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Source: Small Island Developing States

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a synthesis report and a localized indicator framework to help cities and regions improve their SDG strategies, plans and implementation. The report argues that, beyond the compliance agenda, cities and regions should leverage the full potential of SDGs as a policy tool to improve people’s lives in a shared responsibility across levels of government. 

The experiences of nine pilot cities and regions show the SDGs’ potential to reshape sustainable development policies from the ground up.

Released during the Tenth World Urban Forum (WUF), on 10 February 2020, the report titled, ‘A Territorial Approach to the SDGs: Synthesis Report,’ highlights the key role of subnational governments in achieving the SDGs and demonstrates the importance of the SDGs for cities and regions. The report argues that many OECD countries are increasingly seizing the potential of the SDGs as a framework to improve multi-level governance, and in particular vertical coordination. For instance, Germany and Japan are promoting the “localisation” of the SDGs from the central government level by supporting cities and regions in their local SDGs strategies, both financially and in terms of capacity building. The report also documents – from the experience and evidence of nine pilot cities and regions – the potential that the SDGs offer to reshape sustainable development policies from the ground up. 

The report introduces a ‘Checklist for Public Action’ to help policymakers implement a territorial approach to the SDGs.  The checklist presents action-oriented recommendations across five categories: planning, policies and strategies; multi-level governance; financing and budgeting; data and information; and engagement.

On planning, policies, and strategies, the checklist recommends defining and shaping local and regional development visions, strategies and plans and reorienting existing ones using the SDGs as a guiding framework; using the SDGs to manage tradeoffs and promote synergies among sectoral policies and across levels of government and link social, economic and environmental dimensions at the Goal or target level; using the SDGs to address concrete local challenges that require holistic approaches, such as access to green spaces, territorial inequalities or service delivery; and identifying place-based priorities through a participatory, multi-stakeholder process that considers the indivisibility and interconnectedness of the SDGs.

On engagement, the checklist suggests: using the SDGs as a vehicle to enhance accountability and transparency through engaging all territorial stakeholders in the policymaking process, including co-designing and co-implementing visions and strategies in a bottom-up, participatory way; engaging stakeholders using a combination of tools, such as providing networking opportunities, de-risking investments in SDG solutions through grants or loans; and using the SDGs as a tool for “public service motivation” by linking staff’s daily work with SDG achievement. Selected examples illustrate how cities and regions have implemented these recommendations.

The OECD Localised Indicator Framework for the SDGs measures the distance towards the SDGs for 601 regions and 649 cities, using 135 indicators across the 17 SDGs. At least 80% of regions from OECD countries have not achieved the suggested end values for 2030 in any of the 17 Goals. The average distance of OECD regions to the SDGs in 2030 ranges from 25% to 60%, showing that cities and regions in OECD countries are “far from achieving the SDGs.” Cities and regions are lagging behind the most on SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 13 (climate action), and are performing the best on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

Cities and regions can use the tool to compare their performance with other cities and regions in their country and identify peers in other countries. The tool aims to promote peer-learning and policy dialogues across cities and regions, increase government accountability on the SDGs, and raise awareness on the SDGs among society as a whole. An overview of Tataouine, Tunisia, for example shows that the city is 50% of the way towards achieving SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), below the OECD average of 69%, and 48% percent of the way towards reaching SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), below the OECD average of 73%. The tool identifies Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand as a comparable city or region. The tool identifies Kinki, Japan, and Oslo and Akershus, Norway, as peer regions for New York, US.

OECD’s Programme on a Territorial Approach to the SDGs produced the report and indicator framework. The Programme plans to publish nine additional pilot-specific reports. Each report will offer in-depth analysis, tailored policy recommendations and action plans to champion a territorial approach to the SDGs.

OECD will launch a second phase of the Programme, which will work to implement recommendations and to support new cities, regions and countries in their efforts to localize the SDGs. [Publication: A Territorial Approach to the SDGs: Synthesis Report] [Policy Highlights]  [OECD Localised Indicator Framework for the SDGs] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on OECD Roundtable] 

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