Reviewing SDG16, Voluntary National Reviews and the High Level Political Forum

(Stacey Cram) #1

In July and September of 2019, governments will be reporting their progress on SDG16, including the commitment made to ensure that all people have equal access to justice by 2030. This will happen at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) and at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). With the attention of decision-makers trained on SDG16, we have the chance to spotlight the work of our community, highlight existing gaps around financing and protection for grassroots justice defenders and push forward national advocacy. This year is a great opportunity to link local action with global processes to help ensure that leaders deliver on their promise.

This post offers up some quick information on what exactly is happening, how you can get involved and what resources and tools you can use to help your efforts. We will continue to update this post with relevant information and if you have any questions please add them to the thread so that we can share and learn from each other.

Quick Overview

This briefer prepared by the Open Society Justice Initiative provides a great overview of how to take advantage of the global reviews Advancing Legal Empowerment through the 2019 SDG Global Review.pdf (361.1 KB)

Know the acronyms - VNRs, HLPF

  • Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are one of the key mechanisms to track the implementation progress of the commitments enshrined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These are reports that governments are asked to prepare in partnership with civil society in their country to show what progress they have made on the SDGs. You should be able to influence the content of these reports, but it will depend on the willingness of your government to engage meaningfully with.

  • The VNRs are presented annually at the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). Countries come together to share their VNR reports with the aim of promoting accountability to citizens, supporting effective international cooperation, and fostering exchange of best practices and mutual learning.

  • VNRs and the HLPF takes place every year, but this July, governments will review SDG 16 for the first time, providing an opportunity to reinforce the case for accelerated implementation on grassroots justice and legal empowerment at national and global levels.

  • The theme is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” As well as SDG16, SDG10 will be reviewed. Other goals under review include: SDG10 (inequalities), SDG4 (education), SDG8 (growth and jobs), SDG13 (climate change), and SDG17 (partnerships). The first week of the HLPF will include a debate on SDG16, with ministers and other senior contributors participating. The ministerial segment will be held in the second week.

  • 49 countries will present their voluntary national reviews (VNRs). You can see the full list and get all of the most recent information from the UN here.

Learn from what others are doing

  • For a quick introduction to the topic check out this Together 2030 Webinar, "Why and How to engage in Voluntary National Reviews. In this webinar you will get an introduction to the VNRs, and hear from others in civil society who have engaged in their national voluntary reviews and gain ideas as to how you can engage in the process.

  • If you are keen to hear ongoing updates and learn from others who are engaging in the VNR process then please join the Justice For All monthly coalition call to hear from other network members.

  • If you are interested in mobilizing and campaigning for national reforms then check out this Action Pack - Justice For All which is full of ideas.

Get the right narrative

There are a lot of tools that can help you craft your advocacy messages on SDG16, access to justice and legal empowerment.

  • The Justice For All Policy Brief, outlines key asks on increasing financing and protections for grassroots justice defenders. The following webinar on policy brief outlines these asks and on how you can use this to craft messaging for national advocacy campaigns.
  • The Pathfinders Taskforce on Justice will be launching their flagship report on access to justice later this month. The report has great new findings around the justice gap, what works to deliver justice to all people, what is the case for investment in justice. It also has clear recommendations to all governments which can help your national advocacy. The report is now live [Featured Resource] Justice for All: The report of the Task Force on Justice.


The Justice For All campaign is calling on governments to come to the HLPF and the UN General Assembly with clear commitments on how they will help accelerate progress on access to justice and SDG16.

  • You can encourage your government to include forward-looking commitments in their VNR report at the HLPF that will support civil society legal empowerment and accelerate progress on SDG16.

  • Heads of State will be reporting on all of the SDGs in September at UNGA. You can advocate for the SDG report to include a commitment on access to justice.

  • The Open Government Partnership is another way to have governments and civil society co create commitments - you can find out more about how to get involved from this recent webinar Webinar: OGP & The Year of Justice (14 March 2019)

  • Governments are not the only actors who can make commitments. We in civil society have a vital role to play and should present our own commitments in these global spaces. The TAP Network are currently collecting civil society commitments and will present these at the HLPF. You can add your commitment to their platform here.

Ongoing Accountability

Getting governments and other actors to make commitments is just one part of the puzzle. We need to make sure that they actually deliver on these commitments and that what they report refelcts the reality on the ground. Some members of the network are going to be producing shaddow reports to go alongside the official government VNR because they are concerned that their governments are not providing an accurate account of justice in their national context.

The TAP Accountability Handbook, being launched later this month is a great resource to help you with ongoing monitoring and accountability of your government’s international commitments made through the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. You can find out more information and register for the webinar on May 14 launching the guide here Webinar: Sustainable Development Goals Accountability Handbook Launch

We want to hear from you

Please share ongoing updates here so that the rest of our community can learn from your work.

the Voice of 16 Plus campaign is currently collecting stories from groups around the world working to advance SDG16. If you are able to share what you are doing in a short video there a chance that your work will be showcased at events across the HLPF. A small number of entrants will also be selected to come to New York to present your work to the UN in person this July - see their website for more information on this opportunity.

And feel free to ask any questions so we can help overcome challenges together!

@cocolammers @peterchapman @sumaiya_islam @namati_network @ngc @ws_anchors @lorenzowakefield @burdiles @fmybordey @OGP @johnromano @vivektrivedi

(Ellie Feinglass) #3

Thank you for this very comprehensive overview @staceycram! I was just about to write to you to ask for some background, but you beat me to it.

(Stacey Cram) pinned globally #4
(Prabhakar Bagchand) #5

This is shows the Commitment of NAMATI Team, .commend @staceycram for her brilliantly written piece , very concise and informative

(Regina Paulose) #6

This is really great work and the websites are informative.

(Stacey Cram) #7

Thanks everyone. I’ve just updated the post as the Taskforce report is now live - you can read more here [Featured Resource] Justice for All: The report of the Task Force on Justice. You can also register to join the upcoming webinar on the TAP Accountability Handbook Webinar: Sustainable Development Goals Accountability Handbook Launch

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[Featured Resource] Justice for All: The report of the Task Force on Justice

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