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Coverage of Selected Side Events at the 2020 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2020)

7-16 July 2020 | UN Headquarters, New York

Event Covered on Monday, 13 July 2020

Third Local and Regional Governments Forum on the 2030 Agenda: The Decade of Action – Bolstering Change from the Ground-up

Presented by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and Local 2030

Panelists during the closing ceremony

The Third Local and Regional Governments (LRG) Forum on the 2030 Agenda took place virtually on the sidelines of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The event identified essential elements for kicking off the Decade of Action from the perspective of the LRG constituency in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase. It also highlighted actions LRG have taken in preventing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Forum emphasized the importance of multilevel governance, sound local finances, decentralized cooperation, and territorial cohesion in the post-COVID-19 era. Participants shared examples of ways LRG can catalyze the bottom-up transformation towards sustainability and resilience that will be necessary during the recovery.

Opening the event, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, invited LRG to commit to SDG Acceleration Actions on the DESA platform launched at the 2019 SDG Summit.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, underscored the need for: innovative financing mechanisms; investing in human capital to build and sustain capacity; and smart green growth strategies.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighted the need for a new “DNA” for cities – data, networks, and artificial intelligence – for a more rapid recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and effective delivery of essential services.

UCLG President Mohamed Boudra, Mayor of Al Hoceima and President of the Moroccan Association of Mayors, invited participants to read the Towards the Localization of the SDGs report, which was launched on 10 July 2020.

Panel Discussion on Delivering Universal Basic Services

During this discussion, Magnus Berntsson, President of the Assembly of European Regions, underscored the need for integrating environment-related SDGs in LGR recovery plans and efforts.

Abdessamad Sekkal, President of the Rabat-Salé-Kénitra Regional Council, Morocco, emphasized the importance of subsidiarity and citizens’ participation in decision making for SDG implementation in the post-COVID-19 era.

Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul, The Gambia, spoke about major challenges related to the fact that in Africa, many people do not think COVID-19 exists and do not respect health protocols that can stop the spread of the virus.

Mpho Moruakgomo, President, Botswana Association of Local Authorities and Chair, Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), mentioned that LRG in Botswana have, in the wake of COVID-19, begun promoting sustainable proximity production, whereby things are produced locally.

  • Mpho Moruakgomo

Osama Al Azzam, Director General, Cities and Villages Development Bank, and Acting Secretary General, Ministry of Local Administration, Jordan, said LRG are collaborating with solar farms to meet increasing energy demands caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

David Boys, Deputy General Secretary, Public Services International, a global trade union federation, underscored the need for UN-led reform of the current tax system. He highlighted that, without a reform that redirects funds from corporations and the richest individuals to public services, countries will fail to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and recovery challenges.

  • David Boys
Panel Discussion on Multilevel Territorial Governance and Sustainable Financing

Session moderator Haoliang Xu, Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, underscored the need for voluntary local reviews (VLRs) to include the sustainable management of natural resources.

UCLG Co-President Thembisile Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane and President of the South African Local Government Association, called for respecting existing commitments, particularly those in the Paris Agreement.

Ashok Sridharan, Mayor of Bonn, Germany, and President of ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability, urged LRG to present ambitious commitments during the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, UK, in 2021.

  • Ashok Sridharan

Claudia López, Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, said cities need new, green, sustainable development agendas moving forward.

Linda Bilmes, Harvard Kennedy School, and UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA), explained that a dollar spent at the local level generates two dollars in economic growth.

Célestine Ketcha Courtès, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Cameroon, called for strong synergies between local and national governments, development partners, and the UN.

María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility, underscored the need to consider accessibility as a crosscutting issue in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Panel Discussion on Building Back Better

Elliott Harris, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, said “building back better” means building something new that better responds to the needs of our environment, economies, and societies.

Wim Dries, Mayor of Genk and President, Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities, said if the SDGs had already been achieved, the global health crisis and its social and economic impacts would have been far less severe.

  • Wim Dries

Adriana Allen, President, Habitat International Coalition, underscored the need for new forms of distribution, participation, and parity in political representation in the post-COVID-19 era to build more just, inclusive, and resilient societies.

Andrew Wilson, Permanent Observer for the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to the UN, said the key takeaway from the COVID-19 crisis is that our economic and social systems must build in resilience in the future.

Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan, Russian Federation, and President of the UN Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA), said the pandemic necessitated replicating and scaling up best practices in the response and in SDG implementation.

Armand Béouindè, Mayor of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and UCLG Africa Vice-President, said LRG need cooperation and support to relaunch their economies to raise much-needed resources for public budgets.

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, UCLG Africa Secretary-General, said the UN can show progress at its 75th Anniversary by bringing LRG to the table.

Greg Munro, Secretary-General, CLGF, said the multilateral system must address increased centralization of and infringement on human rights as responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

Closing Ceremony

Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th UN General Assembly, urged LRG to engage with the UN Global Compact local networks.

Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action, urged LGR to serve as advocates for the UN Secretary-General’s proposed six climate-related actions to shape the COVID-19 recovery.

Antonio de Mello, Coordinator of International Relations, Rio de Janeiro City Hall, Brazil, called for international institutions and development banks to provide credit lines for countries that are epicenters of the pandemic.

Closing the event, Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General, underscored the need for a more inclusive multilateral system to advance post-COVID-19 recovery efforts and the 2030 Agenda.

The Forum took place on 13 July 2020 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin has published a briefing note from this event in HTML and PDF.


Alejandra Salas |

More Information

UCLG Website

Publication: Towards the Localization of the SDGs

Joint Statement to the 2020 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development of the organized constituency of Local and Regional Governments

Images from the Event

Videos from the Event

HLPF Resources

IISD ENB/ENB+ Meeting Coverage

IISD Resources