The SDG Voluntary Local Reviews. Methods, data, and experiences.

Tue 8, October 2019
16:30 - 19:00 CET

The European Commission, through the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and DG REGIO, is working on monitoring the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the New Urban Agenda. The workshop will focus on discussing how cities and regions can monitor their contribution towards the achievement of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

Some cities and regions have taken the lead and have started producing SDG Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), even though an agreed method has not been agreed yet. Indeed the VLRs are a great opportunity to foster the localization of the SDGs and to boost their implementation.

At European level the discussion is open on the methodologies and which indicators can be used to evaluate the achievement of the SDGs at local scale.

The workshop in designed to make progress on this issue and it is divided in two main parts.

In the first session, the JRC will present the methods and data that allow measuring the contribution to the SDGs from cities: the JRC is continuously improving also is knowledge base on cities, trough urban data production and dissemination and the work on territorial modelling. These activities represent a significant contribution for the local monitoring and evaluation for the SDGs at city level. Indeed the JRC’s Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies supports EU policymaking through better knowledge management on territorial (urban, regional) related issues. https://ec.europa.eu/knowledge4policy/territorial_en . During the event the JRC will illustrates the project on the local monitoring of the SDGs (URBAN2030) developed in collaboration with DG REGIO, and the preparation of and handbook for Voluntary Local Reviews in European Cities.

In the second part, a distinguish panel will discuss JRC’s proposed methodology and debate on the challenges and opportunities that the localization of the Agenda 2030 presents.

During the panel:

  • DG REGIO, will introduce the topic and will chair the workshop.

  • UN-HABITAT will provide insight on the monitoring of the SDGs and its role of custodian agency for many SDG indicators.

  • The European Economic and Social Committee will present the position of the Committee on the Reflection Paper 'Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030' – especially those linked to monitoring and stakeholder involvement

  • The City of Helsinki will illustrate the VLR presented in July at the HLPF in New York. 

  • The Council of European Municipalities and Regions & PLATFORMA will be presenting its working program for the next years that integrates the SDGs and will represents its membership, which is a frontrunner in supporting local authorities in the better coordination for the SDGs.

Alessandro Rainoldi, Head of Unit European Commission, Joint Research Center Sevilla, Spain.
Paola proietti, Project officer, European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Belgium.
Sarah Bentz, Policy Officer for Sustainable Development Goals, Council of European Municipalities and Regions & PLATFORMA, Belgium.
Paolo Bolsi, Policy Analyst, European Commission - DG REGIO, Belgium.
Paulius Kulikauskas, Chief of the Office for Europe and European Institutions, UN-Habitat, Belgium.
Jani Moliis, Head of International Affairs, City of Helsinki, Finland.
Peter Schmidt, Member, European Economic and Social Committee, Belgium.
Alice Siragusa, Project officer, European Commission - Joint Research Centre, Italy.
The Future of the EU and the roles of the Regions and Cities
European Commission - DG JRC, UN-Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
English (EN)
Address: Mont des Arts, 1000 Brussels

Session summary

The session, which tackles the specific issue of the SDG Local Voluntary Reviews (VLRs), was divided into three main parts.


The first part focused on the challenges of SDG monitoring both on a national (presentation delivered by Paolo Bolsi –DG REGIO) and local scale.

Local SDG monitoring is the specific target of the project illustrated in the second presentation by Alice Siragusa (Joint Research Centre – EC): the European Handbook for the preparation of VLRs has been presented both in terms of rationale and draft content.


The second part of the workshop was a panel debate moderated by Paola Proietti (Joint Research Centre – EC) that discussed the challenges and opportunities that the localisation of Agenda 2030 presents.

Peter Schmidt, European Economic and Social Committee, illustrated the main messages of the EESC opinion on the Reflection Paper Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030 and underlined the need for a shift in economic model if we want to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Paulius Kulikauskas (UN-HABITAT) provided an overview of the activities that UN-HABITAT has been putting in place to support cities in localising the SDGs, particularly focusing on the training for monitoring different SDG indicators. Moreover, he highlighted how the relation between the national and local SDG monitoring system and procedures still needed to be formally defined.

Sarah Bentz from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions & PLATFORMA (CEMR – Platforma) highlighted how some cities and regions have taken the lead and started producing SDG Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). City-to-city and region-to-region cooperation with partner countries is also a very effective way to support subnational governments in the monitoring phase of their SDG implementation.

Finally, Jani Moliis, Head of International Affairs, City of Helsinki, illustrated the process that led the city of Helsinki to present the VLR to the last High Level Political Forum, highlighting the speed of the process and commitment of the city to present the next VLR in 2021.


In the third part, questions and comments from the floor gathered from Alessandro Rainoldi (Joint Research Centre – EC) demonstrated the great interest in the topic both from EU institutions and local authorities. The comments focused mostly on the challenges that come with localising the SDGs, in particular on how to raise awareness and develop local competences on the Agenda 2030; how to align the efforts of local, national and international institutions and find a common language and common ground for achieving the Goals.


Take away message

·         There is a need to raise awareness about the SDGs in the EU in institutions at all levels, from EU to local authorities. Furthermore, citizens need to be involved.

·         Monitoring and policy design should go hand in hand, being part of the same process.

·         To achieve real sustainability, we need to make SDGs an integral goal of policy action, not just window dressing.



"Local and regional governments are bringing up the debate on SDGs at national level – they are paving the way to achieving the 2030 Agenda through SDG localisation and already have an array of experience and practices to share with their peers, in Europe and in partner countries."


"When we started we expected to find that we were not on track concerning the initiatives to achieve sustainable development, but in reality we realised we were already targeting the challenges summarised in the SDGs."

Jani Moliis, City of Helsinki

"Unless we change our paradigm, and thus the way we measure sustainable development, we will not be able to successfully achieve the Goals."

Peter Schmidt, European Economic and Social Committee

“The SDGs cannot be achieved without cities; at the same time, the SDGs offer an opportunity for cities to expand new and sustainability initiatives." 

Alice Siragusa, Joint Research Centre – EC


This is Your session – comment and interact!
Add your comments regarding to this session!
Any comment not related to the session itself will be ignored and deleted.
  • Posted by: Dina EPARKHINA
    On: 26/09/2019 - 11:01am

    Can I attend the SDG session?

    Can I attend the SDG session? It says 'closed' on the registrations page, but still would like to see if possible to attend. Thank you.
    • Posted by: Noah Feron
      On: 06/10/2019 - 13:55pm

      Can I attend the SDG session?

      Same question as Ms. Eparkhina