Local action for global goals

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Sustainable Development Goals. [PLATFORMA]

Authorities around the world are putting UN Sustainable Development Goal at the core of their agenda but including local governments in their implementation is key for success, writes Tine Soens.

Tine Soens is the second youngest member of the City Council of Kortrijk in Belgium, a member of the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG) political commission on international affairs. She is also the PLATFORMA and CEMR spokesperson on the 2030 Agenda. She wrote the foreword of PLATFORMA & CEMR’s brand new study “The 2030 Agenda through the eyes of local and regional governments’ associations”.

Everywhere around the world, the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are increasingly gaining attention. More and more governments, businesses, schools, research institutions and civil society organisations are using the 2030 Agenda to guide their policies and actions.

What’s more, citizens are doing their part and are pushing the public and private sectors to do better.

As the government level closest to the citizens, local governments are key to implementing the 2030 Agenda. Without them, it is simply impossible to realise the SDGs. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are linked to the core responsibilities of local governments.

Local and regional authorities worldwide face the same challenges and pursue the same objectives. They have been persistently claiming their spot on the international stage, through both words and actions.

Things are moving quickly at the local level. In Flanders (Belgium) for example, 60% of all municipalities have used the SDGs in their new multi-annual policy plans (2020-2025). In my own hometown of Kortrijk, we have linked the SDGs to our new policy plans and to concrete actions.

For example, we have installed a huge cycling zone where cyclists have priority over cars (SDG 11), we have appointed a garden coach to make our (private) gardens greener and more sustainable (SDG 15) and of course we have a concrete poverty reduction plan to leave no one behind (SDG 1).

Through the 2030 Agenda, global challenges and international justice are reaching a whole new audience within the municipality and are taken up strategically.

The SDGs further serve as a common language to initiate and strengthen multi-actor partnerships, they lead to more integrated working within the municipal administration and provide an impetus for data-driven policy-making.

However, we are not there yet! As we are entering the decade of action, we need to move into a more profound and ambitious transition towards sustainable development. The COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath have made this very clear.

Although the pandemic is primarily a health crisis (SDG 3), it affects all aspects of life. It reminds us of the importance of sustainability and of leaving no one behind. It uncovers the linkages – but also the trade-offs – between the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

The policy approach to this crisis, and future ones, therefore has to be sustainable, with local Governments in the leading role and with attention to international justice.

The current crisis and the uncertain future are a call for action. Every player around the globe has to act now. Don’t be afraid to take the leap! Our generation of politicians, civil servants and citizens is the generation that has to turn the tide.

We cannot do this alone. We need solidarity and cooperation within and between countries and local governments, and with the private sector, civil society and educational and research institutions.

This is also a call for action towards the United Nations, European institutions and towards national governments. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without the active involvement of local governments.

Therefore, give us not only a voice but also an actual seat at the decision-making table.

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