by Edgardo Bilsky, Director of Research and Intelligence at United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
The report is based on an extensive analysis of the 158 VNRs from 143 different countries that have been presented during the HLPF since 2016 and first-hand information provided by local and regional governments and their associations in 80 countries.
The findings present the strong will of LRGs to collaborate in the fight towards sustainable development but also their aspirations and challenges that they face on a regular basis with regard to localization.
In relation to the upcoming decade focused on “action” and “delivery” of sustainable development, strengthening the localization process by harnessing the power of local and territorial pacts and the involvement of LRGs, and local stakeholders, will prove to be essential to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.
During Local and Regional Government day at the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments (GTF) presented its third report on the state of localization throughout the world. In preparation for the SDG Summit, the analysis in the report, facilitated by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), mapped the evolving role that subnational governments are playing to achieve the localization of the 2030 Agenda. The findings within it present the strong will of LRGs to collaborate in the fight towards sustainable development but also their aspirations and challenges that they face on a regular basis with regard to localization. Overall, it delivers findings found from LRGs in 80 different countries, including 24 of the 47 countries reporting in 2019, following a territorially coherent approach.
LRGs are the cornerstones of the global commitments and are the guarantors of leaving no one and no place behind.
Within the context of the SDG Summit and its focus on acting as a mid-term review, this report proves to be important as it highlights how LRGs are contributing to the global goals and what problems they are facing in doing so. LRGs are the cornerstones of the global commitments and are the guarantors of leaving no one and no place behind. During the high-level week at the UN, the GTF will be organizing the second edition of the Local and Regional Governments Forum as a critical space for dialogue among LRGs, Member States, and the UN system involved in the definition, implementation and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda. It will be welcoming local and regional governments and associations such as AMPCC, Barcelona, Helsinki, Kazan, Kitchener, Montevideo, SALGA, San Jose, Seville, and Strasbourg, among others. Further information on the Local and Regional Governments Forum can be found here.
Mapping Progress in SDG Localization
As for the previous editions, the findings of this 3rd Report, titled ‘Towards the Localization of the SDGs,’ aim 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 158 VNRs from 143 different countries that have been presented during the HLPF since 2016 and first-hand information provided by local and regional governments and their associations in 80 countries. Moreover, the different experiments by cities and regions to prepare Voluntary Local Reviews were also highlighted.
The results point to a paradox. Since then, LRG participation in the VNR process has been on average 42% (66 out of 143 countries). Furthermore, in 2019, 72% of the VNRs submitted mention LRGs as key institutional actors and stress the need for subnational institutional action, yet in only 38% of them were LRGs or their organizations consulted in the process.
This paradox is moreover confirmed by the insufficient level of involvement of LRGs in national coordination mechanisms. Since 2016, 49 out of 143 countries reported involvement of LRGs in those mechanisms (34%) while 61 reported no involvement. These mechanisms should serve as pillars on which policy coherence is established for the 2030 Agenda and therefore for the other development agendas as well.
In 2019, a majority of LRGs and their national associations responding to the survey have started to use the SDGs as a reference framework. The report provides a quick overview of the different types of activities led by LRG associations around the world.
From the surveys, LRGs and their associations identify inadequate human resources and limited local awareness as two of the main challenges for SDG localization, closely followed by inadequate financial resources and limited coordination across different spheres of government. Overall, the evolution of LRG participation in the reporting process, when compared to the expansion of the global local movement for the Localization of the SDG, represents a gap.
Local and Regional Governments’ Recommendations
Fostering the inclusion of LRGs in international decision making processes and the development of multilevel governance mechanisms.
Within the context of the SDG Summit, the limited involvement of LRGs throughout all stages of the redaction of voluntary national reviews, as stressed in the report, acts as a missed opportunity for the global goals. This is especially the case given the SDG Summit’s format as a mid-term review whereby having the commitments and aspirations of LRGs proves to be vital in light of the upcoming decade focused on “action” and “delivery”. In this regard, the gap must be closed between national governments and LRGs within the reporting framework.
Adequate financing streams should follow alignment efforts between national and local plans.
65% of the targets associated with achieving the SDGs require the involvement of local and regional governments. This strong presence, however, is not matched with strong financing mechanisms. According to the findings of the OECD-UCLG World Observatory on Subnational Government Finance and Investment, on a world average, LRGs account for 37% of total public investment. To effectively support the localization of the SDGs, adequate financing should be allocated to LRGs as well as policy coherence to create the necessary financial stream needed for sustainable projects in cities and territories. This is particularly important given the value that investments at the local level generate, including in public urban infrastructure, which are critical in improving the lives of citizens and our communities. Within the context of the SDG summit, LRGs will bring awareness to the fact the SDGs need LRG involvement to be achieved and this involvement is dependent not only on effective decentralization and consistence in competencies but also on fiscal decentralization and sustainable financing mechanisms.
Moving towards the “Implementation Decade”
In relation to the upcoming decade focused on “action” and “delivery” of sustainable development, strengthening the localization process by harnessing the power of local and territorial pacts and the involvement of LRGs, and local stakeholders, will prove to be essential to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. This includes consulting LRGs as decision makers in the present and future national SDG-cost assessments, in light of the SDG Summit and the end of the first four-year reporting cycle of the HLPF.
Via collaborative multi-level governance frameworks backed with appropriate financial autonomy, we can strive to be bolder in scaling-up local efforts devoted to the global agendas and co-lead institutional and regulatory reforms that unlock LRGs’ means of implementing the SDGs as well as other global agendas at the local level.