30 June 2020
Handbook Provides Guidelines for Local SDG Plans in Europe
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Beginning in 2018, a number of municipalities have prepared SDG implementation plans and labeled them "Voluntary Local Reviews".

The 'European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews' provides examples of official and experimental indicators that municipalities can use to monitor local SDG implementation.

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre published a handbook to support local-level authorities in preparing reviews of SDG implementation (“voluntary local reviews,” or VLRs). The handbook provides examples from 14 reviews presented since 2018.

Beginning in 2016, national governments have been invited to prepare Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their national planning to implement the SDGs, as part of the global follow-up and review mechanism for the 2030 Agenda. The VNRs are presented during the UN’s annual sessions of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). In 2018, municipalities began preparing their own SDG implementation plans and reports, termed VLRs. 

The ‘European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews,’ released in early 2020, provides examples of official and experimental indicators that municipalities can use to monitor local SDG implementation. The indicators can help local-level authorities establish baselines for their communities, compare action with that of other cities, and monitor their progress on addressed specific challenges.

The scope of each VLR varies. For example:

  • Helsinki, Finland’s VLR is structured around five goals using a limited number of local indicators with an in-depth analysis of the different challenges;
  • Bristol, UK’s VLR is based on the UN’s guidelines for VNRs, and reviews each of the 17 Goals;
  • Kitakyushu and Shimokawa, Japan also review each of the 17 Goals; 
  • New York City, US has focused annual VLRs on the selected SDGs under review by the HLPF each year; and 
  • La Paz, Bolivia includes includes maps of the indicators per city district.

The report suggests the following steps be taken to localize the SDGs in a particular community:

  • define the management method;
  • conduct a mapping exercise of the SDGs versus the existing city strategic plan development; 
  • define the number and type of Goals the city wants to assess and monitor; 
  • diagnosis the state of the SDGs in the community through the preparation of a VLR; 
  • conduct co-creation sessions with stakeholders and communities; 
  • define an agenda and targets, redefine monitoring indicators, and adapt management mechanisms;
  • conduct pilot projects; 
  • monitor the projects; and 
  • evaluate the projects and redefine priority actions.

The JRC intends to test the data and methods presented the Handbook with selected cities, and will update and improve the methodology for local SDG monitoring. 

The JRC is the science and knowledge service of the European Commission. [Publication: European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews

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