For the first time in three years, delegates met in person for the Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) Forum, at the UN Headquarters in New York. The session focused on aligning local urban planning and budgets with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) objectives, while maintaining local priorities such as quality education and health services, digital transformation, and food security. This special high-level event took place alongside the 2022 United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
Emilia Saiz Carrencedo, UCLG Secretary General, opened the second day of the Fifth Local and Regional Government (LRG) Forum on the 2030 Agenda, held in person at UN Headquarters, in New York City, US. She noted how LRGs are playing a key role in overcoming global interconnected crises through a multilevel government approach and multi-stakeholder network. She said LRGs have the potential to bring about innovative and practical solutions that could foster achievement of the SDGs from the local level towards the 2030 SDG Summit and beyond.
Abdulla Shahid, President of the UN General Assembly, highlighted LRGs’ key role in providing some of the most essential services and infrastructure, all of which are critical to achieving the SDGs. He stressed the essential role of LRGs in achieving SDG 4 (quality education), as well as SDG 5 (gender equality) through increased women’s participation in local government.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), urged action at the local and regional levels in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the food, fuel, and fertilizer supply disruptions caused by the combined crises. He added that one of lessons learned at the HLPF, through voluntary national reviews (VNRs), is that effective SDG implementation relies on the concrete application of policies and programmes at the local level.
Berry Vrabonovich, Mayor of Kitchener, Canada, UCGL Governing President, called for a governance system based on empathy, care, and a collaborative approach, including through increased gender equality and empowerment through initiatives like the feminist municipal movement. He reported that voluntary local reviews (VLRs) have tripled in the past two years and voluntary subnational reviews (VSRs) have now been produced in 14 countries, both of which serve as instruments for increased policy coherence.
Local Public Services and Policies Fostering the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda
This panel was moderated by Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator, who stressed that local service delivery is important to achieving the SDGs. He noted that due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, human development has declined for the first time in 30 years. Panelists gave examples of local service delivery integrating the SDGs. Many welcomed hearing about local success stories to help inspire and accelerate best practices among LRGs as key to implementation. Others urged interaction between multiple levels of government and with the UN, including using the upcoming 2023 UN Summit on the SDGs to reflect on what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
Looking Towards the SDG Summit with Localization at the Forefront
During this panel, moderated by Lucy Slack, Secretary-General of CLGF, participants considered how action at the local and regional levels can serve as a catalyst for SDG implementation. Panelists pointed out that LRGs are first responders in times of crisis and are at the forefront of SDG implementation, which is why their practical experience integrating different aspects of SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) with other SDGs could inform national and global decision makers. Some spoke about the need for LRGs to have a place at the table in national and global decision making on the SDGs, and about the ways in which VLRs could serve as useful inputs for VNRs. Others discussed the value of VLRs in shaping local budgetary and urban planning policies to align them better with the SDGs and the HLPF cycle, and how increased public participation could hone local budgets to citizen needs.
During the closing of the Forum, UCLG Secretary General Saiz, stressed the need to develop different relationships through localization as a way of implementing the 2030 Agenda. She presented a video on Flipping the Script, showing how LRGs are making a difference.
Fabrizio Rossi, Secretary General, Council of European Municipalities and Regions, called the Fifth LRG Forum a declaration of hope and trust, reaffirming their determination as a global community to take action on the ground to face the complexities caused by the global pandemic, war, biodiversity loss, and land degradation. He reiterated the need for urgent action on the SDGs, which requires more resources, a critical assessment of current efforts, and engagement of their communities.
Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, UN DESA, welcomed the guidance from LRGs on how to foster achievement of the SDGs at the local level, including through priorities identified in VLRs and VSRs. She said by sharing information, LRGs play a crucial role in localizing the SDGs and addressing challenges, and that LRGs can count on support from international agencies like UN DESA.
A summary and analysis of the meeting will be available by Friday, 15 July 2022