The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide local and regional governments with an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to the achievement of global targets and participate as peers in the post-2015 vision and sense of purpose of the international community. It is argued that 65% of the SDGs could not be achieved unless local government is fully and equitably involved in implementation. Over the past few years, the localization of the SDGs has brought about huge strides in awareness, engagement and commitment at all levels of governance and, in particular, from the bottom up.
Since 2016, local and regional governments have taken a step further, and began monitoring and reporting on progress they have been making in localizing the SDGs and the other global agendas. In 2018, the city of New York and three Japanese municipalities were among the first to produce ‘Voluntary Local Reviews’ (VLRs), institutionally organic self-assessing documents which aimed to complete the information and data on SDG implementation that national governments were already providing to the United Nations, yearly, at the High-Level Political Forum. To date, almost 40 cities and regional governments from all continents and of all size have already published their VLR. This process has increased awareness, transparency, institutional accountability, and the very ownership of SDG implementation — making local governments more capable to stir policy change, as well as less ‘siloed’ and resistant to innovation and change.
UCLG and UN-Habitat have long been partners in supporting local governments willing to engage with this process. Together, they have designed tools, methods and institutional opportunities through which local and regional governments have approached the global agendas and the localization of these common goals. Now, they have devised a VLR Series to provide guidance, definitions and technical support to any local and regional governments aiming to be part of this community.
Volume 1 of the VLR Series, the Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews, provides overview and analysis of all the documents that local governments have issued to review and assess their implementation performance, looking for common traits, comparable variables and the thread binding the VLRs together. The outcome is a study on the key features of VLRs, the institutional environment and capabilities through which they were designed, and a set of recommendations to invite many more local governments to undertake this effort and contribute local data, information, experiences and practices for others to learn and build upon.