A sustainable recovery will only be born with everyone on board: An account of our 2020 HLPF


Throughout the 2020 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), our delegation of over 100 mayors and regional leaders called for the importance of localizing 2030 Agenda in the recovery of the pandemic. Only through the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the core of our efforts will we be able to curb the increased inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted, and thus be on track to build more equal, resilient, and sustainable societies.

President of UCLG Dr. Mohamed Boudra, on behalf of the Local Authorities Major Group, took part in the Opening of the High-Level Political Forum, calling to promote the reforms necessary to strengthen municipal and regional governments’ own resources, to allow the alignment of all plans with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our constituency was also strongly represented in the session on “bolstering local action”, with Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG, and Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI, calling on enhancing local involvement in VNR processes and highlighting the ways in which the framework of the SDGs could provide support to responses and preparedness for future pandemics.

Third Local and Regional Governments Forum

The Third Local and Regional Governments Forum, co-organized by the Global Taskforce and UN-DESA, UN-Habitat, UNDP, and the Executive Office of the UN Secretary General, took place within the framework of the 2020 High-Level Political Forum. With over 30 speakers, including Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th UN General Assembly; Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Liu Zhenmin; Undersecretary General of the UN and Executive Director of UN-Habitat Maimunah Mohd. Sharif; Mahmoud Mohieldin, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, representatives from national governments and local and regional governments. The session counted on over 300 participants.

The Forum, subtitled The Decade of Action – bolstering change from the ground-up”, had participants addressing the importance of basic service delivery, the need for a renewed multilevel territorial governance in the midst of the pandemic, and how to carry out a full collaboration among spheres of government to build back better after the outbreak taking into account that the transformative roadmap for local and regional governments remains the 2030. Speakers also underscored the need for a more inclusive multilateral system, in order to truly advance the post-COVID-19 recovery efforts and the 2030 Agenda, urging participants to provide their action commitments to the UN to ensure local voices for the SDGs and the recovery are heard.

  • Read our feature on the 3rd Local and Regional Governments’ Forum here.

Local and Regional Governments Day

Under the title “Accelerating transformation from the ground-up in a post-Covid era”, the Local and Regional Governments’ Day brought together the delegation of local and regional governments at the High-Level Political Framework, gathered within the Global Taskforce, to discuss and agree on the constituency’s Statement to the HLPFTowards the localization of the SDGs” report.

Our Joint Statement to the 2020 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development highlighted the importance of combining efforts from all spheres of governments to transform our societies according to the SDGs, and reiterated the commitment of local and regional governments to the universal development agendas, even in a moment of urgency like the one we are living.

“We are ready to undertake our share of responsibility and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. We are ready to unite efforts with Member States and the international community to build back with ambition, in line with our common vision for 2030 and beyond.”

Over 40 panelists, with local and regional leaders from all parts of our Network, as well as members from the Global Taskforce and ministerial representatives from all over the world, from the international system such as the Undersecretary General of the United Nations Maimunah Mohd. Sharif, and Director for Planet and Prosperity of the European Union Carla Montesi, gathered in the session. Over 200 participants joined the session, ranging from the local and regional sphere to academia and the United Nations, showcasing not just the commitment from local leaders from all over the world to call for a place in the discussions of the recovery in line with the sustainable development goals, but also the increased acknowledgment of the role that local and regional governments are playing in the recovery and in the pathway to achieve the goals.

The presence of our constituency in the framework of the HLPF was a demonstration of our constituency’s commitment to the global agendas and to the multilateral system. Speakers highlighted the importance of ensuring an ecosystem that fosters the delivery of basic services in order to co-create a more sustainable planet. Partners of the session also commended decentralized cooperation held through the Live Learning Experiences, that had raised local voices to the next level and are the backbone of our advocacy post-COVID 19.

  • Read our account of the Local and Regional Governments’ Day here.

