Sustainable Development Goals and the Vital Role of Local Actors

Above: Participants at Venice City Solutions 

Author: Marta Lopes

In our last newsletter, the Head of the Strong Cities Network (SCN) wrote about the similarities between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) agendas following the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. This month, the SCN joined mayors, local and regional government officials, and civil society at the Venice City Solutions 2019 to discuss how cities and local governments are implementing the SDGs.

In 2015, all UN countries adopted the 17 SDGs with the aim of achieving Agenda 2030, which seeks to strengthen universal peace and prosperity with the motto ‘leaving no one behind’.

Despite the significant challenges in achieving this agenda, which encompasses many PVE goals, the SDGs represent a paradigm shift in the current development approach. Greater recognition has been achieved of the dangers of working in isolated silos, for instance, and actors are becoming increasingly aware of the need to integrate agendas, realising for example the close ties between development, social cohesion and security issues. Partnerships are increasingly valued, recognising that issues can be addressed much more easily if we create synergies, and participatory approaches are increasingly adopted, making sure that all relevant stakeholders, from local CSOs to national decision-making bodies are involved.

While the task itself may be daunting, the event highlighted powerful examples where cities and local governments have been taking ownership of the SDGs despite not being involved in the decision-making process nor having any set obligations to report on them.

SCN member city Malaga (Spain) for instance, published its progress report last year, a process that is completely voluntary even for national governments. The Mayor of Ribeira Brava (Cape Verde) introduced local platforms his city established to promote dialogue between government levels and participatory democracy in an effort to localise the SDGs. The private sector is also a key player for this agenda. The Impact Investment Group, an investment funds manager based in Melbourne (Australia), is committed to demonstrating the positive impact finance can have. The group has funded a number of impactful projects, aiming at “financial returns alongside measurable, intentional environment and/or social benefits”.

Despite the criticisms on the UN and similar intergovernmental organisations, the energy and determination of all participants to the Venice City Solutions 2019 to implement the SDGs is a great testimony to the importance of pursuing multilateral efforts and continue fostering global partnerships. The SCN is committed to supporting its member cities in implementing the SDGs with the hope that, when the time comes to set new goals, local governments will be given a meaningful seat at the negotiation table and will be in a position to shape the global agenda.

The SCN would like to thank UN-Habitat and Associazione Italiana per il Consiglio dei Comuni e delle Regioni d’Europa for inviting us to the Venice City Solutions 2019.

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