The fifth report of local and regional governments (LRGs) to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), “Towards the Localization of the SDGs”, facilitated by UCLG on behalf of the Global Taskforce, provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of LRGs’ efforts to respond to the pandemic in cities and territories worldwide, as well as their connections with the SDGs under review.
Presented by Mayor of Kazan and Chair of UNACLA Ilsur Metshin in the framework of the constituency’s participation in the 2021 HLPF, during the “Local and Regional Governments’ Day” on July 10, with over 30 mayors and representatives of local and regional governments, members of the Global Taskforce, partners from the UN and the civil society, and over 150 participants, this year’s report places a particular focus on the 43 countries presenting Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in 2021.
In spite of the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, LRGs have continued to promote initiatives to accelerate the localization of the SDGs and to reinstate their commitment to global sustainability agendas by mainstreaming them in their development plans and strategies.
The report highlights how LRGs are contributing to promoting a safe, just and green recovery at all levels and what challenges must be overcome to harness their full potential as well as how the global movement for the localization of the SDGs has expanded over the past year. The expansion of subnational reporting efforts deserves special attention in this regard, with double the total number of VLRs available worldwide (from approximately 40 VLRs in May 2020 to more than 100 in June 2021); while in the same period of time, 15 VSRs have emerged in 14 countries worldwide, which together represent more than 16,000 LRGs.
The challenges that LRGs have faced in the involvement in monitoring and reporting are addressed: In spite of an increasing number of VNRs explicitly recognising the role of LRGs in SDG localization, it is true nonetheless that they have been involved in only 37% of the Voluntary National Reviews, and involvement has varied immensely between regions: it has only grown in Europe and Asia Pacific, it stagnant in Africa, and recoiling in Latin America.
The report showcases six critical recommendations, that are also imbued in the ways forward, to ensure the SDGs are reached and the recovery is built with everyone in mind, building from the local level:
- Align COVID-19 recovery plans at all levels with global sustainability agendas: The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework and the New Urban Agenda, among others, are underpinned by principles that must be put at the heart of the recovery: the protection of human rights, the fight against poverty and inequalities, as well as promoting the ecological transition and building resilient communities. In particular, the New Urban Agenda must be an integral part of both national and local public responses for the COVID-19 recovery, as it is crucial to accelerate and territorialize the achievement of the SDGs.
- Ensure equitable access to health and public services for all, putting human rights at the centre of the recovery: People-centred planning and place-based policies will be key to developing a sustainable and inclusive urban and territorial recovery, integrating informal settlements and activities into the urban fabric.
- Drive a safe, equitable and green recovery that works for all by involving LRGs in its definition and implementation: It is essential to support stronger frameworks of public services and infrastructures supported by social policies that bridge the inequalities that COVID-19 has exacerbated.
- Empower LRGs through adequate finances and multi-level coordination mechanisms: Recovery packages include financial support to ensure that LRGs will be able to sustain public service provision as a cornerstone of health systems, develop healthy cities and territories, and achieve the global sustainability agendas.
- Strengthen LRGs’ contributions to SDG localization by integrating them into national coordination mechanisms and reporting processes: The localization of the 2030 Agenda requires incorporating the SDGs into local and regional plans, policies and actions. Officially acknowledging VLRs and VSRs and including their insights, data and results in the VNRs, are decisive steps to intensify efforts at all levels towards the global localization movement.
- Renew the multilateral system by acknowledging LRGs’ voices at the global level and fully engaging them in decision making processes: As LRGs’ role is increasingly viewed as essential to achieving the universal development agendas, their voices, points of view and participation should also be fully institutionalised at the global level. Global Fora such as the HLPF, and UN Regional Forums on Sustainable Development, are key opportunities to truly become multi-level and multi-stakeholder spaces, and for the international community to prove its commitment to ensure LRGs a seat at global decision-making tables.
Ultimately, the lessons learned and the efforts shared in the report highlight that the only way to be safe and healthy is to ensure everyone is taken care of, and local and regional governments hold the key to making sure that no-one, and no territory, is left behind in the coming years.