UCLG and UN Habitat: VLR Series Launch
Organized by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and UN-Habitat
On the sidelines of the 2020 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) launched the first volume of Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of the VLR Series. The virtual launch event highlighted that localization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is even more important in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that no one and no place is left behind in its aftermath.
The VLR Series aims to provide guidance, definitions, and technical support to any local or regional government seeking to engage in the VLR process. The Series is an integral part of the work to be undertaken by the UCLG Community of Practice. This work aims to increase awareness of local and regional governments’ co-ownership of the 2030 Agenda.
Opening the event, Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General, explained that VLRs are “part and parcel” of the review of 2030 Agenda implementation and essential for linking local and international action. Thus, she said, local governments should be consulted in drafting voluntary national reviews (VNRs).
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, said UN-Habitat and UCLG have come together to help cities and local governments find innovative solutions to the social and economic disruptions brought on by COVID-19. She emphasized the need to empower cities and local governments through spatially-disaggregated data and sufficient resources. She called for integrating VLRs into the VNR process.
Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s (NYC) Commissioner for International Affairs, said NYC is currently looking into charting more equitable future pathways as the city recovers from COVID-19. She noted VLRs will be increasingly critical to the recovery process. She urged policymakers to use the SDGs as a common framework when rebuilding societies and economies.
Pablo Fernández, UCLG, noted the VLR Guidelines used the first 40 VLRs presented as basis for analysis. Edgardo Bilsky, UCLG, added that the VLR Guidelines analyzed existing VLRs and extracted key components, features, and impacts to help other local and regional governments develop VLRs.
Shipra Narang, UN-Habitat, announced that, in collaboration with the Madrid City Council, UN-Habitat will organize an Expert Group Meeting on strengthening the VLR process by the end of 2020.
During the ensuing panel discussion, Santiago Saura, Madrid’s Councillor for International Affairs and Cooperation, said the City of Madrid began developing a strategy that is localizing the SDGs in coordination with the national government.
Gregory Maltsev, Moscow Urban Forum Research Centre, said Moscow began conducting research for its first VLR, with support from UN-Habitat.
Yolanda Martínez, Secretary of Social and Human Development, State of Oaxaca, Mexico, underscored the importance of stakeholder engagement in local policy development. She announced that the 2030 Agenda for Children was launched on 6 July 2020.
Luiz Alvaro Salles, Secretary of International Affairs, City of São Paulo, Brazil, announced the launch of his city’s SDG localization report. He emphasized the need for sustainability principles when planning the COVID-19 recovery.
Francisco Resnicoff, Undersecretary for International Affairs, City of Buenos Aires, Argentina, said VLRs provide a roadmap for coordination among local government units. Noting that cities are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, he mentioned Buenos Aires is working on its second VLR, which aims to incorporate the impact of COVID-19 on the city.
Marilia Sorrini Peres Ortiz, Deputy Secretary of Planning, Niteroi, a city in southeast Brazil, said Niteroi’s VLR focuses, inter alia, on participatory planning, housing, transportation, health, and access to land.
Steven Heddle, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), noted the SDGs have been embedded in Scotland’s national performance framework. He said local governments need resources to develop capacity to effectively work across government units and institutions.
Miquel Rodriguez, Barcelona’s Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, explained that Barcelona set local SDG targets and key performance indicators, which the local government will adopt by September 2020.
Amson Sibanda, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted the increased importance of VLRs as the international community embarks on a Decade of Action during which it must also “build back better” after COVID-19. Summarizing takeaways from the discussion, he mentioned no “one size fits all” exists when it comes to VLRs. He said VLRs are not only a tool for monitoring and evaluation, but they also facilitate social inclusion, multi-level coordination, and prioritization in planning and budgeting.
These initial discussions on the role of local and regional governments in SDG implementation took place on 8 July 2020. Subsequent UCLG events on this issue will convene on 10 and 13 July.
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