In the framework of the High-Level Political Forum UCLG, together with UN-Habitat, presented the first volume of the Guidelines for VLRs. The Guidelines are aimed at showcasing the value of subnational reporting as much more than a part of the reporting process. Throughout the session, participants highlighted the power of Voluntary Local Reviews as an element that can contribute towards multilevel governance and transformation.
VLRs are an integral element that can contribute towards multilevel governance and the transformation necessary to achieve just, resilient, and sustainable cities, territories, and societies that leave no-one and no place behind in the aftermath of the crisis.
The session was introduced by Secretary General of UCLG Emilia Saiz and Executive Director of UN-Habitat Maimunah Mohd. Sharif, who pointed out the importance of the voluntary local reviews as a means to engage and mobilize local and regional governments in the achievement of the SDGs, strengthen their role in national efforts, and assess and fulfill the 2030 Agenda from the bottom-up. These reasons had
“For us, VLRs are more than monitoring mechanisms, they are a political tool that enables us to change the conversation, that can help us bring our voices to the international arena.” Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG
“VLRS enhance transparency and trust between citizens, and this trust enhances the social construct. VLRS are also tool to advise and adapt policy decision to broader ownership of the Goals” Maimunah Mohd. Sharif, ED of UN-Habitat
The session veered into an open debate among cities that had been presenting their VLRs over the last years. Fittingly, the city of New York, represented by Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of International Relations, and a pioneer in local reporting efforts, laid out the reasons behind their first VLR -as a means to complement the reporting of national states- and argued on the importance of the VLRs in the recovery process, using the SDGs as a framework for rebuilding communities.
Edgardo Bilsky, Head of Research, UCLG and Shipra Narang Suri, Chief, Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat then presented the first volume of the Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews, which use the first 40 VLRs presented as basis for analysis. The VLRs Guidelines, they noted, analyzed existing VLRs and extracted key components, features, and impacts to help other local and regional governments develop their own VLR. UN-Habitat then announced that, in Collaboration with the City of Madrid, UN-Habitat will organize an Expert Group Meeting on strengthening the VLR process by the end of 2020.
After the presentation, the debate was moderated by Fréderic Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR, who argued that it is local and regional governments who can really assess where we are in the implementation process, and highlighted the European Reference Framework for Sustainable cities as a tool that can help actors in urban management in the VLR process and in engaging in dialogue with national stakeholders.
The Roundtable showed initiatives by various cities. Santiago Saura, Councillor of Madrid, showcased their strategy for localizing the SDGs, which will lead into Madrid’s first Voluntary Local Review, whereas Moscow, represented by Gregory Maltsev, had already began conducting research for the development of its own VLR.
The efforts of local and regional governments in achieving the SDGs are going beyond VLRs, with Yolanda Martínez, Secretary of Social and Human Development of Oaxaca addressing the launch of the city’s 2030 Agenda for Children, and Luiz Alvaro Salles, Secretary of International Affairs, City of São Paulo highlighting how the city had bound its plans to the SDGs, as well as launching their own report on localization.
Francisco Resnicoff, Undersecretary for International Affairs, City of Buenos Aires, provided insights on the development of Buenos Aires’ second VLR, that will include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the city. Marilia Sorrini Peres Ortiz, Deputy Secretary of Planning, Niteroi highlighted the focus of the city’s VLR which lies on participatory planning, housing, transportation, health, and access to land.
Steven Heddle, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), argued for the need of local and regional governments to access the necessary resources and capacities to be able to effectively work and integrate the global goals across governments and institutions, and noted the efforts of Scotland in integrating the SDGs into its national performance framework.
Miquel Rodriguez, Barcelona’s Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, explained that Barcelona had addressed the VLRs as a 2-step process, focusing first on localization, adapting the local agenda to the SDGs through targets and indicators, and then focus on the evaluation. The city is set to adopt this framework by September 2020.
Amson Sibanda, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, expressed support for the process of VLRs and highlighted their importance of VLRs as the international community embarks on a Decade of Action in the recovery. He argued for the need to ensure multilevel coordination and enhancing linkages among spheres of government, and how the VLRs could be “a crucial tool” to facilitate this dialogue and bring all stakeholders on board.
The session was wrapped up by Maimunah Mohd. Sharif, who argued that it is precisely now, when cities and regions of all sizes are engaging more than ever in dialogue and sharing experiences, the moment to launch the VLR guide, helping cities recover after the pandemic. She highlighted the importance, as well, of the VLRs as an opportunity to work together, and link the local sphere with all spheres of government, the private sector, local communities, and all stakeholders.