Assessment of ASEAN Countries' Concrete SDG Implementation Efforts: Policies and Budgets Reported in Their 2016-2020 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs)

Policy Report

This report assesses to what extent the national governments of ASEAN countries have made concrete domestic efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) in terms of policies and budgets as listed in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Methods used by this report are similar to those used by a comparable study of the G20 countries. Existing assessments of countries’ VNRs have not systematically analysed policies and budgets but instead focused on levels of achievement, processes of SDG implementation and VNR preparation, and how various specific topics are addressed in VNRs. Despite discouraging overall assessments of SDG progress around the time of the 2019 HLPF, this report found that the 9 ASEAN countries which reported VNRs listed many policies but only a few specific budget allocations. The types of  policies ranged widely including laws, major thematic and sectoral action plans and strategies, and mandatory regulations as well as voluntary programs and small initiatives. The analysis suggested that most countries probably underreported their policy efforts, especially countries which listed fewer policies. In the future, countries should indicate the budget amounts which are linked to the policies listed in their VNRs. Since the countries listed many substantial policies, the actual budget amounts allocated to SDGs probably are also substantial. SDGs are very broad and cover most policy areas, so a majority or possibly most government spending could be related to SDGs, with some exceptions such as interest payments and military spending. To gauge the potential scale of government spending on SDGs, this report presents government expenditures as a percentage of GDP. This report cannot assess how well the policies were implemented, nor to what extent the policies and budgets contributed to SDG progress. However, this compilation does provide some indication of each country’s priorities, so hopefully it may provide a foundation for further analysis of the policies’ appropriateness and effectiveness. The key recommendation is that VNRs should emphasize which efforts are new and/or additional, and how they are linked with progress on outcomes. Thus, policies and budgets should be more systematically reported and linked together in VNRs, and countries should clearly indicate which policies and budgets are existing, continuing, and/or new. Myanmar has not submitted a VNR, but this study examined its Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030) which has a format is similar to a VNR, and its elements are mapped to SDG targets. It lists a range of major policies and strategies, although not as many as other ASEAN countries, and it also does not include specific budget amounts.