On the 9-18 July, leaders gathered in New York for the 2019 High Level Political Forum [HLPF] under the auspice of Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The thematic explored in 2019 was “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” which focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 – Quality Education, 8 – Decent work and Economic Growth, 10 – Reduce Inequality, 13 – Climate Action and 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

The importance of the bottom up implementation to localise the SDGs through the Local 2030 Agenda was clearly positioned in this years’ discussions. The Cities Programme participated and presented at several high-level dialogues throughout the week, that shared knowledge and experiences of cities who are leading the way in progressing the SDGs.

As part of this year’s HLPF, 42 countries documenting their progress on the SDGs through Voluntary National Reviews [VNR] for the first time. Following the submission of a self-initiated Voluntary Local Review [VLR] by New York City at the HLPF in 2018, reporting on progress of the SDGs at sub-national government levels has gained traction in line with the objectives of Local 2030.

Following New York City’s lead, many cities have begun to release reports that mirror VNRs including Bristol, Buenos Aires, Helsinki, Kitakyushu, Shimokawa, Toyama, Oaxaca and Santana de Parnaiba, with the support of United Cities and Local Governments [UCLG], The Global Taskforce and UNDP who are strong advocates for sub-national reporting on the SDGs. Many of these VLRs were developed with assistance from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies [IGES] based in Japan, who have recently developed the VLR Lab online platform to assist cities in reporting on their SDG progress. During the HLPF Voluntary Local Reviews Lab side event, the Cities Programme presented the City Scan as a complementary tool available to cities that help to identify city challenges, record their progress and assist the development of strategic action, priorities and plans, including providing valuable baseline data to highlight the success of city initiatives in achieving the SDGs.

Hosted by UCLG and the Global Taskforce, The President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces spoke at the HLPF Local and Regional Governments Day, where she advocated passionately about the importance of city governments in achieving the SDGs. Ms. Espinosa Garces was presented with the Seville Commitment, a document that captures the commitments made by city governments and stakeholders of over 40 countries to the Local 2030 Agenda. These commitments were made during the high-level dialogues in February this year, convened by the Governments of Spain, Ecuador and Cape Verde and facilitated by steering committee members UNESCAP, UNESCWA, UNECA, UNECE, UNECLAC, The Global Taskforce, International Peace Institute, shift7, UNSDSN, UNCDF, UN DESA, UNDP, UN Foundation, UN Global Compact – Cities Programme as part of the UN Global Compact and UN-Habitat.

The Cities Programme’s Head of Local Engagement, Javier Cortes spoke alongside the Spanish Government, UCLG and Spain’s Sustainable Development Solution Network [REDS] as part of the key role of partnerships for an inclusive implementation of the Agenda 2030 at the local level: an open discussion, sharing best practice multi-stakeholder platforms, collaboration opportunities and the key outcomes of REDS report, “The Sustainable Development Goals in 100 Spanish Cities”, providing a snapshot of current progress on sustainability in cities across Spain. The Cities Programme at the request of the High Commissioner for the Local 2030 Agenda in Spain is now drafting guidelines for the localisation of SDGs in collaboration with key stakeholders.

The Cities Programme alongside the Mayor of the City of Matosinhos, Luísa Salgueiro and the CEiia Innovation Center (Portugal) participated in discussions as part of the Towards the Achievement of Decarbonisation in the Region and Localisation of the SDG: Realisation of Circulating and Ecological Economy in an Inclusive Form. Ms. Salgueiro spoke about the award-winning Living Lab Matosinhos initiative that incubates innovative technological solutions to the SDGs. One such innovation is the creation of a local carbon market where citizens who adopt more sustainable modes of mobility earn credits from the CO2 emissions they save. These credits can then be used to purchase green goods and services.

The Cities Programme also contributed to discussions on UN systemwide Guidelines on Safer Cities and Human Settlements as part of the inaugural meeting UN-Habitat Safer Cities Programme Informal Working Group, where Head of Partnerships Ralph Horne put forward suggestions for further partnerships and innovation in the next 10-year programme.

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