and VNRs presented since the process began in 2016 include Haiti, Myanmar, South Sudan, the United States and Yemen.)
Once countries have officially submitted and presented their VNRs, their reports are published in a global VNR database where they remain freely accessible to the general public.
What makes NRVs particularly meaningful or important?
NRVs are much more than a baseline report or just an end goal. In addition to assessing and tracking progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs, VNRs are important for a wide range of reasons. For example, the extensive review and preparation procedures that are an integral part of the VNRs require a coordinated effort and for many countries the institutional arrangements made have proven useful for the implementation of the SDGs. The VNR process can also strengthen local or national ownership of the SDGs, while work by international organizations has shown that the VNR process can be an “important driver” for countries to accelerate progress on the SDGs (especially if robust monitoring processes are in place).
In addition, the VNR preparation process encourages meaningful engagement of a range of stakeholders, while as a tool for national and global accountability, the VNR process promotes openness and transparency. Importantly, the VNR exercise creates channels for sharing knowledge, best practices and common challenges. Moreover, the reporting mechanism, characterized by its frequency and comprehensive and detailed format, leads to an accumulation or a substantial body of important lessons that may encourage other countries to follow suit or set standards for the International community.
Finally, the process can be an effective mechanism for identifying gaps and communicating where countries need more work or support for implementation, adjusting national development policies and activities, and mobilizing support and resources. multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Brief history of the preparation process for Eritrea’s inaugural VNR
Eritrea’s completion of a VNR and participation in the HLPF process is a powerful testament to the country’s enduring commitment to achieving its multi-faceted development goals and tangibly improving lives and well-being. to be general of all its inhabitants.
The country’s inaugural VNR process officially began with an expression of interest communicated to the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2021. A central factor underlying Eritrea’s decision was the genuine desire to remain actively engaged and to contribute in the framework of mutual exchanges and learning. Furthermore, through his participation, he sought to strengthen and consolidate national and local ownership of the 2030 Agenda, promote awareness, build a solid platform for future improvements and accelerate his progress in overall development.
The national review process and development of the VNR report was locally owned, highly collaborative, open and transparent, as well as being participatory and inclusive. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance and National Development (MFND), a multi-agency National SDG Task Force (NST) has been established to guide and oversee all processes leading to the VNR report. Led by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the NST was made up of high-level focal points from the MFND, Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MLWE) , as well as representatives of the Office. of the United Nations System (UNS) in Eritrea.
The NST prepared and approved a detailed concept note, detailed roadmap and work plan, terms of reference and report outline, and all other technical commitments related to the entire review process. In line with the decision to prioritize reporting on progress on SDGs 3 and 13, it also commissioned two thematic working groups, led by senior experts from the Ministry of Health and MLWE, and comprising members of 23 stakeholders, including ministries, departments, local authorities and civil society organizations, to comprehensively review and report on national progress on goals and targets. Throughout the review process, the UNS in Eritrea remained highly engaged and provided technical, logistical and financial support.
Extensive consultations have been held at regular intervals, and they have included substantial participation and essential contributions from a wide range of stakeholders at national and sub-national levels. Participants included local authorities, representatives from different national ministries and trade unions (including those representing youth, students, women and workers) and officials from various UN agencies in Eritrea.
Throughout the preparation and review process, the NST and its concurrent thematic working groups have closely adhered to the practical recommendations and guidelines set out in the “Manual for the Preparation of Voluntary National Reviews” developed by the Sustainable Development Division United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. In addition, NST and working group members have benefited from several formal preparatory activities, including a series of multi-day regional and global workshops. These were complemented by a local sensitization and training seminar organized and delivered by MFND and the United Nations Development Program in Eritrea to members of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students.
To note: This is the first article in a multi-part series that discusses Eritrea’s recent participation in the 2022 High-Level Political Forum and the country’s submission of its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) report. ). Part I provides a brief overview of the VNR process and its overall significance, while also providing important information and general context regarding Eritrea’s readiness process.