19 July 2023
Event Explores How SDG Localization Can Get 2030 Agenda Back on Track
Yokohama, Japan / Viviane Okubo on Unsplash
story highlights

Several cities and regions have completed multiple VLRs where they report on progress in “how their communities are either achieving or struggling to reach” the SDGs “at their neighborhood level”.

As more cities embark on developing their first VLRs, “the potential for pooling wisdom … is enormous”.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) convened a panel discussion on how effective localization of SDG action can help get the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development back on track. Speakers “emphasized how many SDGs find their truest expression and achievement at the local level,” making local governments the best agents to drive change.

The event convened on the margins of the 2023 session of the UN Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on 11 July. The question it sought to explore was ‘What Happens After the VLR?’

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary of the discussions notes that several cities and regions have completed multiple Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) where they report on progress in “how their communities are either achieving or struggling to reach” the SDGs “at their neighborhood level.” As more cities embark on developing their first VLRs, ENB writes, “the potential for pooling wisdom … is enormous.”

Barbara Pons-Giner, Commissioner for Strategic Projects and the 2030 Agenda, Barcelona City Council, said over the course of the three VLRs that Barcelona has published, the city has sought to introduce new content, such as a budgetary alignment. It also increased citizen participation through open-source digital platforms and an annual SDG-themed awards gala. Pons-Giner said “such efforts matter to combatting absurd criticisms grounded in conspiracies while also engaging with healthy skepticism about the real social value of the SDGs.”

Masahiro Nishikawa, Director of the Office of the City of Yokohama, Representative to the Americas, shared how Yokohama’s experience creating a VLR has informed partnerships with other cities in Southeast Asia, including Bangkok, Thailand, and Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Mariana Cammisa, International Cooperation Manager, Buenos Aires City Government, explained how Buenos Aires’ indicators for tracking gender equity grew from a narrow focus on physical autonomy and violence before the VLR to include 90 indicators that cover physical, economic, and decision-making equality. 

Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener, Canada, and Co-President of United Cities and Local Governance (UCLG), reported that while Kitchener’s first VLR “is still on the horizon,” the municipal government has advanced the SDGs in other visible ways, such as the SDG Idea Factory. He also noted that although “more Canadian cities are navigating relationships with the 2030 Agenda, … Canada has done much better at embracing the SDGs at the college and university level.”

Martino Miraglia, Human Settlements Officer, SDG Localization and Local Governments, UN-Habitat, highlighted the development of 220 VLRs as “further evidence of cities championing the SDGs.” He acknowledged, however, that “they represent a minute fragment of all local and regional governments,” further noting that “an SDG progress report is just the first step in engaging political leadership and building up a data ecosystem that drives policies connected to stakeholder needs.” [ENB Coverage of Side Event] [Event Recording]

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