The SDGs should be seen as a tool to overcome the crisis
Local and regional government and EU institutions representatives discussed on the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the crisis recovery, during an interactive workshop organised by PLATFORMA, together with CEMR, Eurocities and Regions4, on 21 October at the online European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) led by the European Committee of Regions.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on regions and cities has been meaningful, also for what concerns the implementation of the SDGs. Nevertheless, as each representative of local and regional governments participating in the debate pointed out, the SDGs can be – and should be – seen as tools to overcome the crisis and to undertake a sustainable and fair recovery.
Furthermore, as Tine Soens, Councilor of Kortrijk, Member of the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG) in Belgium, reminded during her speech, many experts have stated that if the 17 SDG had already been realised, the crisis would have been less significant for all. She is the spokesperson of CEMR and PLATFORMA for the 2030 Agenda.
But how to ensure there is no backsliding on the progress made on the SDGs?
Muhterem Aras, President of the Parliament of Baden Württenberg region in Germany and Member of the European Committee of the Regions, suggested in this regard to focus on projects that will facilitate the achievements of SDGs involving all stakeholders and level of governance in the challenge.
Miquel Rodriguez, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda in Barcelona City Council (Eurocities), urged the need to guarantee that future policies fulfil the triple sustainability principles: economic, environmental and social.
The crisis could be seen as a momentum for the SDGs and to renew the strong commitment of all local authorities in Lithuania on the achievements of the SDGs, underlined in his intervention Mindaugas Sinkevicius, Mayor of Jonava and President of the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (ALAL).
The role of the EU is fundamental
Micke Larsson, Senior Development and Sustainability Strategist of Åland Government in Finland (Regions4), a province recognised as an SDG champion, reminded how the role of the EU in this contest is at least fundamental. After having proposed meaningful initiatives on the matter, such as the Green Deal and the EU recovery plan, the EU should now guarantee leadership and coherence, he said.
And precisely with regard to the European Union’s commitment on the SDGs Estelle Göger, Member of Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni, clarified the EU’s intentions: prior to the crisis, President von der Leyen expressed the Commission’s commitment to integrate the SDGs to the European Semester. Although this integration was slightly put aside due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the willing appears to be unchanged.
“Strong commitment to green, digital target and EU social rights must be a pillar when designing individual plans,” Ms Göger said. “All of this policy objectives are fully aligned with the SDGs. Everything is not perfect, there are challenges, but the policy commitment is strong although the match of flagging towards individual SDGs might be missing,” she continued.
Ivy Moraes, policy officer at Regions4, concluded the workshop calling upon the crucial role of local and regional governments and multilevel collaboration in particular in raising awareness, organising activities, providing technical assistance and fostering the establishment of city-to-city and region-to-region cooperation on SDGs. This workshop was co-moderated by Angelika Poth-Mögele, executive director for European Affairs at CEMR.