Local Government Associations of Asia Pacific become vehicles for SDG localization

UCLG Learning closed the year 2019 with a ToT session, from 11-14 December in Kathmandu, Nepal, targeting LGAs with focus on proper engagement in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process.

Called by its regional section UCLG ASPAC, local government associations from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines and Indonesia gathered during 3 days of interactive learning to improve their knowledge and policy strategies around the localization of the SDGs. The meeting closed with a one-day retreat session that allowed for input to the UCLG ASPAC strategy for 2020-2025. The 44 participants engaged in the learning process, bringing their own experiences of challenges and achievements in localizing the SDGs.

Interactive learning helps to identify many opportunities for action

The interactive exercises revealed that local governments generally struggle to coordinate consultation processes for development, with overlapping of functions and underfunded mandates hampering intergovernmental coordination for better services.  Further, the reflection on public space (The Square exercise https://www.learning.uclg.org/sdg-learning-modules) showed that the public space faces strong challenges, such as the limited ownership of public assets, the high pressure of private users, and the need for law enforcement, but at the same time it is there where the “SDG narrative, that is appreciated by government“ comes to shape.

Learning lessons from regional frontrunners

Participants made important inputs, sharing their experiences with others. The city of Semarang and the Indonesian association APEKSI evidenced the need for comprehensive data and indicator management. The Philippines showcased how they build advocacy around local government champions that develop Voluntary Local Reviews, while Bangladesh shared how localizing the SDGs, in particular SDG 6, has made the municipal movement stronger and motivated many members. In Pakistan, where local government struggles with recognition, the SDGs have served as a reminder that without local government it will be not possible for the central government to achieve its commitments for more equitable and sustainable development.

Nepal to be a UCLG pilot for LGA engagement in the VNR process

In Nepal, the political opportunity and alignment of local and national was highlighted, as in the last decade local government has increasingly gained attention and power. This is a success also of the associations and the municipal movement.  The national planning commission recognizes the capacity of local government to work through integrated management, and the national government offers funding windows, includes local governments in consultation boards, and is generally supporting the role of mayors to be stronger.

Nepal will be presenting its VNR during this year’s HLPF, and will also be involved in the regional consultation on SDGs with UNESCAP (see graphic). As such, UCLG GOLD and UCLG ASPAC will be supporting and documenting the engagement of the Nepalese Associations in the VNR process as pilot experience together with cases in 4 other countries.

Learning activities will be followed up by the LGAs that participated

During the event, the participants were also actively involved in designing further training and cooperation activities. In Nepal, the associations will roll out SDG trainings together with the UNDP national office. The associations of Philippines and Indonesia plan decentralized cooperation exercises to review their strategies and progress in localizing the SDG. The Nepalese and Bangladesh associations want to roll out SDG campaigns and alignment processes focusing on SDG 6, while the Pakistan LGA intends to follow the Nepalese example by rolling out ToT sessions, targeting specifically elected women leaders.  The associations expressed their interest in continue receiving support from UCLG Learning and UCLG Aspac to support coordination, alignment and documentation.

Final remarks of the UCLG co-president, mayor of Dhulikel:

The closing remarks by Mayor Ashok were truly inspiring. “When I was elected 17 years ago, there was a local government act, but it did not function properly.  We tried many times to fight for democracy including by joining street demonstration and lobbying. I humbly remind my colleagues from other countries to fight for the localization of SDGs. Nepal now has a requirement for women representatives in different levels of governments. That is the country’s big achievement, 40% of local leaders are women. We need to empower them, and will continue to support this process within UCLG.” 

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