Shaping the global agenda to maximize city leadership on the SDGs

The experiences of vanguard cities

People walk in downtown Los Angeles, California, United States, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC1688DDCC30

As countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the inclusion of a separate goal on urbanization (SDG 11)—to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable—was hailed as a breakthrough, establishing the significance of cities to the 2030 Agenda.

Four years in, it is clear that cities matter beyond the confines of SDG 11. Interdependencies between SDG 11 and the other SDGs ripple throughout the agenda. Even more importantly, mayors and local government officials are forming the frontlines of SDG implementation, translating the agenda’s lofty and sometimes abstract aspirations into progress felt by real people living in real communities.

These local leaders are adapting the goals and targets set at the national level to their own local realities, though a universally accepted set of local metrics and indicators does not exist. They seek to advance the entire range of SDGs, as all of the SDGs matter for their constituents, even if they don’t have direct authority over every issue.

During a three-day gathering from April 3-6, 2019 at the Bellagio Rockefeller Center, senior government officials from 14 cities worldwide that are in the vanguard of localizing the SDGs, provided their perspectives in sharing a city-specific agenda for scaling local SDG implementation and refining high-value practices began to emerge. This brief reflects the policy implications of mayoral and city leadership on the SDGs based on their experiences and guidance, with associated recommendations to help accelerate and deepen progress on the SDGs at the local level.

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