Regions4 Secretariat and several regional governments’ representatives attended the hybrid 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) from 6 to 15 July 2021. The HLPF is the main UN platform responsible for the annual review of the progress on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
This year’s forum discussed ways to ensure a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 and reviewed nine SDGs in depth: SDGs 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships.
While some countries plan for recovery, the pandemic is gathering pace in others. For the UN Secretary General, “rather than progress, we are moving farther away from our goals.” The 2021 SDG Report shows the world was not on track to meet the 17 SDGs before COVID-19 struck, and now the challenge has been magnified many times over. The pandemic has exposed and intensified inequalities within and between countries. The economic slowdown in 2020 did little to slow the climate crisis, which continues largely unabated. The world fell short as well on 2020 targets to halt biodiversity loss and one million species are at risk of extinction.
The UN Secretary General said the world needs “unity of purpose; effective leadership from all sectors; and urgent, ambitious action” and called for global vaccination, climate action, social protection systems, and financing for development. Governments must take critical steps on the road out of the pandemic during the next 18 months.
The 2021 HLPF showed a continued increase in the recognition and support of the localization of the SDGs. For the first time, the official HLPF programme featured a session on Voluntary Local and Subnational Reviews (VLRs-VSRs) and Regions4 took part of this conversation representing the voice of regional governments.
Pushed by the local and regional governments’ advocacy in recent years, several UN bodies and countries are encouraging local and regional reporting. There is an increased support from UN bodies in developing guidelines and tools to foster and enhance the quality of local reporting. The VLRs-VSRs were discussed in several side events. Many acknowledged the VLR-VSR incorporation in national reporting (in 2021, 16 out of 42 VNRs consulted LRGs and 10 included LRGs’ own contribution) and a more prominent role in the Regional Forums on Sustainable Development (important advancements were done in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe). In addition, UN Member States committed “to involving and empowering local authorities” and noted VLRs as a “useful tool” to SDG implementation in the Ministerial Declaration, which is the HLPF outcome on how to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Regions4 at the 2021 HLPF
In spite of the new challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the constituency of local and regional governments showed actions that are deliberately moving us to a more inclusive, green, and sustainable pathway. In the 2021 HLPF, 14 Regions4 members actively represented the voice of subnational governments in 7 events:
Building a Sustainable and Resilient Future: Subnational Governments Leading Integrated Approaches for People, Planet, and Prosperity
Regions4 High-level Event called for integrated solutions on climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Panelists included the Heads of Government of Wales, Basque Country, Rabat-Salé-Kenitra, Azuay, Catalonia, and Sud-Comoé; Ministers of Åland, Jalisco, and São Paulo; and representatives of UN DESA, UNFCCC, CBD, and Québec. All 13 high-level representatives emphasized that we will not succeed with either agenda if we work with them in isolation.
Over 130 participants joined the session to learn from best practices and partake in the launch of Regions4 brief report Regions Voice in UN Reporting, which introduces VSRs opportunities and benefits and showcases examples of regions that are reporting progress on the 2030 Agenda.
The President of Regions4 and Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment of the Basque Country participated at the first HLPF official session dedicated to the role of local and regional authorities in SDG implementation calling on the UN and Member States to promote the necessary reforms to strengthen the role of regional governments and include VSRs in the official deliberations.
At the HLPF official meeting reviewing SDGs 12, 13 and 17, the Head of International Affairs of São Paulo State Government delivered a statement on behalf of Regions4 calling for integrated multi-level resilience plans.
The LRGF4 discussed how to foster a recovery that is resilient and led by the communities. The President of Navarra and the President of Rabat-Salé-Kénitra laid out the importance of strengthening multilevel governance and partnerships in the post-pandemic recovery to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Local and Regional Governments Day (LRG Day)
The LRG Day gathered over 30 representatives of local and regional governments, including the Minister for Foreign Action and Open Government of Catalonia and the President of CONGOPE. The event presented the 5th Global Taskforce Report “Towards the Localization of the SDGs”, which features experiences from ANCB, Basque Country, Catalonia, CONGOPE, Council of Governors of Kenya, Québec, and Scotland.
The LAMG side event discussed the 2021 LAMG Position Paper and featured the participation of the Minister of Environment and Climate of Lombardy, whocalled for a collective response to address systemic changes and link human and planetary health.
This UN-Habitat and UCLG event launched the second volume of the VLR Guidelines, which explores the relation between VLRs and VNRs. It had the participation of the Basque Country and the Council of Governors highlighting the importance of coordination and a whole-of-government approach in SDG implementation.
See more of our coverage of the 2021 HLPF by following us on Twitter.