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The SDGs outline the path for a fair and sustainable recovery at the local, regional and European level  

​​​​ In preparation of a new opinion on the SDGs scheduled for adoption at the Plenary Session of 30 June/1July 2021, the European Committee of the Regions gathered more than one hundred participants on 25 February 2021​ for an online stakeholder consultation on delivering the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. COR Rapporteur Ricardo Rio (PT/EPP), Mayor of Braga, welcomed this opportunity to collect contributions from representatives of local and regional governments, civil society organisations, associations of regions and cities and other international actors working on the 2030 Agenda.

Among the speakers who intervened at the event there were:

- Masha Smirnova (Eurocities),

- Jan Noterdaeme (CSR Europe),

- Ingeborg Niestroy (SDG Watch),

- Rebecca Humphries (WWF),

- Stefano Marta, (OECD),

- Anton Nilsson (Government of Åland Islands),

- Estibaliz Urcelay (Basque Government), and

- Sarah Bentz (CEMR).

The insights collected from the consultation will be channeled in the COR recommendations on how to accelerate the implementation of SDGs and re-integrate the SDGs in the European Semester Cycle for a fairer and sustainable recovery.

During the discussion, all speakers stressed the crucial role played by local and regional authorities in the implementation of the SDGs, despite the additional challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. They unanimously expressed the necessity of a more integrated approach of shared responsibility across the levels of governance from local to national, to European. This represents an invaluable opportunity to amplify the positive spillover effects of different policies implementing the SDGs at various levels of government. They also unanimously reiterated the need to re-instate the EU multi-stakeholders Platform on SDGs as a unique form of structured dialogue with stakeholders on SDGs.

Among other speakers, Rebecca Humphries, Senior Public Affairs Officer at WWF, intervened to highlight the need for a clear effort of coordination and policy coherence from the European Commission in the implementation of the SDGs. Indeed, priority should be given to sustainability concerns, and impact assessments should be conducted at the earliest stages of policy planning in order to resolve potential trade-offs that might arise between the SDGs and other objectives of the EC. Failing to do so would only result in contradictory measures cancelling out the respective effects. It is of the utmost importance that impact assessments take into account all dimensions of SDGs and do not allow to pick and choose only a selection of criteria. Otherwise trade-offs cannot be identified and dealt with.

The call for a strong and decisive leadership of the EC on the Agenda 2030 encountered the agreement of the audience. The leadership of the European Commission President is welcome but internal governance arrangement must be clarified. Her cabinet should ensure SDGs are streamlined in all DGs and regularly meet other cabinets.

Stefano Marta from the OECD emphasized the opportunity that an integrated framework such as the Agenda 2030 provides for a long term plan of sustainable recovery such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) launched by the European Commission. In this regard, the integration of the SDGs in the European Semester cycle remains of paramount importance. However, the sustainable transformation envisioned by the RRF risks to be crippled by the exclusion of local and regional institutions and civil society in the preparation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, as it was pointed out by Marsha Smirnova for EUROCITIES. Moreover, representatives from regions such as the Basque Country and the Åland Islands stressed the importance to explicitly link the recovery with SDGs and re-affirmed their commitment to the localization of the SDGs.

The overarching conclusions that can be drawn from the discussion are the heartfelt commitment of the participants to continue working on the SDGs and to strengthen the dialogue and collaboration initiated within the framework of the former multi-stakeholder platform on SDGs, and the widespread agreement on the importance of the active contribution of local and regional governments for the implementation of the SDGs, already acknowledged by the EC in the Staff Working Document Delivering on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information, see the minutes of the meeting​​​​.
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