The article entitled, “City Scan-VLR: A route for cities, regions and towns to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” authored by our Cities Programme Project Development Manager, Joana Correia was recently published in the 31st volume of the PIMA Bulletin. The Bulletin, guest-edited by members from the Jean Monnet Sustainable Development Goals Network (currently hosted by RMIT’s EU Centre of Excellence) showcases a current snapshot of the network’s researchers work, with a primary interest in enhancing the contribution of the European Union to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the article, Joana Correia outlines how the success of the SDGs necessitates deliberate action in our urban centres, with former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon identifying that the struggle for global sustainability will be either “won or lost in our cities.” Correia argues that this call to localise the SDGs, recognises the opportunities for “cities to act even when the nation state is lagging” and that the, “local, city-scale is a logical and important administrative and community unit for intervention on sustainable development.” Both these factors naturally necessitate the need for setting subnational indicators, goals and targets at the local and regional levels across all SDGs (not just SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities) acknowledging the interconnected dependencies of the SDGs in complex urban environments.

Correia expands on the role and responsibilities by stating that in the process of localising the SDGs, subnational governments often play two major roles, as an implementer of the SDGs through their strategies and operations; and as an influencer, through their development of policies that promote inclusive, integrated and sustainable territorial development, for which local governments are often best placed to link the SDGs with community level action.

This need to implement, monitor and measure SDG action at the local level was the basis for the invention of the “Voluntary Local Review,” a reporting mechanism first coined by New York City in 2018 that is a localised report based on the Voluntary National Review format that monitors progress on the SDGs by UN member nation states.

Producing a VLR enables cities, regions and towns to assess their progress on the SDGs while prioritising actions, identifying gaps and raising awareness about the 2030 Agenda in their local community and administration. As Correia argues, “the value of the VLR, rests not simply in the final report but in the processes of engagement and partnership forged through co-creation of review and action.” The process for the creation of a VLR can foster a collaboration model that can have benefits beyond the report produced, by providing a common framework and language shared across different stakeholders.

This is a distinctive focus of the City Scan-VLR, a tool developed by the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme at RMIT University that allows cities, regions and towns to engage with the SDGs through a VLR process. The tool provides a framework, an initial diagnostic, and a process for a comprehensive understanding of urban and sustainability challenges, while identifying opportunities for projects and policies to drive improvements for sustainable development into the future. The unique engagement process of the City Scan-VLR draws upon a range of stakeholders including the private sector, civil society, academia and the broader community. Correia points to the City Scan-VLR as a way to provide the capacity for local governments to engage with the SDGs, while creating an independent, truthful and transparent reporting process through which cities, communities and stakeholders can acknowledge their challenges and weaknesses, and set out a shared agenda to tackle them.

Importantly, the tool provides an avenue for cities to provide local and regional perspectives to the global conversation of the 2030 Agenda through the VLR process, while enabling critical subnational action towards the implementation of the SDGs.

You can read the full article in the 31st edition of the PIMA Bulletin here.