How Does ICLEI Support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

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The following communication is provided to the ICLEI member community by ICLEI Global Head of Policy, Yunus Arikan, to explain the the history and role of ICLEI in international sustainability policy. This background is provided to support ICLEI’s agenda during the High-level Polical Forum, the United Nations’ central platform for reviewing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda. ICLEI USA members can follow SDG updates in a weekly digest by joining the ICLEI Community platform’s International Collaboration neighborhood.

As ICLEI members and partners, you are well aware of ICLEI’s work to advance sustainability around the world. You may also be aware of ICLEI’s unique role in UN processes on behalf of cities, towns, and regions as focal organization to the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities group. As your advocate for local-to-global collaboration, ICLEI supports the Local2030 Agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals through nearly 200 projects that ICLEI is undertaking globally with impacts on all the 17 SDGs

This fact is displayed in graphic form availabl in the latest entry in ICLEI´s blog post on Talk of the Cities:

I want to provide some more background on this topic.

ICLEI’s Long Support of Sustainability in Cities and Regions

In the first 25 years since its adoption at the 1992 Rio Erth Summit, international agreements on sustainability were less strongly supported by national governments and the global community than they are today, limiting the implementation of sustainable development and compelling ICLEI to be more ambitious and creative as the advocate for processes around urban sustainability.

In April 2015, when ICLEI gathered in Seoul for tri-annual ICLEI World Congress, ICLEI adopted its 10 Urban Agendas. By that time, the United Nations was busy with the finalization of SDGs, and neither the Paris Agreement nor the New Urban Agenda were in sight.

Four months after ICLEI World Congress in Seoul, Heads of States met in New York at the United Nations to convene the first SDG Summit, which resulted in the adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — including the Sustainable Development Goals — as the next phase of global efforts on sustainability. The 2030 Agenda practically merged the two main processes to date: outcomes from the Earth Summit 1992 (which was seen to have only an environment focus) and Millenium Development Goals from 2000 (which was seen to have only a social and economic focus).

Meanwhile, the Commission on Sustainable Development, as monitoring agent for the Earth Summit outcomes, evolved into a more powerful High-Level Political Forum convening every year in July at the Ministerial level, and every four years at the Heads of State level. The global engagement of local and regional governments were framed through the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments, served by United Cities and Local Governments as its Secretariat and ICLEI as one of the lead partners.

In June 2018, considering all the global changes and progress over the past three years, ICLEI advanced from 10 Urban Agendas to 5 Pathways under the Montreal Action Plan, which for the first time compiled 130 projects undertaken by ICLEI across all continents.

One month after ICLEI’s Montreal World Congress in 2018, ICLEI President and Mayor of Bonn, Ashok Sridharan, attended the High-Level Political Forum in NYC in July to present ICLEI´s vision to interpret how to advance all these global agendas in a holistic manner. Concrete examples of focusing on SDG6 (water), SDG7 (energy), SDG11 (cities), SDG12 (consumption), SDG14 (life on land) were core to this visit. As part of these efforts, ICLEI contributed to the 2nd Global Task Force Report to the HLPF, coordinating the drafting of the chapter on SDG14, and contributing into all other chapters. At this meeting, ICLEI also called for a UN Decade for Sustainable Cities and Regions, as part of its expectations from Rio+20 Summit held in 2012.

n June 2019, at the most recent Resilient Cities Congress, ICLEI and City of Bonn announced to advance the Resilience Cities Congress held annually in Bonn into a new format and scope, which will be promoted with the motto of #UrbanEra4Life.

ICLEI’s Resilient Cities Conference is the premier annual convening of city and regional leaders working on resilience and climate adaptation.

Localizing the SDGs through Projects in Cities and Regions

In July 2019, ICLEI released its first update of ICLEI Montreal Action Plan, a year after its adoption. The number of projects increased from 130 to 189, where each project is mapped according to the 5 Pathways and its impact on any of the 17 SDGs. This excersie revealed the Low-Emissions Pathway as the most intense one, although the other four have relatively similar shares, and that SDG11 (cities), SDG13 (climate), SDG 7 (energy), SDG3 (health), SDG17 (partnerships) were the top SDGs addressed. Meanwhile, ICLEI contributed the drafting of section on SDG13 (climate) for the 3rd Global Task Force Report to High-Level Politcal Forum. 

Advancing Local Governments in Global Processes

In September 2019, the United Nations will convene the second SDG Summit at the Heads of State Level, a day after the UN Climate Action Summit, which will be preceeded by the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019. The SDG Summit will be guided with the alarming bells from major reports by the IPCC (on climate) and IPBES (on biodiversity loss), inspired by the mobilization of millions of people for a sustainable planet, but shadowed by backsliding of several of the nations from their commitments to sustainability.

The annual High-Level Political Forum, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) every two years, the UN-Habitat Assembly every four years, outcomes of 2020 Conference of the Parties (COP) events on climate in the UK and on biodiversity in China all will be the major milestones to complement the UN Climate Summit — and ICLEI will have presence as voice of local governments at each.

ICLEI is a global leader on advancing sustainability at the local level through its current protfolio of close 200 projects implemented universally and addressing each and every SDGs. With the availability of this robust action and membership portfolio, which is growing rapidly, through its ambitious ledership and the vision to have its annual gathering in Bonn under the motto #UrbanEra4Life supported by its ICLEI World Congress every three years (with the next in 2021), ICLEI is ready to continue its role as pioneering leader for this upcoming, exciting, but challenging era and decade.

Yunus Arikan leads the global policy and advocacy team at ICLEI. Since 2013, he has led global advocacy towards international bodies and multilateral agreements. Yunus helped establish the Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting – carbonn – and served as the Director of the Secretariat for the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. He has a background in environmental engineering.

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