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Going local – what can cities and regions do to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

© United Nations

Eradicating poverty, reducing inequality or protecting the environment are just some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all United Nations member states pledge to achieve in partnership by 2030.

Going local can be an effective way to meet these goals as we try to recover in a rights-based and sustainable way from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, the European Committee of the Regions warns that cities and regions are not sufficiently involved in the national recovery and resilience plans. These plans are to contribute to equality and the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The Fundamental Rights Forum 2021 in October will take a closer look at the role of cities in achieving the SDGs. The Forum will also explore how cities and regions can get more involved in implementing relevant actions to meet the goals set for 2030.

Even now, many EU cities and regions have taken decisive steps to implement SDGs by submitting the so-called Voluntary Local Reviews.

These reviews allow cities and regions to involve people, businesses and civil society organisations in the development of their strategies. It encourages them to set up concrete goals and link them to a set of practical indicators.

For example, Mannheim adopted its Mannheim 2030 Voluntary Local Review through a large and open participatory process, involving local stakeholders, experts and people. The review aims to support the city in meeting the SDGs in a holistic way.

Collaborative approach is also at the heart of the Voluntary Local Review process in Espoo. The city developed its strategy in a close partnership with local communities, businesses and residents, including pre-school children. The process established a path for a sustainable city development until 2025.

The Bonn 2030 strategy addresses SDGs across municipal services. The city puts emphasis on progress monitoring, using a ‘traffic light’ system.

Since 2016, many more cities submitted their Voluntary Local Reviews – for example, Helsinki, Barcelona, Turku, Stuttgart, Ghent, Stockholm, Malmo, Helsingborg, Gladsaxe, as well as the regional governments from the Basque and Valencia regions in Spain, Wallonia in Belgium and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.

Vienna, Utrecht, Lund or the region of Vastra Gotaland also integrate SDGs in their human rights work and action plans.

Many of the cities taking positive action to achieve SDGs have declared themselves as ‘Human Rights Cities’. They are taking human rights as the guiding principles for all decisions and strategies at the city level.

To support their initiatives, FRA will release a framework of commitments for human rights cities in the European Union at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021.

The registrations will open soon.

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