Cities’ growing role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda has led to increased global attention on localizing SDGs. The preparation of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) enables the review of SDG implementation at a local level. VLRs complement Voluntary National Reviews developed at the country level, ensuring a more detailed and nuanced assessment of progress toward implementing the 2030 Agenda at a country level.
VLRs already demonstrated to be a useful tool for cities and subregions to catalyse action towards the SDGs and to support economic and social recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities in the UNECE region, mostly in Western Europe, have developed and published VLRs, including Besancon, France (2018); Barcelona, Spain (2019); Bristol, UK (2019); Canterbury, UK (2019); Gothenburg, Sweden (2019); Helsinki, Finland (2019); Stuttgart, Germany (2019); Bonn, Germany (2020); Niort, France (2020); Trondheim, Norway (2021). At the same time very few cities in countries with economies in transition have developed VLRs. An analysis of published VLRs in the UNECE region shows that there is no standard approach for developing VLRs. However. there are common principles and steps which must be applied to ensure that VLRs have a long-term positive impact on the economic and social development of a city or a rural human settlement.
The Guidelines for the Development of Voluntary Local Reviews in the UNECE Region endorsed today by the UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management will assist local and regional governments in the region in developing VLRs. The Guidelines contain a set of principles and recommendations on concrete steps to be taken. The guidelines were elaborated based on the existing best practices in the region with the development of the VLRs and in consultation with UN-Habitat and other partner organizations, cities and their networks and other stakeholders.
The Guidelines underline that:
VLRs should become a tool to create long-term strategies for sustainable development
In the short-term, VLRs should support regions and cities in addressing the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
VLRs need to focus on value creation, measurable opportunities and nature-based solutions for the community, in order to leave no one behind
Multi-governance and multi-stakeholder engagement through strengthened participation are two crucial factors to combine VLRs and COVID-19 emergency recovery plans. This type of commitment can accelerate sustainable impacts by linking local action to regional and national actions
The collection of reliable and accurate data from local governments is vital in establishing an evidence-based approach for VLRs and COVID-19 recovery plans.
Financial mechanism and innovative approaches are essential in moving VLRs and COVID-19 recovery plans into implementation and monitoring phases
The VLRs need to fit into the cities’ specific local contexts, providing flexibility and adaptability of the planning and implementation.
The guidelines were developed at the request of the UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management at its eighty-first session in October 2020 and based on the discussions at the webinar “Local Governments: The role of SDG Voluntary Local Reviews” (Geneva, 11 March 2021).
The guidelines will be piloted in the cities that have requested UNECE support in developing their VLRs, including Evian in France, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, and other cities and municipalities upon their requests. To support cities in implementing the guidelines, UNECE will develop online training and will organize a series of subregional webinars.