2 Progress in raising awareness of the SDGs among citizens and municipal officials

The activities undertaken by LRGAs to raise SDG awareness among citizens and municipal officials is of crucial importance. To achieve genuine progress on the implementation of SDGs, it is essential that the role of SDGs and their added value be properly understood. If we compare results with those from 2022, progress this year has been deemed increasingly “medium” (51% of respondents compared to 32% last year) with 5% stating that progress had been “limited” (compared to 24% last year). The same share of respondents as last year reported “important progress” (44%). Please refer to the figures in the chart below.

In terms of the associations’ progress in their strategies or plans to implement the 2030 Agenda, 34% of the respondents had no commitment in this regard; 27% had made important progress as their strategy or action plan has reached an advanced stage or has even been updated to expand on the initial objectives; and 22% had adopted a strategy or action plan but implementation is still at an early stage.

To compare, in 2022, over 40% of the LRGAs responding had a strategy, policy paper, action plan and/or political statement; less than 20% had prepared reports on the localisation of SDGs in territories, including VSRs or other sustainability reports, for their populations, national government or Parliament; over 20% of the respondents had not taken any steps; and less than 20% had recourse to other types/methods.

We have included more detailed examples from the respondents in the box below that illustrate the different ways in which associations’ strategies or plans to implement the 2030 agenda have progressed:

In Austria, the Association of Cities and Towns (AACT) has continued its advocacy work and has also supported activities that localise the SDGs by focusing on awareness-raising and providing tools for the implementation of the SDGs at the local level.

In the Czech Republic, the Union of Towns and Municipalities (SMOČR) introduced a systemic change in its functioning in 2021 with respect to sustainable development: the area of sustainable development now figures among the Union’s priorities for 2021–2023 and a new working group on sustainable development has been established.

In Spain, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) has aligned all of the resolutions of its 27 work commissions with the 17 SDGs. It has also created a “Network of Local Entities for the 2030 Agenda” (https://redagenda2030.es/).

Also in Spain, the Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA) has taken steps to ensure that all planning instruments integrate the SDGs and, in 2021, it approved a strategic plan to implement the 2030 Agenda that included indicators assessing progress towards 2030.

In Turkey, the Marmara Municipalities Union’s (MMU) Strategic plan for the term (2020-2024) includes targets relating to sustainable development. Its statute moreover includes a reference to SDGs.

In Ukraine, the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC) has not developed any defined strategy but has been taking the SDGs into consideration when organising and holding events.

When it comes to the coordination of activities concerning SDGs, 37% of the respondents reported having a specific department or dedicated area within their organisation; a further 24% managed it at the highest level of the organisation’s decision-making (e.g. Secretary General, etc.); for 15%, several or all departments dealt with SDGs in a scattered and uncoordinated fashion; and in the case of 7%, a coordinated interdepartmental SDG team, working group or taskforce or a coordinating officer was in charge of the SDGs. We can therefore see, compared with 2022, that departmental coordination on SDGs has been reinforced and/or managed in a more deliberate manner (i.e. with a designated person in charge, task force, ...).

Specific cases that further illustrate the evolution shown in the chart above exist in Spain, where the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) now has a sub-directorate dedicated to the 2030 Agenda, which heads the management of the “Spanish Network for Digitalisation”, coordinating in turn with the sub-directorate for international affairs and cooperation. In addition, the FEMP budget has also been drawn up to align with the 17 SDGs. Another example can be found in the UK, where several or even all of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (COSLA) departments employ some coordination in dealing with the SDGs.

As can be seen in the chart below, we have also observed a high level of interest in promoting or actively participating in concrete activities to raise awareness and spread the knowledge of SDGs among the population and local stakeholders in recent years. More than half of the respondents implemented strong and regular actions, while 22% developed limited actions, 20% reported average mobilisation and 5% did not take any specific action, all of which has been detailed in the chart below.

And if we compare the data with 2022, it can be seen that the degree of mobilisation has been much more substantial in 2023. In fact, there is only a very small percentage of respondents that did not promote activities, which is a very positive signal in terms of the involvement of cities and their citizens as it generally ties in with a general understanding of the concept of SDGs and their importance to individuals. We have highlighted several instances of territorial actions to raise awareness carried out by associations in the box below.

Examples of awareness-raising actions on different territories

In Belgium, the Association of the City and the Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (BRULOCALIS) published an info leaflet on SDGs for Brussels’ communes.

In France, Cités Unies France (CUF) introduced a training/action initiative to get local governments and their international partners to systematically include the SDG framework in decentralised cooperation. This approach not only made it possible to reinvigorate political dialogue between local elected representatives but also to define new avenues of decentralised cooperation structured around the SDGs.

In Germany, the Association of German Cities (DST) drafted an Agenda 2030 resolution in 2015 that has since been signed by 240 municipalities. Together with eight partners, they have also set up a portal on the localisation of the SDGs (www.sdg-portal.de) and have organised annual meetings for networking –"the Club of 2030 Agenda Municipalities".

In Norway, the Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) has been coordinating monthly webinars on SDGs and developing SDG e-learning modules, tools, and methods for SDG implementation. To further bolster these actions, it has also developed a national sustainability pledge to reinforce the progress on fulfilling the 2030 Agenda and is also working actively, together with its Nordic sister associations and the Nordic research institution Nordregio, on developing a joint Nordic VSR.

In Slovenia, the Association of Urban Municipalities of Slovenia (ZMOS-SI) uses SDGs as a reference point when developing sustainable urban development strategies to be adopted by its member cities.

In the Netherlands, the National Town-Twinning Council Netherlands-Nicaragua (LBSNN) has sought to kindle interest through the co-organisation of well-attended public events relating to SDGs (e.g. “Tilburg Ten Miles: a run to 17 global goals”).

In the Republic of North Macedonia, the Association of the Units of Local Self-Government (ZELS) has successfully advocated for the interests of municipalities in a way that preserves their key position in the dialogue and cooperation between the central government and the local level.

The Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS) has been carrying out various projects as a strategic regional partner of the German Agency for International Cooperation in the Western Balkans: for example, regional learning for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in South East Europe as well as the promotion and scaling up of models for inclusion of minorities and other vulnerable groups in the Western Balkans.