From 11 to 20 July 2016, the United Nations Member States together with a wide array of stakeholders participated in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the UN central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. The event included voluntary reviews of 22 countries and thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs, a range of side events, a Partnership Exchange event, and SDGs Learning, Training and Practice sessions.
In this framework, the UNDP, the UN-HABITAT, the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments organized a side event on the localization of the SDGs. The session provided an opportunity to present the activities carried out and the challenges encountered so far by several countries in the SDG localization process. Everyone agreed on the importance of partnerships across all levels of government and civil society. This should be prioritized if we are to achieve progress on the 2030 Agenda.
The benefits of globalizing and localizing the agenda—often referred to as glocalization—include giving stakeholders a voice and shared responsibility to prioritize, integrate and implement the SDG targets. In order to incorporate the SDGs at a local level, officials must raise awareness, advocate SDG adoption, initiate implementation and facilitate outcome monitoring. These efforts will require collaboration between local and regional governments, as well as associations and networks to ensure active participation and a coordinated response. Promoting an integrated localized approach to SDG adoption will require culturally appropriate awareness raising.
Operationalizing the SDGs will vary greatly for small geographically-isolated villages as opposed to densely populated metropolitan urban areas. Involved parties must be careful not to stretch the capacities of local and regional governments that have limited budgets, personnel and resources. For many of these countries, the government is already under pressure to meet ambitious development goals. There is a growing need for more inclusion and for the pooling of resources. By ensuring a coordinated localized response, the SDGs become more than just global aspirations, but goals for the individual, family and community level that can turn strong villages and cities into strong nations.
As a speaker, Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener, Canada, asserted that 60% of the SDGs will require the engagement of local authorities. He presented the “Roadmap for localizing the SDGs”, developed by the GTF, UNDP and UN-Habitat, which seek to influence national policy-making in relation to implementing and monitoring the SDGs in their country. He called for creating and supporting platforms to share lessons learned and best practices by cities, instead of "reinventing the wheel."
Mr. Stan Nkwain, Special Advisor to the Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, emphasized the comprehensive focus of the 2030 agenda: “The complexity of today’s challenges explains why our 2030 agenda is ambitious --- it addresses not only the social but also the economic, environmental and political dimensions of sustainable development; it charges us to reduce inequalities, improve infrastructure, secure sustainable energy solutions, and promote peaceful and inclusive societies, among others.” Mr. Nkwain also highlighted the necessity of a localized approach: “For the vast majority of men and women the local government is the most visible and accessible level of their engagement with any public authority. Local governments are closer to the daily realities of the local communities, and have greater potential and incentives to think holistically about needs and aspirations.” He acknowledged the challenge of achieving the 2030 agenda and discussed UNDP’s efforts to streamline local adoption of the SDGs, including the joint collaboration of UNDP, UN-Habitat, and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments to develop a toolbox to support the localization of the SDGs.
Yamina Djacta, UN-HABITAT, said the 2030 Agenda is about interconnections, both vertical, among the different levels of governance, and horizontal, between the UN agencies, all UN pillars, and all stakeholders. Noting that the SDGs depend on strong local action embedded in a multi-layer, multi-stakeholder framework, she stressed that the HABITAT III Agenda will be essential to SDG implementation, as it relates to country action at the local level.
Finally, Peter Wollaert, CIFAL Flanders, spoke about the work of CIFAL Flanders in Belgium to strengthen the capacities of government and civil society leaders, in order to advance sustainable development and support SDG implementation in Belgium.