Two workshops brought together the eight local government associations presenting a Voluntary Subnational Review (VSR) in 2021, March 12 and April 22. In addition to reporting on the progress of a country's local governments in the implementation of the SDGs, VSRs are a transformative tool towards more effective multilevel governance mechanisms and to strengthen the involvement of local governments in the localization movement.
Following the success of the six VSR pilot countries in 2020 and a first encounter on VSRs during the UCLG Retreat in February, UCLG GOLD and CIB working group organized two VSR workshops in March and April in order to keep strengthening the SDG localization process from a bottom-up perspective. Indeed, the VSRs report on the progress made by local and regional governments in a country in implementing the 2030 Agenda (cities, towns and regions). This year, eight national local government associations committed to present a VSR: Cape Verde, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. All of them engaged actively in both workshops and were joined by UCLG’s regional sections, as well as by other partners and local government associations from non reporting countries. The workshops resulted in a very fruitful exchange of knowledge, ideas, tips and questions enriching the conceptualization and putting into practice of the VSR processes.
During the first workshop (March 2021), emphasis was put on the added value of VSRs, on their structure and the methodology for their development, as well as on the dialogue between national and local governments to contribute to the national reporting process (VNRs). Each team presented evidence of progress of the SDG localization initiatives in their countries, and shared insights about the process planned to collect this evidence, the tools used, and the way they will reflect these in the VSR. The second workshop (April 2021) focused on preliminary findings, the main challenges and the negotiation processes with national governments, and on how to develop policy recommendations. Mexico, Norway and Indonesia presented the first results from the research, the methodology, the criteria for the selection of best practices and indicators, as well as key lessons. Sweden, Germany, Cape Verde, Tunisia and Zimbabwe then shared their progress in the reporting process, key challenges and advocacy messages.
Overall, the two workshops highlighted the role of the VSRs not only as a reporting exercise on the progress made towards SDG localization, but most essentially as a transformative tool triggering evolution in the way policy making is carried out, in particular towards more effective multilevel governance mechanisms for the achievement of the SDGs. Local government associations are taking advantage of the VSR process to strengthen their dialogue with national governments in reporting and coordination mechanisms for SDG implementation.
Indeed, discussions came back many times on the need to develop localized indicators and methodologies to collect local data and to select local experiences, as well as on how to better link VSRs with Voluntary Local Reviews to illustrate the progress made at the subnational level. Many local government associations stress the difficulties they are facing to ensure that the experience of subnational governments is considered in the national reports.
The VSRs will be “key tools for the advocacy work of local government associations at the national and international level and for strengthening the capacity of local and regional governments to be active actors in implementing the SDGs, and to be recognised as such” (Edgardo Bilsky, Head of Research, UCLG).
VSRs are also “key to show the role local and regional governments should be playing in global agendas’ implementation” (Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General): they consolidate the policy visions related to the New Urban Agenda, the COP26 and COP15, amongst others, and will play a role in the UCLG Pact for the Future.
The discussions and debates during the two workshops were very lively, concrete and constructive, and demonstrated a valuable and active engagement on the part of each of the participants to exchange experiences and advice that can be of use to all. A third workshop is planned at the end of May which aims to follow up on the discussions on strategies to make the most out of the findings and translate them into strong political messages and policy recommendations, through robust communication and dissemination campaigns at national and international levels.