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The role of urban area government in achieving the SDGs

By Roberta Fortugno


The impact of urban areas on global affairs and the success or failure of sustainable development initiatives are of significant importance. Local governments are indispensable when it comes to the execution of a wide range of vital services. Despite their best efforts, they encounter challenges in securing the required public funding. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is expected to launch a plan aimed at addressing the matter of sub-national Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) financing. This initiative will be presented in Paris during the June Summit for a New Global Financial Pact.


Today, cities are home to almost 60% of the world's population; by mid-century, that number will increase to at least 70%. In addition, cities account for at least 85% of global output and energy use. Local authorities maintain the primary responsibility for ensuring that everyone has access to quality healthcare, education, clean drinking water, reliable public transportation, affordable housing, and a secure community free from pollution, crime, and natural disasters. Cities often face a delicate situation as they struggle with the dual challenges of assuming a frontline position in addressing societal issues while also encountering limited access to crucial public funding. Even though they are primarily responsible for the delivery of services, it is the national governments that, for the most part, are in charge of tax collection in order to pay for public investments and social programs.


The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has recently shed light on a crucial issue: the lack of practical approaches for city governments to effectively implement sustainable practices. This gap in knowledge and methods has become a pressing concern, as cities play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our planet. With urbanization on the rise and the challenges of climate change appearing to have broadened, city governments must have the necessary tools and strategies at their disposal to foster sustainability. However, the SDSN's findings reveal that there is much work to be done in this area, and it has taken proactive measures. They have forged partnerships with influential urban think tanks and global urban networks like C40 Cities and ICLEI – Global Government for Sustainability. This collaborative effort aims to tackle the challenges associated with financing at the sub-national level in order to achieve the SDGs.


The outcome of urban regions will play a vital role in influencing the trajectory of global events and deciding the success or failure of attempts to promote sustainable development. This is because urban areas are home to the majority of the world's population. The significance of local leadership, particularly that of mayors and city councils, is often overlooked and underestimated because of the prominent position of national governments in the United Nations, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), and in the media. However, it is important to recognize that these local authorities have actively embraced and supported the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a global scale.




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