Launch of our constituency’s Towards the Localization of the SDGs report

The fourth Towards the localization of the SDGs report was presented in the occasion of the Local and Regional Governments’ Day in the framework of the 2020 High-Level Political Forum. The report builds on the previous publications’ knowledge on the state of localization, and has adapted to the current context by emphasizing the direct contribution of local and regional governments both to the SDGs and to the COVID-19 crisis.

The report also reviews the diversity and the breadth of local initiatives implemented by cities and territories to improve human wellbeing through the defense of human rights, public services and adequate housing, celebrating initiatives to reduce gender inequalities and protect cultural diversity. It underlines the myriad of local innovations to fight against climate change and protect our environment. It shows how local and regional governments can lead local economic development and contribute to addressing the current economic recession.

Our report ends with the reinstatement of our commitment to achieve the universal development agendas, accelerate the SDG localization and consider our common vision for 2030 to rebuild our societies. Our solidarity, cooperation and commitment will be essential to ensure a world that leaves no-one and no place behind.

Launch of the Voluntary Local Review Series

In the framework of the HLPF, UCLG, together with UN-Habitat, presented the first volume of the Guidelines for VLRs. The Guidelines are aimed at showcasing the value of subnational reporting as much more than a part of the reporting process. Throughout the session, participants highlighted the power of Voluntary Local Reviews as an element that can contribute towards multilevel governance and transformation.

Participants highlighted the Voluntary Local Reviews as an integral element that can contribute towards multilevel governance and the transformation necessary to achieve just, resilient, and sustainable cities, territories, and societies, and argued .for their value as a political process that could engage and mobilize local and regional governments in the achievement of the SDGs, strengthen their role in national efforts, and assess and fulfill the 2030 Agenda from the bottom-up.

  • Read about the entire session here.

Dialogue between UCLG and UHC2030

In a moment in which a global pandemic is putting to the test both our health and governance systems, the municipal movement and the movement for universal health care held a dialogue to discuss the importance of universal health coverage in the wake of the most important crisis of the 21st century.

This pandemic has shown how local service delivery is the bacbone of many sanitary systems, and how critical they are to solve a crisis that health systems cannot absorb by themselves. The conversation brought together the movement for  universal healthcare and the local governments movement to ensure we have a means to overcome the crisis.

14 speakers, a number that encompassed mayors from all over the world, the President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa, as well as representatives from the Universal Health Care 2030 Movement, gathered in the meeting to debate the lessons learnt from communities during the pandemic, and to identify what our societies will need to do better, and transform, to ensure equal access to healthcare.

  • Read the full article here.

Cities as bridges between SDGs and citizens in a post-COVID-19 world: Elements for socio-economic recovery

The situation created by COVID-19 has made local and regional action critical to create opportunities for the recovery within the framewok of the SDGs. In an event with participation from the UN SDG Action Campaign, UNDP, UN-Habitat, UCLG and  AICCRE, participants discussed the importance of creating ownership of the 2030 Agenda within local communities.

Throughout the event, speakers highlighted the need to involve citizens in the decision-making to enhance ownership of the agendas, and underscored the importance of service delivery as the connection between institutions and local communities. The localization of the universal development agendas, ensuring that they respond to the needs of our communities, will be critical for an inclusive recovery and the sustainable transformation of our systems.

  • See the side event page here.

Mayor of Polokwane and UCLG Copresident Thembisile Nkadimeng showcased the Local4ActionHubs at the session on “SDG Acceleration Actions to Build Back Better”, an event that gathered representatives from local, regional, and national governments, building on existing efforts related to the achievement of the SDGs,

Throughout the 2020 HLPF, we demonstrated our strong commitment to the universal agendas and upheld the renewal of the multilateral system. While the Ministerial Declaration is yet to release, and we will have to evaluate its result when it does, one thing remains clear: Local and regional governments are ready to recover from the pandemic in a more sustainable manner, with the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework.