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Going local

The SDGs provide an unprecedented opportunity to align global, national and subnational priorities and engage all stakeholders at the local level in efforts towards sustainable development. If current trends continue, by 2050 cities will host approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population and produce 85 per cent of global economic output. Urbanization is not only a demographic or spatial phenomenon but a force which, if steered and deployed correctly, can help the world overcome some of its major global challenges. Urban policy decisions can have extraordinarily far-reaching impacts across all the SDGs, including poverty alleviation and reduction of inequalities, climate mitigation and adaptation, promotion of safety and good governance and in ensuring access to energy, transportation, waste management, food supply, water and sanitation, education, health care, technology infrastructure including broadband and online public services, and others, not just for urban populations but also for the surrounding peri-urban and rural areas.

In the Political Declaration adopted at the 2019 SDG Summit, Member States reaffirmed the critical role of cities, local authorities and communities in implementing and realizing the SDGs and committed to empowering and supporting them in pursuing the 2030 Agenda. An increasing number of national governments are already supporting the localization of the SDGs in cities and regions, both through technical co-operation and financial support, but more support is needed. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only added unprecedented challenges for cities, including pressure on their health care, education and safety systems, and disproportionally affected the most vulnerable groups of the society.

Local and regional governments are increasingly engaging in subnational reviews of SDG implementation, including by preparing Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR). These reviews, modelled after the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), have proven useful for local governments to foster SDG localization and to demonstrate their capacity and commitment towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Local governments in all regions of the world have already prepared such reviews with many more currently going through the process, resulting in tangible benefits to SDG implementation at large. Several Voluntary National Review countries have also integrated findings from VLRs in their national level reviews.

Proposed guiding questions:
  • What are some of the main challenges and bottlenecks for effective SDG localization? What type of capacity building and support is required to ensure that cities, local authorities and communities are empowered and equipped to implement the SDGs?
  • How can the Voluntary Local Reviews benefit SDG implementation at large? How can they be used as an effective tool for multilevel governance and dialogue between different levels of government?
  • In what ways can the Voluntary Local Reviews be used to ensure a better recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic locally, nationally and globally?
  • How could the Voluntary Local Reviews feed into the Voluntary National Reviews? What modalities have worked for fostering effective dialogue between these two levels of reviews?
  • What arrangements are needed to ensure that findings and good practices from the local level are disseminated and utilized? What role can the United Nations, including the Regional Commissions, play in this?
  • H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya (Ukraine), Vice President of ECOSOC

Interactive panel discussion

  • Mr. Tony F. Pipa, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution
Panellists/Resource persons:
  • Ms. Noraini Roslan, Mayor of Subang Jaya, Malaysia (VLR city)
  • Mr. Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki, Finland
Lead discussants:
  • H.E. Mr Nikolai Astrup, Minister of Local Government and Modernisation of Norway
  • Mr. Bjorn Arild Gram, President of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities
  • Ms. Cllr Thembisile Nkadimeng, President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) (Local Authorities Major Group)


  • Ms. Arantxa Tapia, President of Regions4 (VLR region)
  • Ms. Penny Abeywardena, New York City's Commissioner for International Affairs
  • Mr. Kenji Kitahashi, Mayor of Kitakyushu City, Japan
Mr. Jan Vapaavuori
Mayor of Helsinki, Finland
Mr. Jan Vapaavuori

Mayor of Helsinki, Finland

Jan Vapaavuori is the first politically elected Mayor of Helsinki. He has previously served as the Finnish Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, as the Minister of Economic Affairs and as Vice-President of the European Investment Bank in Luxemburg.

Mr. Vapaavuori has a keen interest in global urban affairs, and he participates actively in numerous international platforms. He serves currently at the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council and Stewardship Board of Platform for Shaping the Future of Cities, Infrastructure & Urban Services, at the Bloomberg New Economy Cities Council, and as the co-chair for the Urban Economy Forum.
Additionally, Mr. Vapaavuori serves as the President of the Finnish Olympic Committee, as the Vice-chair of the Finnish National Opera’s Board of Governors and chairs his family foundation that supports contemporary dance and visual arts. He graduated as Master of Laws from the University of Helsinki and holds an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Hanken School of Economics.

Mr. Kenji Kitahashi
Mayor of Kitakyushu City, Japan
Mr. Kenji Kitahashi

Mayor of Kitakyushu City, Japan

Date of Birth: 19th of March, 1953

Education: B.A. Tokyo University, Department of Law, 1978

Career History:

Jul. 1986: First elected as a House of Representatives member

Apr. 1994: Parliamentary Vice Minister of Finance

Dec. 1996: Senior Director of Committee on Transportation

Aug. 1998: Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment

Nov. 1999: Senior Director of Finance Committee

Nov. 2005: Local Government System Research Council member

Mar. 2006: Senior Director of the Special Committee on Administrative Reform

Feb. 20, 2007: Mayor, City of Kitakyushu

Feb. 20, 2011: Mayor, City of Kitakyushu(2nd Term as Mayor)

Feb. 20, 2015: Mayor, City of Kitakyushu(3rd Term as Mayor)

Feb. 20, 2019: Mayor, City of Kitakyushu(4th Term as Mayor)

Mr. Tony F. Pipa
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution
Mr. Tony F. Pipa

Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution

Tony Pipa is a senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution, where he launched and leads the initiative, Local Leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tony came to Brookings after serving in the U.S. Department of State during the Obama administration as special envoy to the UN to negotiate and adopt the SDGs. He also served in multiple senior policy roles at USAID, ending the administration as chief strategy officer. He has three decades of executive leadership experience in the philanthropic and public sectors addressing poverty and advancing inclusive economic development both in the U.S. and globally. He graduated from Duke University and earned a Master of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Ms. Arantxa Tapia
President of Regions4 (VLR region)
Ms. Arantxa Tapia

President of Regions4 (VLR region)

Regions4 President / Minister of Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment of the Basque Country

Ms Arantxa Tapia was appointed Minister of Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment of the Basque Government in July 2020. Her mission is to lead the economic reactivation of the region, strengthening the competitiveness of the productive structure, while placing the environment at the centre of all sectoral policies. In 2021 she has introduced the Basque Green Deal, the new roadmap for green, fair, and sustainable economic development, which will have the industry and the technology as the main transformation drivers and will count on important legislation resources such as the Energy Transition and Climate Change Law or the Natural Heritage Law.

Ms Tapia is an Industrial Engineer, specialised in Electricity and Doctor Cum Laude in the University of Navarre. Among her professional activities, she has been Professor at the University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Former Minister of Economic Development and Infrastructures of the Basque Government, Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works of the Basque Government, Member of the Provincial Council of Mobility and Territorial Planning of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, and President of the Innovation Commission of the General Assemblies of Gipuzkoa.

She was appointed Regions4 President in 2020 to bring the global voice of regional governments to the UN and international processes on biodiversity, climate, and sustainable development.

Ms. Noraini Roslan
Mayor of Subang Jaya, Malaysia (VLR city)
Ms. Noraini Roslan

Mayor of Subang Jaya, Malaysia (VLR city)

Mayor Noraini Roslan was the first woman to be appointed as the Mayor of Subang Jaya City Council and she has pledged to make Subang Jaya a smart, safe, healthy, green, women-friendly, sustainable city by 2030.

She is currently is the President of the PEMSEA Network of Local Governments for Sustainable Coastal Development (PNLG), which roles as Sustianable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia ( SDS-SEA) in planning regional strategy includes the pollution reduction and waste management

Mayor Noraini Roslan holds a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A, and Bachelor of Science (Magna cum Laude) Urban and Regional Planning from East Carolina University, North Carolina, U.S.A. She was appointed for 8 years as Mayor of the Kuala Selangor District Council and Hulu Selangor District Council and has been serving as the Mayor of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council since 2018

Intervention - ECE Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism
Intervention - Major Group for Children and Youth
Statement - Ms. Penny Abeywardena
United Nations