3Effectiveness of national reporting on SDGs, coordination mechanisms, implementation and monitoring with indicators

As mentioned in the introduction, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Romania will be presenting VNRs this year. Additionally, the EU will be presenting its first EUVR.

Associations in five of the above-mentioned countries (Belgium, France, Iceland, Lithuania and Romania) responded to our survey. As can be seen in the box below, interlinkages between the national government and subnational level associations have emerged:

In Lithuania, the Ministry of Environment put together working group to prepare its VNR and identified the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (LSA) as one of the stakeholders in this process. In the previous reporting process (2018), each stakeholder’s VNR contribution was limited only to the topic(s) that tied in directly to its activities. This time (2023), stakeholders have been asked for contributions pertaining to the VNR in its entirety.

In Romania, the Association of Communes of Romania (ACOR) was invited by the Department for Sustainable Development, which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office and is the governmental institution in charge of the reporting process in Romania, to be part of the working groups created to prepare the VNR.

In Belgium, the VNR participation of the Association of the City and the Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region (Brulocalis), the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG) and the Union of Cities and Municipalities of Wallonia (UVCW) has increased as a result of the coordination between the three regional associations of Belgian local authorities (Flemish, Walloon and Brussels). Two associations of provinces (VVP from the Flemish region & APW from the Walloon region) were also involved. The coordination in Belgium was led by the Flemish association VVSG.

In France, no formal participation has been organised by the government involving the LRGAs, but an ad hoc working group has been set up operating under the framework of the National Council for Development and International Solidarity.

In Iceland, there has been more extensive involvement with the local level as the municipalities’ progress in localising the SDGs has advanced.

In Sweden, the higher level of involvement with the local level was made possible through regular contact with the ministries responsible for producing the government's report.

All countries presenting VNRs in 2023 have already reported twice to the HLPF in previous years. In terms of the extent of their participation in producing the VNRs, we noted that 15% of the respondents experienced heavy involvement and 10% reported the same level of involvement as in 2022. Very few organisations experienced any change in quality of participation (progress, setback…) and the majority did not respond to this question.

In the countries asked to report to the HLPF, the national LRG associations in each case were invited by their national governments to contribute to their country’s VNR development in different ways:

  • 25% reported an active contribution, which consisted of presenting their own contribution to the report (e.g. what have local and regional governments been doing to implement the SDGs, etc.)
  • 17% reported limited scope for contributing to the actual report (completing a survey or questionnaire, attending bilateral meetings with the reporting unit, ...)
  • 8% reported that their contribution was very limited, e.g. participating in occasional meetings
  • another 8% experienced very active contributions with direct participation in the reporting unit created by the national government as well as in the drafting process
  • a further 8% reported contributing moderately through their participation in bilateral meetings with the reporting unit.

The data for 2023 is quite similar to last year’s, which indicates a certain stability. The numbers in the chart below represent the number of associations and their degree of involvement.

With regard to the institutional mechanisms put in place by the national governments to coordinate the implementation of the SDGs, the involvement of the associations has taken on many different forms. In most countries, national governments have either created specific institutional mechanisms (high-level commissions, inter-ministerial/inter-agency committees, etc.) or strengthened existing ones to improve coordination and follow-up for the implementation of the SDGs (often including national councils for sustainable development or national planning institutions). Many of these mechanisms employ a multi-stakeholder structure.

The chart below lays out the mechanisms put in place by national governments.

In terms of any change in the LRGAs’ involvement (progress, setback…) in the national coordination mechanisms for the implementation and follow-up of the SDGs, the responses point to different trends. In some cases, the latest data seems to point towards a positive development, with more than one-third of respondents reporting that they have been more involved in the coordination (38% of the respondents). An initiative in Norway, where the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) was able to contribute with a chapter dedicated to LRGs’ work on the SDGs and how they intended to achieve these goals, is one example of greater involvement. However, for 48% of the respondents, no developments were noted, or they reported that their involvement had not changed in recent years. Moreover, another 13% reported that they never participated in any national coordination mechanisms.

In the box below, we have provided various examples showing different forms of SDG implementation coordination, including vertical cooperation between the national government and LRGs, involvement in the national coordination institutions/mechanisms and as mutual influencers through horizontal cooperation between LRGs.

In Estonia, the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities (AECM) worked with an expert who has since become Vice-Chairman of the National Sustainable Development Commission at the Prime Minister’s office.

In France, the national government has not set up a mechanism for consultation with local and regional governments. Nevertheless, exchanges of information have taken place between Cités Unies France (CUF) and the Ministry of Ecological Transition as part of a sharing process regarding the VNR’s development.  

