United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

A handbook for the local SDG monitoring in Europe

European Commission (
Intergovernmental organization

    The project delivered the first European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews (2020). The reviews allow cities to make the best use of knowledge and practical activities that are part of the process of the localisation of the 2030 Agenda. EU has committed to fully integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the EU policy framework and recognizes the principle of multilevel governance in the drawing-up and implementation of the EU policies. Examination of evidence-based SDG policies of European cities and regions, supported by meaningful data-based analysis in territorial dimension, will benefit coherence of delivery of SDGs in Europe at all levels of governance.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    Two main work streams will be that backbone of the current project (phase II). The first work stream will be the testing of the method developed in phase I – production of the first Handbook. This will be done working with a reference group of selected European cities, and deployed with the following specific activities:  -Trainings to local governments and association of subnational governments based on the results of Phase I - Supporting peer to peer collaboration in the Reference group  -Support to the elaboration of the VLRs, based on the 1st European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews The second work stream will focus on the refinement and improvement of the method and data proposed with the first phase, deployed with the following research activities:  -Organising expert group meetings to analyse the experience of SDG policies at subnational level; - Developing recommendations and data-based tools for reporting and improving coherence of information flows between evidence-based SDG implementation policies on the different levels of multi-level governance.  -Elaboration of the 2nd European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews, including the refinement of the method and update of the urban indicators.  -Integration of the urban local datasets collected with the cities into the Urban Data Platform + Resources for the Phase II are provided with JRC institution budget. The main activities are developed by JRC’s staff. Local data experts executed ad-hoc local data assessments in the pilot cities, with the cooperation of city officials, under the supervision of JRC staff. A number of city networks and other organisations are involved in the different activities.


    The Handbook has been downloaded almost 10,000 times since its publication. The Handbook produced by the JRC has become a global reference for cities to monitor the achievement of the SDGs at local scale. It has been referred as good practice in a number of guidelines and policy documents produced by different international organisations (see below some examples). In a recent letter to European Mayors, Commissioners Šefčovič, Gabriel and Ferreira invited cities to use the Handbook. Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews – UNHABITAT (2020): https://www.uclg.org/sites/default/files/uclg_vlrlab_guidelines_2020_vo… European Parliament Briefing - Sustainable Development Goals in EU regions https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPR… Paving the way for sustainable cities EUROCITIES report on the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals at local level https://eurocities.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/EUROCITES_SDG_report_2…

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The main enabling condition for the success of the first phase of the project was the urgency and the pressing request from local authorities to receive guidance and ready-to-use tool to measure the SDGs at local scale. The strength and effectiveness of European cities’ and association networks enabled a pervasive and fast dissemination of the first results. One of the main constraints might be the automatisation of the import process to a single database the local indicators in different formats and languages. The dissemination of the guidance should be accompanied by awareness-rising activities to be done in cooperation and under the leadership of national and regional authorities, to be fully effective.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews provides key examples of official and experimental indicators useful to set up an effective SDG local monitoring system specifically targeted for European cities. Per each Goal, the Handbook highlights examples of harmonised and locally collected indicators so that cities can both benchmark themselves with other cities and monitor their own specific needs and challenges. The Handbook offers a method that encourages the comparability of cities’ performance. Compared to other methodological exercises, it also takes into account the limitations in the exclusive use of harmonized official indicators. For the VLRs to be a powerful tool for the localisation of the SDGS, they should be tailored to the local situations, capacities and resources. The going pilot phase allows refining the proposed methodology and indicators and therefore upscaling of the initiative.

    Other sources of information

    Webpage: https://urban.jrc.ec.europa.eu/#/en/sdgs https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-re… Online training at the HLPF 2020 - Tools for SDG Localization: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=20000&nr… Some of the dissemination events organised News: Handbook Provides Guidelines for Local SDG Plans in Europe https://sdg.iisd.org/news/handbook-provides-guidelines-for-local-sdg-pl… Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews Support Communities’ Assessments of SDG Progress https://sdg.iisd.org/news/guidelines-for-voluntary-local-reviews-suppor…

    COVID-19 Impact

    On the one hand, local governments were hardly hit by the pandemic for the restrictions on meeting and movement: this had a negative effect on the participation of local stakeholders in the SDG review process. The lack of in-person meetings reduced the possibility of informal exchange of information among the pilot cities. On the other hand, the organisation of online meetings allowed increasing their frequency and variety of participants, due to the reduction of some logistic costs. The local SDG monitoring will include specific attention to health conditions and health care services in cities. The importance of data and evidence-based and informed decision has been increasing during the pandemic: in medium term, this can support the investment in local monitoring systems.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    10 February 2020 (start date)
    31 December 2024 (date of completion)
    European Commission
    Other beneficiaries

    Beneficiaries: European Local Authorities (regions, provinces and cities) Key stakeholders and partners:  -UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)  -Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)  -UN Development Programme (UNDP)  -UN Human Settlement Programme (UN HABITAT)  -Eurocities  -United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)  -Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)  -National cities’ associations

    Contact Information

    Laia, Policy Officer SDGs