State of the Voluntary Local Reviews 2020:Local Action for Global Impact in Achieving the SDGs

Working Paper
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With only ten years left to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all UN member States in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, action is more urgent than ever. Cities, which are responsible for delivering many of the targets highlighted by the SDGs are accelerating their efforts. This is recognised by the growing number of local and regional governments that have embarked on a process to track their progress and plan for future strategies. Known as a Voluntary Local Review (VLR), this exercise becomes an opportunity for local governments to engage in global processes to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, while at the same time, capitalising on the SDGs inherent potential to induce change.

This report reviews all the VLR Reports identified by the authors (as of February 2020) carried out by local governments in their determination to localise the SDGs. It compiles their main messages and provides the current stage of this emerging movement. Along with the description of the overall contents of each VLR, this report focuses on two key aspects of the VLR process: first, the stakeholder engagement process following the SDGs motto of leaving no one behind; and second, their relation to the national review process of the SDGs or Voluntary National Review (VNR). In doing this analysis, this report aims to become a reference guide for other cities seeking to carry out their own VLR process.

Through this review, two main themes emerged as needing further attention for cities embarking on their own VLR journey. First, in many cases, the VLR process focused on aligning current policies with the SDGs and their targets and on monitoring progress, but did not explicitly include a stakeholder engagement process. Second, cities have started this effort even though there is no current official United Nations’ process giving local governments similar opportunities to national governments. To address this issue, the present report presents a five tier approach to VLRs intended to strength the transformative potential of the next generation of cities intending to localise the SDGs. Nevertheless, the first generation of VLRs shows a praiseworthy commitment to sustainable development and to the 2030 Agenda.