Increasingly there is growing acknowledgment from the highest echelons of the United Nations to the most respected scholars and think tanks that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without the active engagement of local governments.
In 2018, through a process dubbed the Voluntary Local Review, New York City became the first in the world to report to the United Nations on its work in achieving the SDGs during the annual High Level Political Forum. Highlighting our continued commitment to the local implementation of Agenda 2030, the City launched the NYC Declaration on the Voluntary Local Review in September 2019 as a way for local and regional governments to formally commit to sharing their SDG progress on a global stage. Since then, over 333 subnational governments have signed onto the Declaration’s three commitments, representing nearly every region of the world.
Reflecting on the VLR movement, the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs and UN-Habitat launched the report, “Leading Locally: The Origins and Impact of the Voluntary Local Review.” This report seeks to document the early days of the VLR movement and the multiple influences that gave rise to it. It also highlights the importance of local actors’ efforts in creating transformations for a sustainable future. These include the commitments by the City of New York and global cities to the SDGs and to the need to localize the Global Goals in municipal planning, programming, and monitoring processes. Also considered is the impact of the United Nations Habitat III Conference, the evolving role of subnational governments, and the evolution and growing importance of city networks. In conclusion, the report highlights the catalytic effect of the NYC Declaration of the Voluntary Review in many local and regional governments in the world, the opportunities of linking the VLR with the Voluntary National Review, and the driving factors giving rise to the VLR movement.