The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific launched the first region-specific guidelines on preparing voluntary local reviews.
Launched ahead of World Cities Day 2020, the publication highlights the importance of local leaders and city governments in implementing the SDGs.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched the first region-specific guidelines on preparing voluntary local reviews (VLRs). Launched ahead of World Cities Day 2020, the publication highlights the importance of local leaders and city governments in implementing the SDGs, and notes that VLRs are gaining in momentum.
‘Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines on Voluntary Local Reviews’ was launched on 30 October 2020. The guidelines were developed by ESCAP and the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanisation (PPSU) in partnership with cities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kiribati, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, and Thailand.
In the report’s foreword, Stefanos Fotiou, ESCAP, and Norliza Hashim, PPSU, explain that by pursuing sustainable urbanization, cities can be “change agents” and help solve the climate crisis, unsustainable resource use, widespread inequality, discrimination and injustice. This is particularly true of Asia-Pacific cities, where most of the world’s urban population lives. They add that most of the global SDG indicators have an urban dimension, and about one-third of SDG indicators are measured at the local rather than national level. Therefore, the authors write, “any country serious about [achieving the SDGs] will find the path to sustainable development runs through its cities.”
The report notes that VLRs can help cities and regions to: localize the SDGs; demonstrate their capacity and commitments; rethink their planning process; better engage local communities to understand their needs; and get communities involved meaningfully in recovery strategies and long-term development efforts.
However, no specific template or official format exists for VLRs. The publication provides the first region-specific guidance on how to conduct a VLR and produce a report.
The guidelines build on existing resources to provide practical tools, checklists, and templates for conducting a VLR. The resources are designed to be complimentary with the respective country’s Voluntary National Review (VNR). The publication includes an overview of the VLRs produced already by several Asia-Pacific municipalities, including: Hamamatsu, Japan, which reviewed all 17 SDGs and has incorporated them into its 30-year development plan; Kitakyushu, Japan, which includes a focus on pollution abatement; and Shimokawa, Japan, highlighting extensive stakeholder engagement.
Observing World Cities Day 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “local action is the key” to rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic and engaging in the Decade of Action for the SDGs. He said that the pandemic response has brought the value of communities “into sharp focus…. Let us maintain this recognition of their value.”
UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif said the only way to achieve the SDGs is to create wider opportunities for communities to “network, co-create and finance their initiatives.” She said the value of communities “goes far beyond supporting emergency responses…. communities must be at the centre of designing their own, longer term solutions.”
Additional guidebooks launched in 2020 to help communities develop VLRs include:
- ‘State of Voluntary Local Reviews 2020: Local Action for Global Impact in Achieving the SDGs‘, a review of the publicly available VLRs as of February 2020 prepared by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES);
- ‘European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews,’ which provides examples of official and experimental indicators that municipalities can use to monitor local SDG implementation; and
- ‘Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs)’ in a VLR Series by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
[Publication: Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines on Voluntary Local Reviews Reviewing local progress to accelerate action for the Sustainable Development Goals] [ESCAP landing page] [ESCAP press release] [UN Secretary-General Message] [Statement of UN Habitat Executive Director] [UN News on World Cities Day observance]