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How can SDGs help to “build back better” after COVID-19?

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In terms of progress made in integrating the SDGs into local plans, strategies and policies, around 25% of the respondents reported that, generally speaking, they were indeed able to accomplish this, achieving concrete results. With regard to budget alignment, some SDGs and targets were integrated into local budgets, with specific allocation of concrete resources for implementation. Prioritisation has generally gone to SDGs 3 (health), 6 (water), 7 (energy) and 11 (sustainable communities).

Overall, the main priorities that LRGs have decided to focus on during the post-crisis recovery include health care and prevention (including mental health), local economic development and employment, digitalisation (of education, public services, reducing the digital divide, etc.), education, social inclusion, climate action, resilience, ecological transition, water and sanitation, food and agriculture and housing.

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Conclusions

What are the main actions that your organisation has implemented or planned in order to promote “building back better” in the recovery from the crisis?

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LRGAs and national policies to build back better and promote a just, green and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples

Finland: The LRGA's Social Sustainability Action Plan 2022 emphasises socially sustainable inclusion, equality and the social sustainability of municipalities in the future. France (CUF): Advocacy actions at the state level to recall the importance of international solidarity during the health crisis. Activities to promote the defence of global public goods were also organised. Georgia: The Government of Georgia took the following initiatives to mitigate COVID-19-related impacts: 1. tax breaks for Georgian businesses, 2. state subsidies for municipal expenses and 3. stimulus packages for the tourist and hospitality sectors. Latvia: LALRG was consulted for the formulation and implementation of national recovery and resilience packages. Luxembourg: Regularly scheduled exchanges were held with the Ministries of the Interior, Health and Education throughout the pandemic along with specific consultations regarding vaccination strategies. Turkey (MMU): Information on best practices developed by its member municipalities during the COVID-19 crisis were shared with international organisations (NALAS or OECD). UK:The LGA consulted with the national government on national recovery packages to influence the priorities/resources to benefit the local government sector.

Despite the above-mentioned examples of collaboration, we have also noted that some LRGAs were not consulted at all (or only nominally) during the preparation or development of national recovery plans to build back better and promote a just, green and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In these cases, either there was no official reaction to local proposals, no inclusion in the implementation phase or involvement was limited to the regional level. The main outcome of this approach is that most of the funds do not go directly to the local level. Even though it can be said that 2020 was a year without precedent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the losses of over a million lives in Europe, in some ways 2021 has stood out even more: while some areas and sectors are still facing a recession, through the help of the EU Recovery and Resilience facility, there have also been developing trends pointing towards a green and just recovery process. This is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU, with €806.9 billion set aside to help the EU emerge stronger and more resilient from the current crisis. In 2021, €672.5 billion in loans and grants were allocated to kickstart the reforms and investments undertaken by Member States to make European economies and societies more sustainable and resilient, ready to take on the new challenges associated with the transition towards green, digital and decarbonised societies. This is a unique opportunity to match needs and opportunities, while helping to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic, and to push for a green recovery to make our societies more sustainable. Whilst some local and regional governments had to put their SDG efforts on hold temporarily to deal with the emergency, others used the 2030 Agenda and SDG framework to adopt and promote recovery strategies that are sustainable, inclusive and “build back better”.