Localizing the SDGs in Small Island Development States Takeaways ideas from the SIDS4 Conference

Posted by Local2030 Coalition, UN June 12 2024 0 Local experience

During the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) that took place between 27 to 30 May, participants from all continents and latitudes of the world analyzed and discussed the importance of tailoring the localization of the SDGs to the specific characteristics and vulnerabilities of SIDS in a side event organized by the Government of Cabo Verde. In the event, participants also shared lessons learned and good practices based on the experience of local, national, regional and global territories, institutions and mechanisms.

Promoted jointly by the Government of Cabo Verde, the European Union, the Local2030 Coalition, the organization of United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Cabo Verde, the event started with the keynote speeches from Mr. Li, Secretary General of the SIDS4 Conference and Under-Secretary-General of Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the UN, and from Mr. Figueiredo Soares, Foreign Affair Minister of Cabo Verde, in representation of the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde.

A round table of distinguished panelists followed, providing an opportunity to reflect, learn and share about SDG localization in SIDS contexts: Amb. Ybañez, special envoy for SIDS of the European Union; Mr. Colina, Director General for sustainable development policies, representing the Secretary of State for International Cooperation of the Government of Spain; Ms. Connors, CEO of Hawaii Local2030 Hub and Co-Chair of the Local2030 Islands Network; Mr. Wagner, Mayor of Belize City and member of the United Nations Secretary General´s Advisory Panel on Local and Regional Governments, representing United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG); and Ms. Singh, UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles representing the UNCT in Cabo Verde. A rich discussion among participants concluded the event. The event was moderated by Mr. Pina, Director of National Planning from the Cabo Verde government.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS), though diverse in culture, geography, and economy, share common challenges that necessitate a unique approach to sustainable development. SIDS vulnerabilities are stark: from the ever-present threat of climate change and natural disasters to economic and social instability. These challenges demand solutions that are not only innovative but also tailored to our specific needs. The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, provide a comprehensive framework for addressing global challenges. However, for these goals to be truly effective, they must be localized and adapted to fit the unique context of SIDS. At least two-thirds of the SDGs cannot be achieved unless local and regional governments and stakeholders are fully involved and empowered to drive implementation at the local level.

One of the main messages from the event is that the localization of the SDGs for SIDS is not just a necessity, it is imperative, as the only way to accelerate the pathway of implementation of the SDGs, it is a way of thinking, and it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to reimagine and reshape SIDS’ future in a way that is equitable, sustainable, and resilient.

Another messages that resonated in the event is about local communities leading the process: to achieve the SDGs we have not just to think locally, we must think as islanders, as islanders have rooted in their nature and spirit the sustainability of development that their territories, island, need in order to survive and succeed; also considering indigenous knowledge based on thousands of years’ experience. Local communities are the foundation of implementation, where policies transform into practical action and tangible progress. When local governments, civil society, businesses, and individuals take ownership of the SDGs, we can unlock a cascade of benefits that ripple across the nation, forming critical pathways for SDG acceleration across the globe.

There was a consensus about some necessary conditions, based on lessons learned, to be met in order to advance in SDG localization:  a territorial approach to development fostering partnerships, profound and trustful collaboration between national and regional & local government, inclusive governance structures to guarantee diverse perspectives and stakeholders mobilization, developing strong partnerships with communities and organizations, engaging and empowering them drawing on local knowledge to co-create local solutions to achieve SDGs, capacity building for local governance, resource mobilization as access to finance is critical, investing in data and monitoring.

Based on good practices, 4 ingredients for succeeding in SDG localization in islands were mentioned: political leadership at local level, developing partnerships, accountability and transparency, and concrete actions, sharing solutions through Communities of practices on key topics.

The Local2030 Coalition was mentioned by several panelists as a useful and relevant mechanism and tool to bringing together an ecosystem of stakeholders to find specific solutions supporting SDG localization. Also, it was appreciated the catalytic funds for SDG localization coming from the Joint SDG fund of the UN, of which 20% goes to SIDS.

It was also highlighted by panelists the importance of considering SIDS unique characteristics and needs, having a SIDS approach rooted into the heart of cooperation efforts of bilateral and multilateral entities as explained in the ABAS – Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS - approved in the SIDS4 Conference. The spirit of the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda embrace the power of local action, invest in our communities, and forge a future where sustainable development is a reality for all.

Considering that currently the SDG goals are off track, it was explained the critical necessity of implementing the SDG transitions´ system approach to accelerate SDG achievement and how SDG localization can provide an enabling environment being rooted in system resilience.

Two final summary messages were shared: the implementation of the SDGs need to be at local level, and it must be done in coordination and articulation with all stakeholders, local, regional, national and international.

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