When adopting the 2030 Agenda, United Nations member States committed to working closely with local and regional governments on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since 2015, metropolises, small cities, regions and their associations alike have been actively localizing the 2030 Agenda, bringing the SDGs closer to the people they serve and using the framework as a tool for planning and execution.
As part of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages member States to "conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven" (paragraph 79). Paragraph 89 of the 2030 Agenda calls on major groups and other stakeholders, including local authorities, to report on their contribution to the implementation of the Agenda.
In this spirit, local and regional governments are increasingly engaging in such sub-national reviews of SDG implementation, also called Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). While the VLRs hold no official status, the process of undertaking these sub-national reviews is providing multiple benefits to the entities engaging in them and to SDG implementation at large. These VLRs can also help to reinforce vertical coherence and complement and contribute to the national Voluntary National Reviews of SDG implementation.
The documents and reports submitted by cities and regions that are available on this website have been placed on the platform as received. The designations employed do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area, or of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries.
Voluntary Local Reviews
You can see below the reports submitted to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations.
If you would like to submit a Voluntary Local Review report developed by your city/region/province, please, send a pdf version to email@example.com with the Subject: Voluntary Local Review from [Add the name of the city/region/province and country]. Reports can be submitted by representatives of subnational governments. If your report is not written in one of the 6 official UN languages (English, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, French, Spanish), we request that you submit an executive summary with the main messages in English in addition to your VLR report. Submissions are reviewed on a regular basis.
Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews
The Global Guiding Elements for Voluntary Local Reviews (available for download in English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and French) provide a starting point for local and regional governments considering producing their own Voluntary Local Review and aim to give an overview of useful focus areas for the review process and the eventual report. As such, they are not meant to be prescriptive nor restrictive.
Given the variety of local and regional governments conducting reviews of their SDG implementation, these Global Guiding Elements do not aim at addressing best practices for institutional arrangements, data collection or stakeholder engagement, but merely highlight areas that could be addressed in the VLR process. Hence, the guiding elements aim at providing a low-threshold entry point to VLRs by showcasing a check list of issues that could be addressed.
The Global Guiding Elements aim at enhancing peer learning, including through promotion of consistency and comparability between reports of subnational governments, whether regions or cities. They also aim at providing a framework that, building on the SDGs as the common language among all levels of government, enhances the dialogue between the Voluntary National Reviews and the Voluntary Local Reviews and relevant actors at all levels. They draw upon the Secretary-General’s Voluntary common reporting guidelines for voluntary national reviews, developed by UN DESA, which have proven useful for member States’ efforts in reporting on their progress.
Guidance materials for conducting a subnational review of SDG implementation
A number of other actors have produced useful guidance and reference materials aimed at supporting cities and regions in conducting their reviews of SDG implementation:
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies has published in April 2020 the Shimokawa Method for Voluntary Local Reviews. The handbook provides a hands-on, step-by-step method to conduct VLRs and comprises of ten steps. Each step highlights a critical aspect needed to successfully conduct a VLR. It also contains the VLR Format for reference.
As part of its online training series, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) published in June 2019 the SDGs Learning Module 3: Reporting to national & local reviews. The objective of Module 3 is to enhance the involvement of local and regional government associations (LRGAs) in the preparation of national VNRs and to help them to make their own reports on the involvement of LRGs in the pursuit of localizing of the SDGs and global agendas, as well as to support local governments in the reporting exercise.
Brookings Institution has made available a Voluntary Local Review Handbook for Cities The goal of the Handbook is to provide guidance, templates, and case studies to cities and local authorities interested in producing a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) or an initial report to stakeholders on how city programs and services work towards the SDGs. The information aims at helping cities decide where to start and which components to include in such a report. The Handbook was developed by a team of students from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has published a Handbook to help cities measure their progress towards the SDGs. The Handbook provides examples of official and experimental indicators useful to set up an effective SDG local monitoring system. 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 VLR Handbook was produced in collaboration with the Bristol One City Office. Bristol was the first UK city to have carried out a Voluntary Local Review and the handbook provides information about the approach adopted in Bristol. Bristol’s VLR was one of the few that has involved citywide engagement of the activities that organizations within the city have undertaken towards the SDGs through. This handbook shares the methods used to undertake this consultation and provides specific discussions around some of the biggest challenges faced in Bristol while developing the VLR. The handbook contains data sources that will be of specific use of UK cities but the learning from Bristol’s citywide approach that assessed progress towards all 17 SDGs will likely be useful to cities everywhere.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) together with the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization (PPSU) is working on a Regional Guideline which aims at supporting cities in their VLR process. Given the varied institutional environment across the region in terms of enabling local actions, the guideline is also expected to support cities in partnering with relevant national authorities and other stakeholders for bottom-up action processes through a multi-level governance approach to SDGs. It will contain guidance, templates, and case studies specific to the Asia-Pacific region that can help cities decide how and where to start a VLR process and components to include in their VLR report.
The first volume of the Guidelines for VLRs is part of a larger partnership between UCLG and UN-Habitat: the VLR Series. The latter is aimed at providing cities and LRGs with cutting-edge knowledge and practical guidance on the VLR process, while kindling the sharing of experience and practices — and, ultimately, a global conversation — on monitoring and reporting on the SDGs at the local level. The Vol.1 of the Guidelines for VLRs offers a comparative analysis of existing VLRs, especially exploring the key elements to start with the VLR process: a) what institutions and actors are being involved in a VLR?; b) where is the VLR process located institutionally in the broader scheme of multilevel governance?; c) what contents are VLRs including, and why?; d) how are VLRs being made, with what resources and what goals?
VNR Lab 2022: Localizing SDGs: Integrating Voluntary Local Reviews into Voluntary National Review Processes
In recent years, the Voluntary Local Reviews, modelled after the VNRs and conducted by cities and regions, have picked up considerable momentum. This…
National Inception Workshop on Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) in Paraguay Localizing Progress on the SDGs in the Paraguayan Chaco
The Division for Sustainable Development Goals, DESA, in collaboration with the participating local governments and the United Nations Resident…
Regional preparatory workshop for African voluntary national reviews and voluntary local reviews: strengthening integration and reporting on the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063Fri 26 - Sat 27 Feb 2021
As signatories to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want