Annual analysis of Voluntary National Reviews: promoting evidence-based action on SDGs and demonstrating how business strengthens the international system

Member States periodically prepare a Voluntary National Review (VNR) report to track progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   Presented to peers at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, the VNRs provide a global overview that shapes international action on the SDGs.   

The United Nations Secretary General recommends that VNRs are prepared through an inclusive process that engages entities from throughout government, civil society, private sector, and academia.   The VNR is therefore an opportunity to put into inclusion into action at national level—and ensure that global decision-making on how to advance the SDGs is grounded in national realities.

Global Alliance Steering Committee member White & Case conducts an annual SDG 16 analysis of VNRs to ascertain:

  • Whether, and to what extent, countries report on SDG 16 targets and indicators: globally agreed measures of progress towards peaceful, just and inclusive societies.  

  • Whether they do so through an inclusive and participatory process.

The VNR analysis gives UN Member States and entities active on SDG 16+ the information they need to be most effective: where is measurable progress on SDG 16+ happening, and what policies, projects and programmes are promoting it?   Proven effective initiatives can then be implemented at scale, helping to accelerate global achievement of SDG 16+.   Gaps in attention and achievement—SDG 16+ targets and indicators on which countries do not report, or do not report with data—signal areas in which additional advocacy and action are needed.    Limited stakeholder engagement in the VNR process indicates that additional efforts are needed to promote inclusion and partnerships for achievement of the SDGs.

In the absence of this type of information, efforts to support implementation of SDG 16+ are not evidence-based,  and are less impactful.      In fact—at the launch of a ground-breaking Global Alliance project to measure SDG 16+ in Somalia—UN Police Advisor Luis Carilho and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Peter de Clerq identified failure to invest in the measurement systems that underpin evidence-based implementation as a key obstacle to the effectiveness and accountability of peace operations.

The White & Case VNR review shows that this is changing: increasingly, Member States are investing in SDG 16+, and in the inclusive measurement systems that drive effective implementation:

  • Reporting on SDG 16+ increased:  The number of countries reporting on the SDGs increased by 114% between 2016 and 2018, and number of countries reporting on SDG 16+ indicators increased by 11%.

  • Use of data improved:    Most of the 46 countries who submitted VNRs in 2018 provided detailed statistics for at least some of the SDG16+ indicators.    

  • Processes more inclusive: Member States say they use data from a variety of sources – administrative data and official surveys as well as from non-state actors.  


The VNR review is helping to promote an overall global shift towards evidence-based action on SDG 16+ by identifying expertise on measuring SDG 16+.   For example, expertise identified through the VNR analysis enabled the Global Alliance Secretariat to connect SDG 16+ data experts from Nigeria with Somali officials; and experts from Benin and Cameroon with Ivorian officials responsible for producing the VNR.   Countries which have produced quality reports on SDG 16+ were engaged to develop and test Global Alliance Guidance for Reporting on SDG 16+; and to support peer learning at technical consultations in Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde, Mongolia, Tunisia, Panama, and Bosnia i Hercegovina.   Beginning in September and into 2020, the White & Case VNR analysis will also inform Member State decisions on how to strengthen the accountability mechanism of the 2030 Agenda, to ensure that the VNR and HLPF are ‘fit for purpose’ for advancing evidence-based, inclusive progress on the SDGs.   


2018 VNR Summary

2018 VNR Chart

2017 VNR Summary

2017 VNR Chart

2016 VNR Summary

2016 VNR Chart

Global Alliance Reporting Progress on Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies