2021 High-level political forum on sustainable development – session on Going Local, 8 July 2021

2021 High-level political forum on sustainable development – session on Going Local, 8 July 2021

“The Voluntary Local Reviews are a pragmatic tool that any city or region can adopt on their own terms. It’s role is to drive action. Success in doing better this year than last year. Goal is to recognize and target those actions, that are lacking and find resources to be able to do more. This is critical work that local cities, authorities and communities do every day. Urbanization is an opportunity in addressing global challenges. Urban policy is to do that in practice every day.

Where possible, promoting the collaboration between national, regional, subnational and local actors is crucial. Still, in many parts of the world we need to keep supporting those local actors that are not able to join forces with their national governments in order to ensure urbanization can be the opportunity we need it to be.

To the honorable chair and my esteemed colleagues, I want to offer three concrete ideas:


The VLR city movement has supported a multitude of new cities and regions adapting the VLR’s in order to become a member of a global language, where action and pragmatic steps are in the center and where human-centric and inclusive way of delivery is a guiding principle. Still, cities are only able to do as much without a wider context.

We are grateful for UN-Desa, UN-Habitat, Brookings Institute, the World Bank, and others who have stepped up and created resources, capacity building and community around the VLR’s and local and regional SDG localization. It is crucial to keep local action in the center. Tests, programs and innovations based on localizing the SDG’s should become a financing priority. Urban communities are quick-moving environments where innovations on, for example, transportation, food supply, health care, technology infrastructure and others, are not just for urban populations but globally relevant.


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for cities. In addition to a health-crisis the pandemic has been a social crisis and an economic crisis from the beginning. It has disproportionally affected the most vulnerable groups of the society.

Voluntary Local Reviews can be a powerful tool in ensuring a better recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The SDG’s are the only system that can ensure that ending poverty and other deprivations will go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all in the context of tackling climate change. The VLR’s should be a strategy tool to make the case for SDG’s at every level of the recovery.


Economic, social and environmental aspects of delivery must all co-exist. Individual programs can be successful, but long-term sustainable results can only be achieved if we recognize that every decision should be an Agenda 2030 decision. In the integrated, indivisibles and interlinked nature of the SDGs everything matters.

In the future we must keep moving towards a holistic strategy tool. Beyond reporting, the connection between city strategy and SDG’s should be strong. Moving away from siloes we should make sure that the SDG’s and indicators will be used to measure the success of cities, regions and nations in general – not just their work on the Global Goals. This approach should also promote the inclusive nature of our work. SDG delivery is a community effort.”


Photo: Jussi Hellsten