This research paper analyses the use of governance indicators in the 2022 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with a view to understanding: (1) where and how qualitative and quantitative indicators of governance are to be found in the 2022 VNRs and VLRs and/or where governance issues are reported on anecdotally; and (2) possible implications for assessment of progress on building strong institutions for the SDGs.


The study finds that various aspects of the principles of effective governance for sustainable development are addressed extensively in the VNRs, particularly in matters relating to competence (especially resources), sound policymaking (especially data availability), collaboration and leaving no one behind, but coverage is uneven with limited use of either qualitative or quantitative indicators. Assessment of governance concerns in relation to the specific Goal domains was difficult to evaluate based on the VNRs and VLRs alone. Policy coherence is raised as an issue in many VNRs yet references to policy coherence as an element of sound policymaking at Goal level are uncommon. Based on the study findings and related analysis, the author observes that few robust conclusions can be drawn from the details of country practice as to how multidimensional indicators of effective governance for sustainable development should be approached. A starting point may be the need for indicators that provide comprehensive coverage of the principles, are detailed enough to capture the quality of aspects of a government’s response to the SDGs and address the relative silences in the VNRs and VLRs, while speaking to the way in which different dimensions of institution building might reinforce or undermine each other in a diverse range of national contexts.


This background paper was commissioned by the CEPA Secretariat in the Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in support of the Committee’s deliberations on the application of the UN principles of effective governance for sustainable development for achievement of the SDGs. The author is Graham Long, Senior Lecturer at the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology of Newcastle, University in the United Kingdom.