UN DESA Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of SDG implementation

Wednesday, 23 December, 2020

Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of SDG implementation

by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)

As part of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages member States to "conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and subnational levels, which are country-led and country-driven" (paragraph 79)1. As part of this review, starting in 2016, countries have presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) to the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development.

Local and regional governments are increasingly engaging in their own subnational reviews, so called Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), which have proven useful for cities and regions to foster SDG localization and demonstrate local governments’ capacity and commitments. Unlike the VNRs, local reviews do not directly have an official basis in the 2030 Agenda or other intergovernmental agreements, even though the 2030 Agenda underlines in several places the importance of governments working closely with regional and local authorities on its implementation. However, the process of undertaking these subnational reviews provides multiple benefits to the entities engaging in them and has the potential to advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. While subnational reviews of 2030 Agenda implementation contribute to the attainment of the Goals in their own right and have intrinsic value as part of the implementation process, they can also contribute to the nationallevel Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and reinforce vertical coherence.

The critical role of local and regional actors was also highlighted by member States in the Political Declaration of the 2019 SDG Summit2 in which member States committed to empowering and supporting cities, local authorities and communities in pursuing the 2030 Agenda, and recognized their critical role in implementing and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The guiding elements outlined below provide a starting point for local and regional governments considering producing their own Voluntary Local Review and aim to give an overview of useful focus areas for the review process and the eventual report. As such, they are voluntary, as are the VLRs themselves, and they are not meant to be prescriptive nor restrictive. Given the variety of local and regional governments conducting reviews of their SDG implementation, these global guiding elements do not aim at addressing best practices for institutional arrangements, data collection or stakeholder engagement, but merely highlight areas that could be addressed in the process. Hence, the guiding elements aim at providing a low-threshold entry point to VLRs by showcasing a checklist of issues that could be addressed. They aim at providing a framework that, building on the SDGs as the common language among all levels of government, enhances the dialogue between VNRs and VLRs and relevant actors at all levels.


2 (A/RES/74/4). paragraph 27 (e),

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