In 2018, local and regional governments were involved in the preparation of VNRs in 53% (23/43) of the reporting countries (up from 43% in 2016-2017 combined).
However, there is still a long road ahead to make local and regional governments fully aware and active in VNR preparation and reporting, in national coordination mechanisms and in the localization process as a whole.
During the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments (GTF presented its report on the state of localization throughout the world. Facilitated by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the report showcased the role that subnational governments around the world are playing to support localization and implementation policies. This report demonstrated that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are truly effective and context-sensitive at the local level.
The report titled, ‘Towards the Localization of the SDGs’, was officially presented during the first Local and Regional Governments’ Forum, which took place within the framework of HLPF 2018, on 16 July 2018. The findings of this second annual report were subsequently discussed in depth at a dedicated launch event at UN Headquarters on 18 July. The report aims to complement the information that UN Member States provide to the HLPF through their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The report is based on an extensive analysis of the VNRs and first-hand information provided by local and regional governments and their associations in more than 61 countries, exploring what they have been able to do to contribute to localization.
The participatory process involved with developing the report also paved the way for the contributions to the Local and Regional Governments Forum, as reported here. When presenting the report, Parks Tau, President of UCLG and of the South African Local Governments Association (SALGA), stressed that this momentum needs to be fuelled by integrated, parallel processes at the regional and national levels. The report sets a precedent of its own and seeks to foster greater expectations and participation from local and regional governments around the world.
The acknowledgement of our involvement in the implementation of the SDGs in all continents is increasingly recognized. Hundreds of front-runner cities and regions are implementing inspiring policies to promote the transformation towards sustainable and resilient cities and societies. […] It is imperative to support the involvement of local and regional governments in the process of the Voluntary National Reviews. Parks Tau, President of UCLG and the South African Local Government Association
Mapping Progress in SDG Localization
The report explores the extent to which local and regional governments have been involved in the implementation process over the last three years (2016-2018) in the 99 countries that have reported to the HLPF over this period. Results have been encouraging. In 2018, local and regional governments were involved in the preparation of VNRs in 53% (23/43) of the reporting countries (up from 43% in 2016-2017 combined). Since 2016, 39% of the local and regional governments surveyed have acknowledged their participation in national institutional coordination mechanisms (e.g. high-level or national councils for the SDGs, Sustainable Development Councils, etc.).
Building on the previous report and ongoing research, this edition has also begun mapping progress made on a regional basis. Cities, regions, and their national and regional networks have reported on significant efforts made in awareness-raising and innovative policymaking in an attempt to mobilize and benefit from a truer, more systemic ownership of the goals and global agendas at the local level. If momentum has been build, it has also been because of stronger partnerships with civil society, academia, the private sector, local communities and their grassroots organizations and representatives.
The report shows that, since 2016, subnational governments’ participation in the reporting process has been quite different according to the region; ranging from 57% of European reporting countries, 37% in Asia-Pacific, 35% of Latin American countries and 33% in Africa. Globally, there is still a long road ahead to make local and regional governments fully aware and active in VNR preparation and reporting, in national coordination mechanisms and in the localization process as a whole.
Through the report, the Global Taskforce has also advanced a set of recommendations to increase the involvement of local and regional governments in the reporting and implementation processes, while voicing their needs and advocating for their role in national and global conversations. The report highlights an urgent need for improved territorial coordination of the means of implementation and, most importantly, capacity building for public servants and financial engineering in order to provide adequate funds and resources. The report indicates that these actions offer a gateway to effective localization through increased policy coherence and coordination, more efficient decision-making and budget allocation, and synergic implementation processes across global and regional agendas.
Improving Monitoring from the Bottom Up
Strong collaboration among members of the Global Taskforce, local authorities and local government associations was the added value that made the preparation of the report unique: the knowledge, case studies and good practices, and rigorous analysis that this bond provided was essential to the research process. In total, over 150 examples were identified thanks to inputs from UCLG Sections and Committees, GTF members such as C40, ICLEI, AIMF and CLGF, as well as partners such as UITP, ISWA, IIED and UNISDR. This extensive typology shows how local and regional governments are developing strong strategies and plans of their own, and progressively adopting a rights-based approach to their development policies. This is particularly relevant when assessing policies that address gender equality, access to affordable and adequate housing, basic services and the inclusion of migrants and minorities.
The report also addresses all of the SDGs under review during HLPF 2018, with a special focus on SDG 11 via a novel place-based approach with fundamental implications for urban life. While the report is underpinned by the principles of the ‘Right to the City’ and, in particular, the ‘Right to Housing’, it gives special emphasis to the core commitment of leaving no one behind. The report stresses how local and regional governments have been proactive in reducing inequalities and acknowledging diversity, reducing the urban impact on the environment and promoting the involvement of civil society and citizens to co-produce local development, gather local knowledge and start planning timely, inclusive and group-sensitive policies. It presents various and diverse examples of cities that are referring to the SDGs as a framework for integrated urban and local planning.
Key contributors emphasize that the report itself is a new and inclusive way to present innovative local solutions and their impact on providing solutions to common challenges. UN agencies such as UN-Habitat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United National Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) were invited to the launch, and stressed that subnational governments’ contributions – as framed in the report – will also be essential to inspire more and better spaces and means of dialogue to implement the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda and the other global development agendas. As explicitly called for by the Global Taskforce, their coordinated implementation can be a powerful catalyst for SDG localization.
What Now? Towards HLPF 2019
In the spirit of #Listen2Cities, representatives from local and regional governments warmly welcomed the report as a necessary step to trigger an internal process of self-assessment, which will hopefully improve the way local and regional governments conceive the SDGs and integrate them into their local governance and strategic views. New York City and three Japanese cities have already developed their own Voluntary Local Reviews. These VLRs are an inspiring step forward.
UCLG is already moving ahead with the preparation of the GOLD V Report, which will provide an update on the status of decentralization and local governments worldwide, exploring their proactive involvement as key drivers of localization and sustainable development.
The report titled, ’Towards the Localization of the SDGs,’ is available for download here.
This article was authored by Edgardo Bilsky Director of Research and Intelligence at United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Andrea Ciambra, Research Officer at United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and Luc Aldon, Research Officer at United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).