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Localising SDGs: Learning from others

Adopting best practices can ensure global goals translate into tangible local actions and outcomes

The United Nations launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was adopted by all the United Nations Member States in 2015. The agenda provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The 17 SDGs accept that poverty needs to be eradicated, and to implement these strategies, remove inequality and encourage an equitable world become the focal point.

To achieve the goals different countries and nations need to focus on local action to contribute to and achieve the targets under the SDG agenda, keeping in mind the three Pillars – Growth, Equity and Sustainability – in a context-specific and resource-sensitive manner. It becomes imperative to operationalise SDG implementation at the local and community levels. This is even more important since the framework of the SDG agenda “can facilitate the effective translation of sustainable development policies into concrete action at the national level” (United Nations 2015; Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development).


What is localising SDGs?

A common understanding of “localising” SDG implementation broadly includes subnational contexts in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. This primarily involves, setting goals and targets, defining implementation plans, and using a local indicator framework to measure and monitor progress. Hence localising helps provide a framework for local development action and enables local and regional governments to partner in the efforts to achieve the SDG targets through action from the bottom up.

In short, localising SDGs is broadly a process of not only adopting but also implementing the SDGs at a local level. To do these universal goals need to be translated and customised into actionable plans that conform to specific contexts, priorities and capacities of local communities, regions, and cities.

Key elements to localise SDGs

What: Active Engagement with Stakeholders

How: Include active participation and build partnerships to foster collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders from a wide spectrum of sectors. This will help to leverage resources, ideas and expertise to support the SDG initiatives. The stakeholders broadly include government officials, civil society organisations, community, corporate and academia to name a few.

What: Build Capacity

How: Conduct regular training programmes to educate stakeholders on the challenges, possible solutions, best practices. Locate local resources, human and financial, and encourage technical inputs from people/community.

What: Contextualise

How: Identify and adapt global practices to fit local context to ensure relevance and possibility of achieving the same. Explore the local socio-economic, cultural, environmental and political context to customise the same for local implementation.

What: Plan and Implement

How: Develop projects and implement specific projects and initiatives that contribute to achieving local SDG targets. Include SDGs in local development plans, policies, programmes and ensure that it is strategised as a cross-cutting priority.

What: Monitoring and Evaluation:

How: Establish robust systems to collect and analyse data at local levels to help in informed decision-making processes. Identify and use local indicators to monitor progress towards the localised SDG targets.

Data Collection: Establish systems for collecting and analysing data at the local level to inform decision-making and track progress.

What: Create Awareness and Encourage Advocacy

How: Organise campaigns to create awareness on the relevance of SDGs in local scenarios. Encourage advocating of policies and actions with Government officials.

Why is it important to localise SDGs?

Key reasons for developing SDGs at local levels include:

Encourages solutions which are customised and helps communities face challenges and makes this relevant and effective.

Initiates ownership and empowers local communities to actively get involved in the process by taking charge of developing and fostering a bottom-up approach.

Focusses on marginalised and vulnerable groups by ensuring inclusivity: Ensures a balanced regional development by building resilience against global challenges like climate change, health and poverty to name a few

Steps to localise SDGs

  • Conduct assessment and baseline studies to understand grassroots realities: Prioritise and set goals based on the analysis.
  • Involve communities and stakeholders to participate in decision-making processes by welcoming their inputs.
  • Develop a timeline with an action plan by defining roles and responsibilities, activities and the resources assigned to the activities.
  • Launch the action plan by ensuring a sustained commitment from all stakeholders.
  • Establish a robust monitoring, evaluation and reporting system to check and refine activities.

