European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Delivering Sustainable Development Goals at regional and local level

In 2015, UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This event will explore what sustainable development means at regional and local levels. These levels are where decision makers have to balance different dimensions of sustainability, participatory, social, economic and environmental and make sustainable development a reality. We will debate with leading regions and cities on the added-value of their work on sustainable development, how they translated it on the ground and where to start when you want to "localize SDGs". We will also discuss how to link these efforts with progress and support at international, EU and national level and what kind of governance we need to boost implementation.

Territorial development (regional, urban, rural)
Eurocities, European Committee of the Regions - ECON Commission, The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)

Session summary

Bert Kuby (European Committee of the Regions) recalled that the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals need the mobilisation of all stakeholders, with regions and cities having a key role to play.

In the first panel on governance of SDGs, representatives from all levels of discussed their role in ensuring good governance to mainstream SDGs at all levels, within all policies.

At EU level, Tine Delva (European Commission) agreed that all stakeholders have to be committed to the implementation of SDGs. Accordingly, the EC created the EU multi-stakeholders platform on SDGs. The highest level of the EC is involved to show political leadership and help influence policymaking.

Annika Lindblom from Finland explained that the priority has been to eliminate siloes with the creation of a horizontal commission on sustainable development. After 25 years of existence, it is institutionalised within society.

Anyone can also take action making use of dedicated online tools that have are tailor-made for every type of stakeholder. 100 000 commitments have now been given.

Natalia Vera (Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development) presented a report mapping regions' work on implementing SDGs. Key lessons included a specific need for a strategy, the creation of a national ad hoc committee with all regional ministers for a horizontal and cross-cutting approach to tackle simultaneously SDGs.

Arnoldas Abramavičius (European Committee of the Regions) explained the CoR will help cities and regions willing to engage in SDGs to connect with organisations providing they have technical support to get started on SDGs.

Bert Kuby concluded the first panel insisting that multilevel governance where all levels of government have a role and collaborate is key.

The second panel discussed concrete cases. Stefano Marta from the OECD presented a programme providing technical support for regions and cities who want to engage with the implementation of the SDGs. 

Hans Sakkers from Utrecht and Eurocities explained that Utrecht reframed existing SDGs through a workshop with citizens, and including all kind of stakeholders. He recommended joining organisations such as Eurocities to benefit from peer learning.

Enric Nomededeu i Biosca from the region of Valencia presented a specific project to illustrate that localising SDGs means integrating all their dimensions simultaneously. This project aimed at creating jobs for the most vulnerable people while helping preserve natural resources and forests. It helped to face 3 challenges of the regions: the threat of wildfire, the risk of depopulation, the need to create jobs for social inclusion.

Bert Janssens from the Flemish Association of municipalities and CEMR explained that his organisation had helped localise SDGs throughout the region by means of training workshops for staff, forging political leadership, providing publications and helping build municipal plans including SDGs.

Take away message

Regions and cities are key players in the localisation and territorialisation of SDGs on the ground. There must be a territorial approach to the implementation of the SDGs in the EU.

Specific horizontal cross-sector structures should be put in place to ensure good coordination between all levels of government, as well as to break siloes and ensure policy consistency. It should be chaired by the highest political level. Involvement and co-creation of solutions with all stakeholders is also indispensable.

"With 65% of SDGs needing coordination with or engagement of local and regional authorities to be implemented, their role is essential" - Bert Kuby, head of unit, European Committee of the Regions

"This is the first time that such a broad multi-stakeholders platform exists in the European Commission. Its members have access to the whole EC. It makes the work more open and I see a real change of culture within the EC." - Tine Delva, policy adviser, European Commission Secretariat General

"Miracles do not happen overnight, it is necessary to build long-term processes, engage the parliament, so commitment comes from a larger, more long-term institutionalised base, and does not end with a change of government." - Annika Lindblom, Secretary General, National Commission on Sustainable Development, Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment, Finland

"This process of localisation/territorialisation of SDGs is not only aiming at implementing SDGs at regional and local level but also at raising awareness of citizens about SDGs, creating ownership to implement them and leaving no one behind. The leadership of regions is much needed to achieve this." - Natalia Vera, nrg4SD

"At local level in Lithuania, cities are also starting their mobilisation with evaluations and identifications of priorities adapted to the need of their territories.This is the beginning of a process where these territories start to think differently with SDGs in mind." Arnoldas Abramavicius, Vice-Mayor Zarazai, Lithuania, Committee of the Regions

"For the years 2017 and 2018, the region tabled nearly EUR 24 million to allow cities and towns to hire and train unemployed people. More than 200 cities benefitted from this programme integrating economic, social and environmental dimensions. 1853 jobs were created." - Enric Nomededeu i Biosca, Ministry of Employment Secretary, region of Valencia, Spain 

"We created a successful week of sustainable cities as well as SDGs ambassadors. For now we reach one third of cities, the work continues." - Bert Janssens, Coordinator International and Europe, Flemish association of municipalities, VVSG, Belgium, CEMR

"The EU multi-stakeholders platform and its continuation is not an end in itself, but the beginning of further, more coordinated activities between territorial organisations." - Angelika Poth-Mogele, executive director, CEMR

"Utrecht first "localised" the SDGs' narrative to make it meaningful to citizens. It also localised the aspiration and the imaginary to make it more concrete and create collective ownership, creating a story telling on SDGs." - Hans Sakkers, head of department of European and International Affairs, City of Utrecht, Netherlands, Eurocities

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