Achieving the globally agreed Agenda 2030 requires a holistic approach that mainstreams its principles and sustainable development goals (SDGs) into both national and subnational policies. The 17 SDGs have targets directly related to the responsibilities of local and regional governments.
The planning and implementation of the SDGs requires not only the leadership by central governments, but also active participation of subnational governments to identify gaps, propose ideas and pioneer solutions to advance the SDGs at the local level. Localized development approaches are particularly relevant in locations facing unique and pressing demands, for example urban areas.
With rapid urbanization across the Arab region, approximately 66% of the population is living in cities today. Growing urbanization is driven not only by migration from rural to urban areas, but also by massive displacement of populations into cities due to war.
Self-constructed, Source: World Urbanization Prospects 2018
As urbanization grows exponentially, cities are at risk of falling short of their ability to meet the needs of the populations and maintain a sustainable environment. Despite prevailing centralized urban management mechanisms, there is an urgent need for central governments to engage local and regional governments to jointly develop urban planning solutions for a sustainability transition.
Considering varying realities in different territories, including ages and gender is also crucial.
In Egypt, at country level, 16% of the youth population is illiterate. But when data is disaggregated, it becomes evident that young women in rural areas record a much higher illiteracy rate of 24%.
Similarly, in Sudan, at the aggregate level, 68% of households have access to safe water. Yet, a closer look reveals that the majority of those who have access to such water reside in Khartoum and Northern States. In the peripheral areas, only one third of households have access to safe water.
To achieve the SDGs for all, it is imperative to consider localized development policies to meet the priorities and needs of populations in different locations.
In Tunisia, UNDP supported the Madinatouna project, in which eight cities formulated their own development strategies. The project brought together local actors to establish a common vision towards sustainable development of their respective cities.
In Iraq, UNDP is supporting the Kurdistan Regional Government to develop its Vision 2030. This initiative promotes cooperation between stakeholders to implement and monitor progress towards the SDGs in the Kurdistan Region, as part of broader efforts to achieve the SDGs in Iraq.
In Somalia, UNDP supported localization of SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) in Puntland. Access to energy was prioritized as their critical concern and renewable energy solutions had to be explored. As a result, the use of solar power is promoted widely in Puntland today.
With only nine years left to achieve the SDGs, balanced urban and territorial development will be crucial for all countries to meet the SDG targets. And as the world moves into recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, more inclusive policies must be supported to deliver a sustainable recovery.
Subnational governments must be fully engaged in development planning, ensuring broad and active civic participation not only in implementation of planned activities, but also —and more importantly— along the entire planning process from setting representative priorities, to monitoring progress and evaluating outcomes. Such engagement may be the best guarantee for achieving the promise of Agenda 2030 to leave no one behind.