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

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


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.


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


This is really great work and the websites are informative.


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


Sharing another new resource which should hopefully help those of you working on SDG16 review. Rome Civil Society Declaration on SDG16+

A new Festival Guide on justice events at the HLPF is being complied. If you are organizing or participating in any events please do share these so they can be added to the guide!

Dear colleagues,

In just 40 days, member states and civil society will gather in New York for the High-level Political Forum (9 – 18 July), where SDG16 ( peaceful, just and inclusive societies ) and SDG10 ( reduce inequality ) will be reviewed for the first time, amongst other goals. A large number of side events related to the SDGs being reviewed (4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17) are planned during this two-week period. To help cut through the noise, we’re developing a festival guide . We’re hoping the guide will become your go-to for all things SDG16+ in July, with information on the official events related to SDG16 and SDG10, as well as all SDG16±related side events and receptions happening on the margins of the HLPF. To ensure that your events are featured in the SDG16+ festival guide, we would like to ask you to update your event details or enter a new event into this google sheet (which contains a preliminary list of side events that we have gathered so far). Please update or add information to the sheet, including any updates on event organizers, titles, dates and times, locations, a brief description of events and any key confirmed speakers, as well as any relevant links. There will be opportunities to update this information closer to the HLPF. If you are able to share a concept note with more information on the event, please email: .

Please submit your responses by Friday, June 7th. We would be grateful if you could share this link to the google sheet broadly across your networks. The finalized festivalguide will be shared with the SDG16+ community by the end of June, before the beginning of the HLPF.

We look forward to your responses!

Kind regards,

The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies


Very interesting, thanks for sharing

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For those of you who are engaging in your countries Voluntary National Review process - there is a new opportunity to share your experience. Your answers will be used to provide feedback on the process as a whole and to find ways to improve how civil society can engage in monitoring the SDGs.

Voluntary National Reviews and national tracking of the 2030 Agenda: participatory and inclusive?

Please join the fourth edition of the Together 2030 perceptions survey on civil society and stakeholder engagement in Voluntary National Reviews and national tracking of the 2030 Agenda implementation, organized in partnership with the Politics Department of Newcastle University.

Reply by July 1 here:

The purpose of this survey is to collect information about civil society and stakeholder perceptions of national processes that follow up on the commitments established in the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Your participation is very important. The outcomes of this survey will be shared by Together 2030 with governments, civil society partners, the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders, as a key input for discussions on how to strengthen the engagement of stakeholders in the follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda.

Are you aware of your country volunteering for national review? Do you know how to engage in your country? Do you have access to the necessary information to engage?

Please, join our perception survey and let us know:

Together 2030 is a civil society initiative promoting and tracking progress of the 2030 Agenda. We are grateful to the Politics Department of Newcastle University for technical and expert leadership and guidance in setting up and implementing this survey.

Responses are voluntary and will be fully confidential. Personal or organizational information offered by respondents will not be shared. Responses will be compiled together and analyzed as a group.

*Volunteer countries for 2019 : Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Cote d’ Ivoire, Croatia, Eswatini, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UK, Vanuatu


This is very great, I feel proud to see my country in the list of Volunteer Countries


Is anyone planning to be in New York for the HLPF? If yes, share the dates you’ll be there in the comments.


It is great opportunity, I would like to attend

Hi Coco, yes, I’ll be New York for the HLPF.

July 9 - 19.



Please find the festival guide for the HLPF below - for those of you in New York there are many events that you can register to attend. There are also links to live streams for those watching from home and remember you will be able to see all official sessions on UNTV

Dear colleagues,

Thank for submitting your events to the SDG16+ Festival Guide – your go-to for all things SDG16+ at this year’s High-level Political Forum (HLPF). Use this guide to find information on the official events related to SDG16 and SDG10, as well as all SDG16+ -related side events and receptions happening on the margins of the HLPF.

Get your copy of the guide:

  1. Download the pdf: here. (Look for updated versions of the guide on


  1. Download the SDG16+ Festival Guide app on your smartphone or tablet:
  • Download the Guidebook Inc app from the App Store or Google Play
  • In the Guidebook app, tap the “Find Guides” magnifying glass icon
  • Either type in SDG16+ Festival Guide in the search box OR tap the QR icon and scan this code:

Don’t see your event featured in the guide or wish to update your event details? Email: to get in touch.

Want to join the conversation surrounding SDG16+ at the HLPF and grow the movement to #CommitToSDG16Plus ? Download our social media toolkit.

Kind regards,

The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies


Sharing another new resource. The Elders, including Mary Robinson, Ban Ki Moon, Graca Machel, Zeid Raad Al Hussien, Juan Manuel Santos and Hina Jilani have launched a new video calling on world leaders to deliver justice for all. Please share widely with your networks and especially with contacts in government - you can see some sample tweets that you can share below!

Today, The Elders have launched a short advocacy film calling on all countries to:

  1. Invest in community legal empowerment initiatives;
  2. Increase funding for access to justice for women and survivors of gender based violence;
  3. Prioritise funding for civil justice as well as criminal justice

Please help support this effort by retweeting our video message to leaders. You can also find some suggested tweets below to accompany the film should you wish to share directly from your channels.

Suggested Tweets:

More than 5bn people lack meaningful #AccessToJustice. Watch @TheElders’ Mary Robinson, Graça Machel, Ban Ki-moon, Hina Jilani, @JuanManSantos & @Raad_Zeid call on leaders to make more ambitious commitments to achieve #JusticeForAll at the #HLPF. #HLPF2019

“Injustice on this sweeping scale should shame us all.” –@Raad_Zeid. Watch @TheElders call on leaders to make more ambitious commitments to achieve #JusticeForAll at the #HLPF. #HLPF2019 #AccessToJustice #SDG16

“We need action now.” –@JuanManSantos. Watch @TheElders call on leaders to make more ambitious commitments to achieve #JusticeForAll at the #HLPF. #HLPF2019 #AccessToJustice #SDG16

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Hi everyone - please see this great post by @KaitlinHansen on key reflections and take aways from the High Level Political Forum.

You can also find out about what governments reported on justice for all in this summary resource.

It is now just 60 days until the SDG Summit, where Heads of State and Government will meet to “mobilize further actions to accelerate implementation” of the 2030 Agenda.

As she closed the HLPF, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed called for “a decade of action to deliver on the SDGs.” We hope that many of you will register and encourage your governments to register Acceleration Actions on SDG16+ as we mobilize for a Decade of Action on SDG16+. If you have any questions about this process, please let me know!

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