The fourth Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) Forum on the 2030 Agenda convened under the theme, “Fostering a recovery that is resilient and led by the communities.” This was the second time the forum was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, meeting from 12-13 July, convened on the sidelines of the 2021 UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and is aimed at illustrating the importance of localizing actions and partnerships towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under review by the HLPF 2021.
The Forum was facilitated by Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which organized the event.
During opening remarks, Munir Akram, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), highlighted a session that took place on Thursday 8 July, titled, “Going Local,” which showcased the value of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) in promoting LRGs in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Via Video message, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said LRGs are at the forefront of tackling the impacts of the pandemic. He said their role in delivering public services is essential for a sustainable recovery.
Jan Van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague, the Netherlands, discussed the UN’s work on future cities, which advocates for collaboration and collective actions for a safer, more inclusive, and more prosperous urban environment.
Ulrika Modéer, UN Development Programme (UNDP), noted the need to address, vulnerability, poverty, hunger, health, and inequalities, and to consider differentiated impacts in vaccine inequality currently in play globally.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), highlighted, among others, the Local 2030 platform, which supports local leaders in implementing strategies that advance the SDGs at the local level.
Two panel sessions discussed the importance of localizing actions through LRGs for achieving the SDGs.
Panel 1: Local Public Service Provision: Key to Universal Health Coverage and Well Being
This panel, moderated by Lara Blanco, Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General, focused on links between public service provision, health coverage, and protecting the commons.
Aysen Nikolayev, Head of the Sakha Republic, Russian Federation, reported that his region declared 2021-2030 the decade of health, where every resident will have a right to modern and preventive medicine, rehabilitation services, and remote health consultations.
M’pho Moruakgomo, Chair, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, said addressing growing inequalities in society is necessary to safeguard lives, health, and livelihoods.
Thembisile Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane, South Africa, said the “Going Local,” session held during HLPF 2021 raised key issues regarding building local capacities for an equality-driven system in which national governments engage with LRGs.
Carolina Cosse, Mayor of Montevideo, Uruguay, said his territory is utilizing mobile clinics to reach populations affected by the pandemic and ensure fundamental human rights, including food, work, health, and equality.
Jorge Muñoz Wells, Mayor of Lima, Peru, said his city’s VLR has reviewed actions in health, including a programme to address anemia, which is affecting many children.
Bjørn Arild Gram, Head, Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, cited Norway’s Universal Health Coverage providing quality healthcare through a multigovernance approach.
Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, Public Services International (PSI), drew attention to PSI’s global campaign for the Human Right to Health aimed at influencing policies leading to universal public health coverage.
Panel 2: Guaranteeing Social Inclusion and Prosperity from the Ground Up
This panel, moderated by Greg Munro, Director, Cities Alliance, discussed sustainable and locally driven food systems, inclusion of migrants and refugees, gender equality and empowerment, and issues regarding disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.
Discussing gender and inclusion, Carola Gunnarsson, Mayor of Sala, Sweden, revealed that violence and harassment of female politicians is a key obstacle to women’s involvement in politics.
Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm, Sweden, reported a decrease in the gender gap in salaries in her city, and urged safeguarding the lives of women and girls from violence.
Magnus Berntsson, Vice-President, Regional Council of Västra Götaland, Sweden, urged promoting gender, embracing diversity, and providing resources for innovation and growth.
Mabel Bianco, Co-Chair, HLPF Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Coordination Mechanism, called for including all through a more balanced participation of civil society to curb the harassment of women, indigenous peoples, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.
Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose, Costa Rica, said LRGs should reflect the aspirations of local communities and require a vote in regional debates and finances to localize the SDGs.
Abigail Binay, Mayor of Makati, the Philippines, said Makati is home to several crop cooperatives, enabling her administration to raise resources to tackle poverty.
Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener, Canada, cited activism to acquire national government funding for LRGs to tackle the impacts of the pandemic. He reported on Kitchener’s 10-year plan to guide economic development and community initiatives to support building back better from COVID-19 and address emerging issues.
Daniel Gómez, Deputy Director of National Planning Department, Colombia, discussed programmes to sustain a continued reduction in poverty rates through cash transfer systems, compensation schemes, and a child malnutrition programme, among others.
Emilia Saiz and Lucy Slack, acting Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, presented the joint statement developed by the Global Taskforce of LRGs to the 2021 HLPF, including calls to:
- strengthen health services and universal vaccinations;
- include LRGs in recovery packages for a safe green and just recovery;
- recognize the essential role of culture for recovery and power for social justice;
- recognize the local agenda as a response to recovery and to achieve the SDGs; and
- recognize the critical role of migration to economies and linkages between climate change and human mobility.
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