Monitoring G20 Countries’ SDG Implementation Policies and Budgets Reported in Their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs)

Volume (Issue): 15 (22)
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Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has mainly focused on levels of achievement of targets and indicators, but few studies have examined policies and implementation efforts systematically. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has called for more monitoring of policy efforts, which is necessary to understand why overall progress on SDGs has been insufficient. Responding to this call, this paper analyzes how the G20 countries’ SDG implementation policies and budgets were reported in their Voluntary National Reviews and creates a dataset of these SDG policies and budgets. The results showed that the G20 countries cumulatively listed a large number of policies—over 4100—in their VNRs. These policies were widely distributed among SDGs. The combined total of listed budgets was over USD 2.7 trillion. Most of the policies were substantive, broad-scoped action plans, national strategies, frameworks, programs, or laws/regulations, not just small projects or awareness-raising campaigns. Overall, VNRs listed more policies after 2018 than before. Also, VNRs tended to include relatively more policies relating to SDGs highlighted at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in the year the VNR was prepared. The results also showed that smaller or developing countries generally did not indicate fewer policies than larger or developed countries. Despite the large number of reported policies, some areas of under-reporting were identified, especially regarding environmental SDGs and targets. Budgetary information was fragmented, and clearly did not match the scale of the reported policies, so actual SDG budget expenditures are probably much higher than reported in the VNRs. In conclusion, insufficient progress on the SDGs cannot be attributed to a simple lack of policies. Therefore, further research is needed to examine the policies’ actual contents, their appropriateness, level of ambition, level of funding, extent of implementation, and effectiveness. The database of policies created by this study is a necessary first step. The policy database can also be used to identify the G20 countries’ relevant policies for specific SDGs or issue areas which span several SDGs for monitoring implementation of specific issue areas.