On December 14 and 15, 2021, Brookings hosted the fifth convening of the SDG Leadership Cities Network, building on previous meetings held in-person in April 2019 in Bellagio, Italy; November 2019 in Mexico City; and virtually in June 2020 and March 2021.
The group discussed several major thematic issues around the durability of local commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), brought to life by the experiences of two cities participating in the SDG Leadership Cities Network, Bogota and Bristol. Engaging political leaders in a conversation on the links between each city’s SDG strategy and political platform, the group explored the influence of the goals on the planning process and governance in these cities. The group then learned about concrete applications of these processes, in particular, advancing gender equity by using the SDG framework.
The gathering was conducted in a roundtable format, with topics explored in highly interactive sessions mixing plenary and breakout sessions. Sessions were held under the Chatham House Rules to encourage candid discussion and problem solving on limits, challenges, and obstacles.
- Ensuring the durability of SDG commitments through political transitions. The SDGs require a policy mindset shift to advance interlinked issues simultaneously while integrating evidence-based policymaking and taking a long-term view. Sooner or later, all cities face mayoral transitions, with the potential to shift priorities and focus. Cities benefit from using a variety of processes, both internal to city government and external, to ensure the durability of the SDG agenda. These processes, which often exist on the same continuum, have different levels of formality. Informal methods on continuing longevity on the SDGs (weekly calls, relationship building, etc.) are just as important as formal ones (legal mandate, budget alignment, etc.).
- Integrating the SDGs into urban planning tools. Cities like Bogota have taken binding action to codify the SDG agenda in their planning, which affects the long-term trajectory of the city and informs the work plan for many different departments. The leadership of Bogota aligned its Master Plan to the SDGs to push its transformative long-term agenda and build a shared vision of sustainable development for the city that reflects its residents’ needs. As part of its current efforts to monitor SDG progress, Bogota publishes semiannual reports and is currently preparing its first Voluntary Local Review.
- Opening the governance system. Governance arrangements that foster dialogue and cooperation among sectors enable city leaders to build informal relationships and partnerships that advance city priorities. Bristol’s One City model offers a way to leverage leadership across sectors. The One City model takes a new approach to working and making decisions for the city, by coordinating decisions with constituents and local organizations from across the city. This ‘opening up’ of City Hall by working with partners to develop and advance city strategies increases local buy-in of the policy agenda.
- Resolving a missing link in SDGs reporting. Cities must show how the integration of the SDGs into city operations and their adoption by local partners improve public service delivery and foster progress. Although several data reporting tools have been developed, cities often struggle to link the effects of local action and service delivery to city-level progress on strategic priorities. Cities must better connect strategic priorities with project data at the grassroots level. Bristol is working to complement data dashboards on local progress by data at the project level to undertake a collective account of the community partners’ programmatic impact into the city’s strategic targets.
- Gender equity and the burden of unpaid care work. Bogota’s master plan makes gender equity the foundation of sustainable development and uses it as a lens to develop public facilities, public spaces, functional mobility, and public service delivery. To address the mechanism of gender inequity, the city is placing the care economy at the center of its planning, in order to rebalance the burden of unpaid care work, which falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women. This work in Bogota is pioneering a model for social services provision across Latin America. The Master Plan includes a 24/7 hotline for legal counseling; “Safe Spaces” that transform supermarkets, gas stations, etc. into places of arrival for people in need; and Care Blocks. These Blocks offer services to women and caregivers, such as laundry and childcare to free up their time, while also offering access to education, professional training, and personal development.
List of participants
SDG Leadership Cities Network
- Diana Alarcón González, Chief Advisor and Foreign Affairs Coordinator, Mexico City
- Luz Amparo Medina Gerena, District Director of International Relations, Bogota
- Erin Bromaghim, Director of Olympic and Paralympic Development, Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, City of Los Angeles
- Kaysie Brown, Vice President for Policy and Strategic Initiatives, United Nations Foundation
- Aissata Camara, Deputy Commissioner for Operations and Strategic Partnerships, Office for International Affairs, New York City
- Mariana Cammisa, SDGs Officer, General and International Affairs Secretariat, Buenos Aires
- Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability & Resilience and Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Orlando
- Andrea Dell, Head of the Bristol City Office
- Angela Kim, SDG Program and Data Manager, City of Los Angeles
- Christian Hübel, Head of Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Mayor, Mannheim
- Frida Leander, Agenda 2030 Sustainability Strategist, Malmö
- Allan MacLeod, SDG Research and Engagement Associate, Bristol City Office
- Mia Malin, SDGs Project Manager, Helsinki
- Sandile Mbatha, Senior Manager for City Research and Policy Advocacy, Office of the Strategic Management, Durban (eThekwini Municipality)
- Beryl Mphakathi, Deputy City Manager for Human Settlements, Engineering and Transport, Durban (eThekwini Municipality)
- Oneika Pryce, Strategic Relationships Associate for Global Vision, Office for International Affairs, New York City
- Andrea Laverde Quintero, Deputy Director of International Relations, Bogota
- Luis Hernan Sáenz, Advisor for International Relations, Bogota
- Toshikazu Yazawa, Director, Office of the City of Yokohama Representative to the Americas, Yokohama
Center for Sustainable Development, Brookings Institution
- Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow
- Zoe Swarzenski, Extern
- Paulina Hruskoci, Intern
- Kait Pendrak, Research Assistant
- Max Bouchet, Senior Policy Analyst & Project Manager
Associate of U.S. SDGs in Policy Planning - UN Foundation
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