The 2021 HLPF has provided several opportunities for discussion of local action and reporting on the SDGs, including an official session on the role of cities and local authorities in SDG implementation.
Speakers emphasized that many SDG targets can only be achieved through extensive local action, and explained the value of conducting voluntary local reviews.
The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) held a dedicated session on the role of cities and local authorities in SDG implementation, as part of its official programme at the 2021 session. Speakers emphasized that many SDG targets can only be achieved through extensive local action.
Cities, towns, and regions need the authority to act, the skills to implement, and the voice to share their experience.
The session titled, ‘Going local: How can we support local authorities in implementing the SDGs and how can we best build on voluntary local reviews,’ took place on 8 July. Speakers explained the value of conducting and supporting voluntary local reviews (VLRs), noting that:
- they have advanced SDG implementation by translating the Global Goals into concrete community actions and solutions;
- they enable direct engagement between the UN and cities, which are the best positioned level of government to inform policy on building back better from COVID-19;
- they help a community reflect on efforts and identify challenges and areas that need attention; and
- they can help dissolve “local silos.”
Experiences were presented by the mayors of communities that have created or are in the process of creating VLRs, including: Subang Jaya, Malaysia; Helsinki, Finland; New York City, US; and Kitakyushu City, Japan. In one city, the VLR processes helped to develop environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria. One mayor said their city’s VLR strategy has been a “powerful tool in recovering from COVID-19.”
Penny Abeywardena, New York City Commissioner for International Affairs, announced that the VLR Declaration launched in 2019 now has 215 global signatories. Its provisions include identifying how existing strategies align with the SDGs, providing at least one forum where stakeholders can come together to share experiences, and submitting a voluntary local review to the UN during the HLPF.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Council of Europe, emphasized that cities, towns, and regions need to have “the authority to act, the skills to implement, and the voice to share their experience.” The representative called on national governments to implement subsidiarity, by empowering local and regional authorities with autonomy, finances, and other support for action on the SDGs. He pointed to portals for local-level SDG monitoring in Germany and Italy, and the example of Norway’s association of local and regional authorities, which conducts a Voluntary Subnational Review and contributes to the Voluntary National Review.
The EU described its handbook to support local authorities on indicators and monitoring. The UN Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism stressed the need for national officials to promote local ownership, such as through workshops. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin meeting coverage] [UN meeting summary]
The HLPF sidelines have provided several other opportunities for discussion of local action and reporting on the SDGs. A side event on ‘Scaling up Voluntary Local Reviews in Africa: Responding to COVID-19 and Meeting the needs of the Decade of action’ was organized by UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with UN-Habitat and other partners. It aimed to elicit good practices and lessons learned with examples from Africa, launch the Africa VLR guidelines as a tool to support scaling of VLRs in the region, and strengthen partnerships for VLRs and VNRs. [UNECA news] [Side event webpage]
A VNR Lab took place on 12 July with a focus on ‘Enhancing the dialogue between the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and the Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs).’ The session aimed to showcase how 2021 VNRs used local reviews in their own review processes, and consider ways for reviews at the two levels to support each other and SDG implementation overall. The Lab session drew attention to the Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of SDG implementation. The Lab was organized by DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development Goals together with the UN regional commissions.
Finally, local and regional governments (LRGs) held an LRG Day on 9 July and a two-day LRG Forum on the sidelines of the HLPF from 12-13 July. The events aimed to illustrate the importance of localizing action and partnerships among spheres of governments and stakeholders towards achieving the SDGs under review by the 2021 HLPF. [ENB meeting coverage]
The annual HLPF session is taking place virtually and in-person at UN Headquarters in New York, US, from 6-15 July. [ENB coverage of 2021 HLPF]