Conclusions on the SDGs: A little step for the EU Council, a big step for local and regional governments
PLATFORMA reacted very positively following the adoption and release of a new set of conclusions on “building a sustainable Europe by 2030 – Progress thus far and next steps” by the European Council on Tuesday 10 December.
PLATFORMA warmly welcomes the Council’s conclusions, which reflects the same vision, ambitions and recommendations that local and regional governments and their national associations have also identified as key to help foster the implementation of the 2030 Agenda across Europe. These recommendations are detailed in PLATFORMA’s recent position paper on the Sustainable Development Goals (November 2019). Here are some of our key reactions to the Member States’ conclusions:
Recognising the role of local and regional governments, and their associations
The Conclusions particularly emphasise the need to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, notably by working better with local and regional governments (LRGs) and supporting their work in pursuing the 2030 Agenda. What may seem as a little step for the EU Council, is a big step for local and regional governments. This recognition made to LRGs shows encouraging signs for more effective multi-level, transparent and coherent governance across Europe in the near future.
In this sense, we wish to recall also the role of national associations of LRGs, which are key partners to help mobilise local and regional participation, engaging with their members to create a space to exchange experiences and practices and to support each other on the localisation of the SDGs.
Mainstreaming the SDGs in EU policy through multilevel and multistakeholder partnerships
We also strongly welcome the reference make to the need to ensure policy coherence and policy coherence for development, i.e., reducing negative spill-over effects of EU internal and external policies on developing countries. As a start and “in order to ensure coherence within the Commission and a whole-of-Commission approach within the European Union, the Council recommends the overall responsibility for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to be attributed to a member of the College, preferably at the highest level”. PLATFORMA agrees, and recommends this responsibility to fall upon the President of the Commission herself.
We also support the call to renew the mandate of the European Commission Multistakeholder Platform for the Sustainable Development Goals, with inclusive and representative membership including Member States and local and regional governments representatives, such as PLATFORMA and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
Allocate funds and increase support dedicated to the localisation of the SDGs and learning between peers at EU and international level
Another positive sign is the light shed on the international dimension, recalling the “importance of EU development cooperation in accelerating the integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda worldwide”. PLATFORMA wishes to remind the importance of acknowledging decentralised cooperation as an essential means to mainstream the 2030 Agenda in international development cooperation. Further support, both financially and technically, should be given to European towns and regions to experiment new approaches for sustainable territorial development, and to continue to exchange practices on public policies, enhance capacities, experiment together and develop a common language with citizens and non-European partners around the SDGs.
For this to take place, PLATFORMA supports the Council’s “need to assess how the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) can support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda internally and externally”. The Future Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) comes particularly to our mind, as it will be the main external action instrument of the European Union during the financial period 2021-2027. It will bring important changes to the architecture of EU external aid. We notably call for a dedicated thematic programme within the NDICI to support decentralisation reforms and the role of local and regional governments in localising the SDGs, as expressed in PLATFORMA’s 2nd position paper on the NDICI.
Provide inclusive, transparent and available data to monitor progress at all levels of governance
An additional encouraging note for LRGs and their associations, is the Council’s emphasis put on the need for high-quality data, (…) that should be disaggregated as much as possible (…).
PLATFORMA calls for Members States to work closer with their national statistics offices and observatories, as well as with LRGs and related research institutes, to ensure the collection of accessible, up-to-date and disaggregated data for towns, cities and regions. As identified is several analyses made by PLATFORMA and CEMR, as well as the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in their recently launched GOLD V report on “The Localization of the Global Agendas”, the lack of accessible, disaggregated data at local level is one of the major constraints for LRGs to effectively boost the localisation of the SDGs, notably for the monitoring and reporting phase of the process.
This monitoring and reporting process should be done in an “open, transparent and multilevel participatory” way, as recommended by the EU Member States, “with close involvement of the Council, and consultation of key stakeholders and the European Parliament”. PLATFORMA recalls the importance of actively involving local and regional governments in the national monitoring and reporting of SDG implementation, not only through ad-hoc consultations. When available, Member States should make better use of local and regional monitoring reports, such as the Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), to identify progress and the persisting gaps across their territories. Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) should also include decentralised cooperation activities as well as education for development activities carried on by LRGs in the field of the 2030 Agenda.
PLATFORMA warmly invites the Council and all relevant stakeholders to have a look at our 5 key recommendations to foster SDG implementation at EU, national and local and regional levels.