Regions at the forefront of SDGs implementation

nrg4SD participated in Regions and Cities Making the SDGs Happen in Brussels on April 11. The event highlighted the crucial role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the SDGs. It was organized by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), and Eurocities.

11 April 2019, Making the SDGs happen: The role of cities and regions Belgium – Brussels – April 2019 © European Union / Ph. Buissin

The event, which followed the High-level conference on a sustainable Europe 2030 – From goals to delivery that happened on April 8, had three sessions. One session was a political debate in response to the Commission’s recent Reflection Paper Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030. Another session presented two surveys carried out by CoR-OECD and by CEMR-PLATFORMA to map local and regional action on the SDGs. The CoR-OECD survey was based on the 2018 nrg4SD survey Localizing the SDGs: regional governments paving the way,” and the key results are summarized in the results note, while the full figures are available in the annex.

nrg4SD Secretary-General, Natalia Vera, participated in the third session of the event on “Good practices on SDGs and methodologies to territorialize them.” Comparing CoR-OECD and nrg4SD surveys, it is possible to say that regions are at the forefront of SDGs implementation. 92% of nrg4SD survey respondents state that they are familiar with the SDGs and currently working to implement them, and 87% state that they have a specific policy and/or action regarding the implementation of the SDGs. In contrast, the numbers decreased to 59% and 25% for these same questions in the CoR-OECD survey, which has a broader range of respondents, including municipalities, academia, and business. Despite the differences in their levels of engagement, respondents share major challenges, including the difficulty of working with the 2030 Agenda over other government priorities and the need for additional support and technical capacities.

Moreover, Natalia Vera shared nrg4SD’s methodology for the implementation of the SDGs. Regions have been using strategies such as the definition of internal coordination mechanisms; alignment of sectoral policies; adoption of a strategy for the 2030 Agenda; allocation of a specific budget; organization of public consultations and the civil society participation; definition of indicators and review of mechanisms.

Building from these similar experiences, the fact that regions have specific commitments and responsibilities, and the current momentum in which the EU is defining its strategy towards the 2030 Agenda, nrg4SD is proposing a European Regions4SDGs Community of Practice. This collective project has technical and political dimensions that facilitate the exchange of experiences and capacity building as well as a platform to agree on political messages and advocacy strategies.

This session also showcased local and regional governments’ achievements, methodologies, and tools to implement the SDGs. Basque Country, for example, presented the Agenda Euskadi – Basque Country 2030 as their commitment to sustainable development, a contribution that stresses the importance of multi-level structures and alliances with civil society and business. Other panellists emphasized that the 2030 Agenda should not be seen as an additional and separate agenda but rather an inspiration to break silos, invest in coordination mechanisms, build capacity in administration, and make procurement rules sustainable. The implementation of the SDGs is a journey in which local and regional governments need to take flexible approaches, join efforts, and make political and financial commitments.

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