To fulfil its transformative potential, the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development must be fully realised at the local level. Localisation refers to the process of transforming the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into local reality, focusing development on the needs and priorities of communities. It is a two-way process in which the local meets the national and the global level, in a mutually reinforcing manner. 65% of the SDG targets are directly related to the mandate and mission of local governments.[1] The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly disrupted implementation of many of the SDGs and has turned back years of progress. The crisis has exposed and exacerbated the fragilities and inequalities deeply rooted in our societies – specifically in cities and urban areas. Cities have faced 90% of COVID-19 cases, making them particularly vulnerable to the consequences – social, economic, environmental, cultural – of the pandemic.[2] 


The Decade of Action identifies local action as one of the key levels of intervention to achieve these goals. Equally, UNSG’s report “Our Common Agenda" recognises the key role of cities and local governments in achieving sustainable development. Working towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and advancing an inclusive and resilient recovery at all levels are not either-or processes; they are two sides of the same coin.


Balancing nation-wide recovery and development plans with tailored initiatives responding to local specificities is therefore an important challenge to be addressed. A successful balance requires the adoption of integrated and holistic approaches anchored by two axes of work: vertical – strengthening and facilitating multilevel governance systems, and horizontal – prioritising inclusion of and participation by all sectors and territorial stakeholders in decision-making processes.


Fostering an Empowering Environment for Localisation of the SDGs

Local authorities and local governments are the first responders to crisis recovery and first-line service providers in key recovery sectors. The success of localising the 2030 Agenda, however, depends strongly on the degree of political, administrative, and financial decentralisation of public functions in each partner country. The tasks and responsibilities of local governments vary across countries. Accordingly, each local community needs to adjust the SDGs to their specific context, considering how the SDGs can be achieved through by implementing of common local tasks and responsibilities.


Localising the SDGs is a transformative process. Local governments need support to set their priority goals and targets, determine and mobilise the means of implementation and set up monitoring systems to track progress.