From apoliticalGovernment
June 1, 2020

How cities can achieve global goals

The role of cities is evolving. This is mostly out of necessity. An estimated two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030 and, increasingly, people living in cities are the ones on the frontlines of issues like the Covid-19 pandemic, poverty and climate change.

At the same time, as a society, we are also witnessing more and more national governments – from the U.S. to Brazil to Poland to Australia – who are not living up to their responsibilities on the global stage. As national leaders step back, however, subnational leaders are leaning in.

Over the last six years of the de Blasio administration, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs has been working to connect our local initiatives to global efforts. After the United Nations ratified the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, we recognized there were synergies with the city’s existing OneNYC sustainable development plan. So we mapped the commonalities and launched a platform called Global Vision | Urban Action to highlight ways to localize the Global Goals.

Local global goals

We first tried to bring New York voices into discussions at the UN about the SDGs. To do so, we brought UN diplomats into our local communities to see firsthand how New York is addressing some of these global issues on a local level. These exchanges became a way for our city to both showcase what we do well, but to also learn from the wealth of international expertise we have access to as host to the largest diplomatic corps in the world.

“What if we took our successes and challenges on issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals and shared them directly to the UN?”

For example, in the spring of 2018, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs took a small delegation of international experts on a sludge vessel tour to show how the NYC Department of Environmental Protection treats wastewater and provides more than 1 billion gallons of fresh water for 8.5 million New Yorkers each day.

That summer, our office also invited a small delegation of UN sustainability experts on a walking tour of New York City’s community gardens where experts exchanged ideas on issues like biodiversity, climate change and urban resilience.

Through these engagements, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs recognized the need to lean in even further. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals process, all UN member states are invited to submit a report, detailing their progress on implementing the Global Goals. It is a voluntary exercise called the Voluntary National Review. The U.S. (neither under the Obama nor Trump administrations) has never committed to doing one. That stance is unlikely to change any time soon.

In New York City, however, we knew we had all the information needed for such a report since we already collect much of that data for our OneNYC sustainable development plan. Given that more than 65% of the Global Goals and targets are relevant to cities and given our unique relationship to the UN, we asked ourselves: “What if we took our successes and challenges on issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals and shared them directly to the UN?” It was not an attempt to usurp member state authority. Instead, we wanted to complement multilateral efforts to achieve the Global Goals.

An opportunity for cities to dialogue with each other, exchange best practices and accelerate change on the ground for their citizens

A fellowship of cities

With approval from top UN leadership, in July 2018 New York became the first city in the world to report on our progress in achieving the Global Goals via a process we dubbed the Voluntary Local Review. In the months that followed, we called on other cities both in the U.S. and around the world to join us in doing their own reporting. Helsinki, Finland was the first to join.

To be clear, this isn’t about choosing a handful of metrics to showcase before the UN. It is an opportunity for cities to dialogue with each other, exchange best practices and accelerate change on the ground for their citizens.

During the 2019 General Assembly, two dozen cities representing nearly every continent — from Accra, Ghana to Kazan, Russia, to Orlando, Florida — signed on to the NYC Declaration on the Voluntary Local Review.

The Declaration consists of three key commitments:

  • Commitment 1: To identify how existing strategies, programs, data, and targets align with the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Commitment 2: To provide at least one forum where stakeholders can come together to share experiences, lessons learned, and information gathered using the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Commitment 3: To submit a Voluntary Local Review to the United Nations during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum

City-level change

The SDGs provide a common framework and language for cities large and small to share best practices. The Declaration also emphasizes using existing resources in an intentional effort to keep the barrier to entry low. Cities can engage with the process in their own time, using their own resources and processes.

The Voluntary Local Review has since turned into a movement. To date, more than 200 cities and regional governments have signed on. And many others have committed independently to doing their own reports.

Ultimately, the Voluntary Local Review represents an opportunity for cities of all different sizes to talk to each other and exchange best practices so subnational governments can accelerate impact on the ground and more efficiently meet the needs of their people. That exchange seems especially crucial as the world grapples with the pandemic. With the SDGs, we have a common language and framework to find solutions. And so New York City is moving aggressively to grow this movement because we know the challenges of public health, climate, and inequality are often felt most intensely at the subnational level and the solutions lie there as well. 

This piece originally appeared on Apolitical, the global network for public servants. You can find the original here. For more like this, see Apolitical’s government innovation newsfeed.

About this author

Avatar

Penny Abeywardena

This article is written by Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for International Affairs.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

From apolitical
 
Due to lockdowns and border closures around the world, Covid-19 has...
 
There is a story about an ancient emperor who sent their...
 
The role of  cities  is evolving. This is mostly out of necessity....
 
Being a small town public servant can be tough. Municipalities are...
 
Over the past week, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, I’ve...
 
When pandemics like the coronavirus (COVID-19) strike, authorities and governments are...
 
Governments across the world have made great strides toward providing financial...
 
It’s easy to assume, perhaps thanks to all the  lurid tabloid headlines , that...
 
What was once Santiago’s largest food distribution centre, the Vega Poniente...
 
Government: the very word invokes quite different responses for different people....
 
Why is evidence in policy important? The world we are living in...
 
2019 has been a breakthrough year for data and AI in...
 
Trust slowly evolves when  citizens , society, and governments  collaborate  and do it...
 
“What happens when technological innovation outpaces the ability of laws and...
 
That hypnotically red eye. That eerily meticulous, methodical, and measured voice....
 
What’s your organisation’s mission? Hopefully, you know what it does on...
 
Thanks to the development of new technologies that make previously unimaginable...
 
Throughout the history of economic thought, government has long been seen...
 
The digitalisation of the economy has been a blessing for the...
 
In late March the ONS detailed the occupations in the UK...
 
If you have checked any news media today, you’ll likely have...
 
We live in the age of paradox.  Never before in human...
 
The evidence that design reaps multiple benefits for service delivery  is growing ....
 
In the next year, one in three US federal government workers...
 
Despite a rapid expansion in digital democracy initiatives around the globe,...
 
Impact investment has taken Canada by storm, opening the doors to...
 
Below is a piece of design fiction focused on what it...
 
Buying Social. Responsible sourcing. Ethical procurement. Sustainable procurement. Whatever name you...
 
The use of “nudges” in policymaking has been a major trend...
 
“Innovation is a foreign word in the public sector.” “Public employees...
 
When data.gov launched in May of 2009, the site seemed to...
 
In 2017, identity theft cost Americans $16.8 billion, and, in just...
 
When James Cattell, a delivery manager at the UK’s Department for...
 
Why do the richest 1 per cent of Americans take 20...
 
Urban officials dream of a future of “smart cities” that use...
 
In the three years to 2020, Canada will welcome almost a...
 
Governments everywhere are announcing new strategies for artificial intelligence. From France, which has...
 
Almost one in two preschool children in Canada live in a...
 
A single team or lab could never create the volume of...
 
Talk of robots in the labour market usually focuses on their...
 
Innovation labs and units have become so fashionable in the public...
 
Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does...
 
“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge...
 
For policymakers around the world, Canada frequently leads the way on...
 
Since launching in 2014, Sweden’s radically ‘feminist’ foreign policy has gained international notoriety. While...
 
As Executive Director of the UK’s Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Due to lockdowns and border closures around the world, Covid-19 has...