In Germany, the three German associations of local governments (the German Association of CEMR (RGRE), the Association of German Cities (DTS) and the German Association of Towns and Municipalities) put together a VLR in 2021, which then became an integral part of the German VNR.

In Ireland, owing to the political difficulties in the country in recent years, central government leadership has been lacking and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) was minimally consulted with regard to SDG progress.

In Moldova, the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova (CALM) was involved once in the preparation of a VNR, several years ago, but not since.

In Montenegro, the SDG National Council recently set up working groups to tackle several VNR subtopics. As one of these groups consists of only local representatives, the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro (UOM) does have a degree of involvement in it as well.

In North Macedonia, the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS) has been involved by way of a GIZ-supported project (“Germany Agency for International Cooperation”) entitled "Regional Learning for the Implementation of Agenda 2030 in the Western Balkans” and their efforts include providing input for the VNRs by preparing analytical contributions summarising the results from the “Localisation of SDGs” thematic groups in North Macedonia and Kosovo.

In Slovenia, cooperation between the Association of Urban Municipalities of Slovenia (ZMOS-SI) and the national government took place when the VNR was being prepared; excepting this, no specific forum/body has been designated to coordinate action on SDGs between LRGs and the national government.

In Spain, the Andalusian Municipal Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI) has presented and approved projects promoting and accelerating public policy implementation regarding climate commitments under the framework of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, which carries them with its financial support from the Secretary of State for the 2030 Agenda under the Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda.

In Ukraine, the focus of national policy has ineluctably changed since the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. For the Association of Ukrainian Cities (AUC), there were understandably fewer events organised in 2022 on coordination mechanisms for the implementation and follow-up of the SDGs.

All actions implemented by LRGs need to be monitored to assess progress and to be able to continue working on future strategies or plans. For this, organisations need to develop indicators or a mechanism to monitor progress made in achieving the different SDGs, their goals and targets on any territory. Such indicators or mechanisms have already been developed by 35% of our association’s members while 57% have not developed any such tools.

In the box below, we have presented various examples relating to systems of indicators aligned with the SDGs that have been established, as well as any prioritisation of indicators or innovations introduced to these systems.

In Belgium, the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities’ (VVSG) SDG indicator set was developed for local governments in 2018 and updated in 2022, following the update of their municipal monitoring.

In Estonia, SDG indicators have been listed on their website: https://minuomavalitsus.ee/en.

In the Netherlands, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) has an extensive set of indicators (without data), which has already been defined and is available for use. Municipalities can, of course, choose to select additional indicators themselves and to obtain data from sources outside Waarstaatjegemeente.nl.

In Norway, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) has, together with Statistics Norway, developed a classification system (taxonomy) that classifies and assesses either a given indicator or a set of indicators.

In Serbia, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SKGO) does not yet have a comprehensive system in place for all of the SDGs with specifically developed indicators or mechanisms to monitor the overall progress made in achieving different SDGs and their targets. However, SKGO is closely following up on the work being undertaken primarily by the national statistical office to develop localised indicators.

In Spain, the Association of Basque Municipalities (EUDEL) is working on developing an indicator system for the 2030 Agenda to localise SDGs expressly.

In Spain, the Andalusian Municipal Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI) has at its disposal two websites on indicators: http://www.odslocalandalucia.org/index.php/pack-localizacion and http://www.odslocalandalucia.org/index.php/component/k2/item/88-practica-ods-un-pack-con-todas-las-herramientas-para-implementar-la-agenda-2030-local-en-tu-territorio.

In the United Kingdom, Scotland’s approach to implementing the SDGs has been to align with the National Performance Framework (NPF) co-signed by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). COSLA has expressed concern however as to whether the Scottish NPF indicators sufficiently reflect UN indicators with respect to SDG11. COSLA also notes a lack of national political engagement with local government and that the importance of multi-level governance in delivery and the role local leaders can play in proactively driving forward this agenda seems neglected.

Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities (RFSC)


In addition to this report, CEMR and PLATFORMA also promote an online tool supporting cities of all sizes in their localisation of the SDGs. This is done through the Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities, financed by the French Ministry for ecological transition and territorial cohesion. CEMR is involved in RFSC[1]. This tool offers a systematic approach for assessing sustainable urban development strategies and identifying areas for improvement. By using the RFSC, local and regional governments can develop targeted action plans that help to achieve the SDGs and engage with stakeholders in the process.


Using an intuitive visual interface, the tool helps cities in designing, implementing and monitoring integrated sustainable urban development strategies.

1 The management team of RFSC is composed of the French Ministry in charge of housing and urban development, The Council of European Municipalities and Regions, and the CEREMA, a public body in support of national and local authorities in the field of sustainable development.