By Sundus Abbas, SDGs focal point, Undp -Iraq.

As Iraq will be presenting its first Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2019 to share its experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learned in implementing the SDGs targets, and Agenda 2030 in Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Planning, organized a training workshop to review and discuss the current and prospective process of preparation of the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR). The event helped raise some consensus on the fact that an important focus of the Iraq VNR messaging should be on Inclusion, participation and leaving no one behind, the stakeholder engagement plan around the SDGs/VNR and beyond in future SDG monitoring exercises. Discussions around the ‘VNR preparation roadmap’ and  discussions on the VNR process were fruitful.

The Government of Iraq, with support from multiple development partners, has engaged in developing new strategies and plans such as National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2022, Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) and a Reconstruction and Development Framework (2018-2027) to meet the challenges of transition from a crisis context to sustainable development. The Government has also engaged in developing a ‘Vision 2030’ that is aligned with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identified and addressed medium and long-term strategic development priorities.

 

Deputy Minister of the Planning Mr. Maher Johan and UNDP Country director Mr. Gerardo Noto during the workshop session. Photo: Ministry of Planning/2018

 

During the training workshop, experts from UNDP Regional Hub, Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development Team in Amman (Dr. Nathalie Milbach Bouché, Team Leader, and Mr. Fekadu Terefe, Specialist) provided the linkage level between the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the NDP and the SDGs and the need to secure coordination between these processes with using the Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) tool. The experts presented preliminary findings of the RIA of the PRS and NDP. These initial findings suggest a significant degree of alignment

among the strategic priorities of Iraq vision, plans and the SDGs targets, including a significant focus on three cores economic, environmental, and social. However, there are some gaps, including strengthening the evaluation and monitoring framework at this stage and the inclusion of the PRS beneficiaries themselves in the monitoring of the PRS in line with emerging good practices and SDG 16. This comes at a particular junction where the first Iraq VNR report will be having one part on how Iraq is integrating poverty and leaving no one behind issues, and their policy and governance frameworks -  the PRS, the Social Fund Program along with the SDGs targets and Agenda 2030. Group sessions were organized to discuss these findings, allowing participants to both deepen their knowledge of the SDGs and help them connect the PRS with multi-dimensional SDGs targets through the RIA. Clearly, the workshop provided a renewed opportunity to raise the participants’ awareness about the SDGs, the NDP, the PRS itself and the VNR process which could provide an entry point for further communication and appropriation across the Ministry of Planning, and line ministries as well as local levels.

 

UNDP Regional Hub specialists explaining the assessment tools to the participants. Photo: Ministry of Planning/2018

 

The Deputy Minister of the Planning, Iraq- Baghdad, Dr. Mahar Johan, has said that “we appreciate the usual effort of UNDP in supporting the Government in the preparation process of Iraq first VNR”. In addition to that, the Country Director of UNDP - Iraq, Gerardo Noto, has mentioned that “we are happy to support the Government of Iraq to prepare the VNR report as it is the first Iraq VNR as well as it is important to the regional countries to show how SDGs can be implemented in conflict countries such as Iraq”.

As a follow-up to the workshops, the preliminary findings from the RIAs will be further validated and consolidated by national stakeholders across sectors, also in light of other strategic documents. The analysis shall also help Iraq showcase how the country has gone about integrating the SDGs in its core policy and planning frameworks during the country’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report at the 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum.

 

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