Informing and involving citizens is central in municipalities strategy towards the localisation of the 2030 Agenda
The Andalusian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity (FAMSI), together with PLATFORMA, organised a session on “How sub-national authorities localise and raise awareness on the SDGs” on Monday 5 October, the first day of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) 2020. PLATFORMA partners VVSG, LALRG and AFCCRE also took part in this online session.
The presentations focused on the central role and innovative practices of local and regional governments in raising awareness and transforming their cities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A panel of experts and local elected officials described the key enablers and approaches taken by their territories to reshape policies and mobilise citizens to achieve the 2030 Agenda. For all of them, raising citizens’ awareness of citizens is central.
“Bilbao launched several initiatives such as workshops, trainings or action plans to raise municipal staff awareness on the 2030 Agenda,” explained Oihane Aguirregoitia, Councillor for Public Services, Civic Engagement and Internationalisation, at the City Council of the Bilbao. She highlighted the “well received dialogue with the Basque institutions, the various decentralised levels involved and CSOs.”
“Our city has been recognised worldwide for its accomplishments,” she added, mentioning the political commitments and participation at UCLG, OECD and PLATFORMA events.
Elita Jermolajeva, Head of Development Department at Prei?i municipal council (Latvia), said her municipality is seeking to involve youth and children, cooperating with several schools, and working on SDGs 4 on education, 5 on gender equality, 6 on clean water and sanitation and 9 on inclusive and sustainable industrialisation. The municipality was involved in last year’s edition of the European Days of Local Solidarity (EDLS) and developed its strong partnership with Ukrainian municipalities. She stressed that local governments should be “co-creators of plans, together with citizens.”
Being “transparent and accountable”
“The SDGs form a key framework for the development of a fair recovery after COVID-19,” said Allan Macleod, SDG Research and Engagement Associate at Bristol City Office (United Kingdom). He explained that in his city, “the involvement came from localising the goals: it started with a partnership with a university and an environmental network.” He also stressed the need to involve citizens, but also to be “transparent and accountable” toward them.
This was echoed by Félix Henou, Policy Officer to the Managing Director at the French Association of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (AFCCRE), stressed that public opinion was much more demanding of local politicians. “There is the rise of populism and unfortunately this will increase due to the current health crisis,” he said. He added stressed that the 2030 Agenda provided citizens the opportunity to “take leadership in actions.”
“Taking territories into account”
“It’s going to be very difficult to reach the SDGs without taking territories into account,” said Agustí Fernández de Losada, Specialist in Spain’s EU co-financed EUROsociAL+ Programme. He made clear that “territories” means “actors who are acting in the territory, both public and private.” For him, the key question is to “find governmental mechanism that allow the inclusion of the private sector, CSOs, academic and research institutes.” He stressed the need to “bring public policy closer to the people to improve their efficiency”.
Rita Biconne, SDGs Localisation and Territorial Planning Unit Coordinator at the Umbria Fund for Local Governments for Decentralised Cooperation and Sustainable Human Development (FELCOS, Italy), spoke about three main issues: the governance system, the direct involvement of local institutions as key agents and the necessary involvement of CSOs with various levels of participation.
Mien Van Olmen, Mayor of Herentals (Belgium), presented the Week of the Sustainable Municipality coordinated by the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG), during which “local authorities get to put their local sustainable heroes and project in the spotlight.” This year, 92 municipalities participated in Flanders, raising the SDG flag on 25 September.
Lur Fernández, Project Officer – Development Education & Awareness Raising at PLATFORMA, presented the 2020 upcoming European Days of Local Solidarity campaign (14-29 November) and the 2020 PLATFORMAwards. No less than 74 local and regional governments from all over the world were represented in the 26 applications received by PLATFORMA.
“The EDLS is not a magic potion but through education and awareness, we can make people change their mind and learn”, she said. She also made clear that the added value of each awareness raising campaign was the involvement of local and regional elected officials.
Caroline Bourhis, responsible for awareness-raising, support and public participationin the Bordeaux Métropole’s department of energy, ecology and sustainable development (France), spoke about the different initiatives undertaken by the metropolitan area to inform its citizens on the numerous decentralised cooperation projects and partnerships on water and energy, waste, food and transport. She said there were 600 children involved in sustainable projects: “We have a sort of army for sustainable development!”
For Francisco Gonçalves, President of Portugal’s Intermunicipal Development Cooperation Network (RICD), training and coaching are the solution to increase awareness on the 2030 Agenda. He added that his network was the prime institution in Portugal to promote exhibitions on SDGs throughout the country, including in the national parliament.
The EWRC session was moderated by Manuel Redaño González, General Manager of the Andalucian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity (FAMSI).
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