Cheat Sheet

No Goals Global Themes Local Gaps
1 No Poverty access to basic goods and services, financial security, social safety net, poverty elimination, income poverty social services, poverty elimination, homelessness, thriving wage, skills training, support for children and families, income support
2 Zero Hunger food security, malnutrition, food sovereignty, equitable land access, healthy food, child obesity, sustainable and small-scale agriculture, regional food systems, farmer livelihoods, international food trade, genetic diversity urban agriculture, food waste, food byproducts use, local food procurement, local food retail and distribution, local food policy, food security, local food supply chains, circular food economy, local food retail
3 Good Health and Well-being disease prevention and response, road safety, addiction prevention and treatment, health facilities, access to healthcare, maternal/reproductive health, medication, pollution reduction mental health, aging, ethical use of biotechnology, physical activity, noise pollution, quality of life, social capital, workplace health and safety, harm reduction, mental health services, health equity, healthcare for women and children, access to healthcare facilities and services, public health, pandemic response, workplace wellbeing
4 Quality Education Access to education, early childhood education, access to post-secondary education, relevant skill development, literacy and numeracy, equity in education, knowledge of sustainable development, barrier-free education facilities, teacher training and livelihoods meaningful education in non-school settings, sharing and valuing traditional ecological knowledge access to education, community-connected learning, schools and education infrastructure, support for teachers and educators, Indigenous languages
5 Gender Equality Women’s rights and safety, address violence against women, unpaid/domestic work recognition and support, women leadership and ownership, gender pay gap, gender-based policies for employment non-binary gender rights, gender equity, female entrepreneurship, LGBTQIA+ issues, employment and pay equity, diverse leadership, reproductive health, period poverty, sex workers’ rights/livelihoods
6 Clean Water and Sanitation access to clean drinking water, adequate wastewater treatment, integrated water resources management, water reuse and recycling, protection and restoration of aquatic ecosystems watersheds, rivers, streams, groundwater, water treatment, conservation and restoration, water pollution
7 Affordable and Clean Energy Affordable and Clean Energy Energy conservation, fossil fuel divestment, energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, passive homes, community energy infrastructure, local energy policy, residential/public building retrofits
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth Economic diversification, small and medium businesses, safe workplaces, sustainable tourism, fair trade, access to financial services, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, meaningful work, employment equity, income equity, eliminating modern slavery, labour rights, micro-finance, social finance promotion of shared ownership structure, living wage, workplace belonging, benefits, pay transparency, meaningful work, safe and inclusive workspace, stable employment, social finance, micro-finance, community economic development, social entrepreneurship, labour rights, skills training, employment equity, reduction of wealth inequality, alternatives to never-ending growth
9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Access to transportation infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, micro-finance, access to credit, small-scale industry support, research and technology Innovation, micro-finance, social finance, community economic development, research and development, social entrepreneurship, regional innovation, access to technology, internet/broadband access, “right to repair”
10 Reduce Inequality Income equality, income support, inclusive employment policies and laws, anti-racism, anti-discrimination, migrants and refugee rights Reconciliation, disability, religion, ethnicity, income support, anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion policy, immigrant and refugee services
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities Transportation access, road safety, protection of cultural and natural heritage, affordable housing, urban planning, heritage, air quality, solid waste management, inclusive/safe/healthy public spaces, urban containment, urban governance, sustainable land use Cycling, sustainable policies for new and existing buildings, urban agriculture, transportation access and infrastructure, public transportation, urban design and development, public space, density, solid waste management, local infrastructure
12 Responsible Consumption and Production Natural resource management, food waste, life cycle analysis, recycling and reuse, ecological footprint, corporate social responsibility, circular economy Finite resources, food waste, solid waste management, circular economy, zero waste, sharing economy, “right to repair”
13 Climate Action Natural disaster, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, climate justice, climate policy, resilience Local climate policy and targets, climate advocacy, climate justice, local climate change mitigation and adaptation
14 Life Below Water Fishing and fisheries, ocean and freshwater pollution, coastal laws and water regulation, water conservation, aquatic ecosystem health Coastal regulations, marine conservation, water pollution, aquatic ecosystem health, aquatic wildlife protection
15 Life On Land Forests, wetlands, mountain and alpine ecosystems, sensitive ecosystems, biodiversity, soil health, endangered species, invasive species Ecosystem preservation and regeneration, farm and food land protection, endangered/invasive species, forest preservation, soil health, regenerative agriculture
16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions Violence, corruption, citizenship, government spending, gun control, public engagement, equity, advocacy, governance and leadership, policy change Public engagement, civic engagement, local politics, policy advocacy, policy, community planning, government resources, local laws and regulations
17 Partnerships for the goals Taxes, international cooperation, trade, access to technology, data collection and sharing, cross-sector collaboration Cooperation, collaboration, partnerships, collective action, cross-sector collaboration, resources & data sharing agreements

Source: https://www.sdgcities.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/SDG-Cheat-Sheet.pdf

By adopting best practices, local governments and communities can effectively localise the SDGs, ensuring that global goals translate into tangible local actions and outcomes that improve the quality of life for all.

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