All members states that are signatory to the 2030 Agenda popularly known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are encouraged to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and subnational levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (General Assembly resolution 70/1 – Paragraph 79). These reviews are the basis for Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

Voluntary National Reviews are progress reports on SDG 7 implementation that are presented at the annual UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) during its three-day ministerial segment in July.

The process of VNR development is state-led, beginning with preparation and organization of the initial draft, development of the report, presentation at the HLPF and follow up after HLPF. Stakeholder engagement may take place at any of these processes, but only member states present their progress at the HLPF.

Figure 1. VNR Stakeholders from SDG Accountability handbook

VNR reports show the steps countries have taken to implement the 2030 Agenda. They provide an assessment of local results that may include successes, challenges, implementation gaps, possible solutions and any emerging issues.

According to the SDG Accountability Handbook, CSOs in the energy sector  can further support the VNR process in their countries in any of the following ways:

  • Identifying whether their countries have volunteered to develop VNR reports, consult governments and provide valuable data to them.
  • CSOs engagement and capacity building on the creation of SDG 7 country targets and indicators: the VNR process calls for inclusivity and nationalization of the SDGs, including the creation of national targets and indicators to complement the global targets and indicators. To ensure meaningful participation in this process, CSOs need to clearly understand and engage in the national setting of targets and indicators.
  • Influencing Inclusion of energy CSOs in the VNR Working Groups /Committees: participation of CSOs in VNR Working Groups that develop the reviews is a useful step towards ensuring that SDG 7 progress is well articulated in the  final VNR report. The 2018 VNR reports suggest the need for improvement in non-state actor participation in formal governance arrangements. The starting point would be to take stock of the existing VNR structures.
  • Collaboration in developing SDGs CSOs progress reports/ CSO data: CSOs can choose to collaborate with country-specific SDGs platforms to develop CSOs report to support the preparation of national VNR reports. In most countries, CSO data on SDG 7 is not included in the final country’s VNR report. In Kenya, for instance, the Kenya SDGs platform brings together various CSOs working across the 17 SDGs. There has, however, been limited participation of energy CSOs in the VNR process compared to the CSOs in other SDGs, thereby contributing to limited inputs on SDG 7 in the final report.In  Ghana, CSOs have established and SDG 7 platform, which brings together all the CSOs working on energy issues. This has ensured coordinated efforts in reporting progress on SDG 7.
  • CSOs can also review and disseminate VNR reports to local communities while holding governments accountable to commitments and promises made in their VNR submissions.

ACCESS is fully committed to engaging national stakeholders and convening its members in national-level VNR Dialogues to engage on ways in which CSOs can meaningfully participate in these processes. To this end, the Coalition has organized country-specific VNR Dialogues in Kenya and Tanzania aimed at engaging CSOs and national-level stakeholders and decision makers in understanding the nationalization of SDG 7 indicators and how to enrich VNR reporting in partnership with ministries, departments and agencies responsible for VNR reporting on energy in these countries. ACCESS is also engaging key national stakeholders in developing CSO VNR reports that can be part of the national submissions. In this way, CSO contribution to SDG 7 implementation is captured and reported on.