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Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

UK releases main messages on SDG progress, but leaves questions unanswered

23 May 2019

In July, the UK is going to the United Nations to deliver a Voluntary National Review (VNR) of its progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda includes the Sustainable Development Goals and covers progress at home and internationally.

On Monday, the UK government published its main messages from this report before it submits the full report to the UN on the 14 June. While there are some welcome signs, these messages lack detail and specificity. 

We are particularly concerned that the main messages make no mention of the key principles of the 2030 Agenda, especially policy coherence and the principle to leave no one behind. These elements are critical to the transformative nature of the agenda, and we have consistently called for the government to prioritise these in the VNR. It is worrying that they are not seen as priorities in all the government’s messaging.

Bond and its SDG Group will be looking to the main report to address many of these gaps – and are calling for the UK to publish their report on the 14 June or as soon as possible after. 

The Bond SDG Group has been closely engaged on the VNR process ever since the UK agreed to undertake the review. Over the last few months, the group coordinated Bond members to input into the government-led process on the UK’s progress, including case studies, meetings with officials and submissions to parliamentary inquiries and directly to officials. Next month, we will be publishing our own analysis of where action by the UK is most needed to support the international delivery of the 2030 Agenda. 

Where have the findings gone?

The main messages are intended to “provide an indication of some of the principal findings of the review”, but the government has decided instead to focus on a reflection on the process of undertaking the VNR itself. While this is of interest, it means that we are still unaware of the main findings from the VNR and the key next steps that the government will commit to. 

We have always been clear that the VNR is not an end in itself. It must be a meaningful process that requires firm commitments to a cross-government implementation plan and a sustainable mechanism for ongoing stakeholder engagement. These are also the Bond SDG Group’s main expectations for the eventual review.

However, there are some signs of hope. The government’s reflective approach recognises many of the challenges in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the UK. The UK government recognises three key challenges: 

  1. the importance of balancing the international and domestic implementation – especially given the unique governance structure of the UK 
  2. the need for more and better data
  3. the need for consistent engagement with non-government stakeholders. 

We have outlined recommendations to address these challenges in our submission to the UK government and we hope that the main VNR report reflects these.

We will have to wait for the publication of the main VNR report to learn whether the government has truly listened to the input of Bond members, and our partners – particularly UKSSD.

View the full main message here.

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About the author

Sightsavers

Andrew is head of advocacy at Sightsavers and co-chair of the Bond SDGs Group.