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Source: Small Island Developing States

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has synthesized 39 governments’ reports on how COVID-19 is affecting SDG implementation in their countries, as presented during their voluntary national reviews of SDG implementation at the July 2020 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The presentation of VNRs are a central focus of the annual global “check in” on implementation of the SDGs – the HLPF. VNRs present each country’s experiences, policies, and institutions for the implementation of the SDGs. 

According to the DESA policy brief released on 14 September 2020, 39 out of 46 VNR reports presented at the 2020 HLPF explicitly mentioned the impact of the pandemic on SDG implementation. The reports showed that small, vulnerable, highly indebted, and tourism-dependent states have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19. Some governments suggested that if SDG implementation had been at a more advanced stage before the pandemic, its impacts may have been less severe.

If SDG implementation had been more advanced, the pandemic’s impacts may have been less severe, countries said in their 2020 VNRs.

Governments also reported on how the crisis affected stakeholder consultations planned for the last phase of VNR preparations. Amid lock-down measures, several countries aimed to reach stakeholders and NGOs by posting reports online and inviting proposals and descriptions of their work to include in the report. Some countries tried to reach remote communities through phone interviews or community radio stations. Others reported that some stakeholders, such as youth, were able to participate in consultations through virtual means.

The DESA brief reports that most countries’ VNRs underlined the importance of multilateralism and global solidarity in order to recover from COVID-19 and achieve the SDGs. Another strong message was the need for “a coordinated international response to the pandemic and for cooperation by all stakeholders.”

Ahead of the 2021 HLPF session, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council announced that only 42 countries will be able to present VNRs, with priority for countries presenting VNRs for the first time. So far, 30 countries have expressed interest. The 2021 session will focus on the theme, ‘Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, that promotes the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: Building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.’

It will focus in particular on nine SDGs: Goal 1 (No poverty); Goal 2 (Zero hunger); Goal 3 (Good health and wellbeing); Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth); Goal 10 (Reduced inequalities); Goal 12 (Responsible consumption and production); Goal 13 (Climate action); Goal 16 (Peace, justice, and strong institutions); and Goal 17 (Partnership for the Goals). 

The reviews will include targets with a 2020 timeline. [Publication: Impact of COVID-19: perspective from Voluntary National Reviews] [DESA News]

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