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In the face of megatrends such as climate and demographic change, digitalisation, urbanisation and globalisation, cities and regions are facing critical challenges to preserve social inclusion, foster economic growth and transition to the low carbon economy. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015, set the global agenda for the coming decade to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Although the SDGs were not designed by and for local and regional governments, they provide a universal ambition and valuable framework for all levels of government to align global, national and sub-national priorities within policies striving to leave no-one behind.

The OECD report on A Territorial Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals stresses that cities and regions play a critical role in promoting a paradigm shift towards sustainability. In addition to SDG 11, dedicated to Sustainable Cities and Communities, cities and regions have an instrumental role to play in most SDGs given their policy prerogative, share of public investment, and closer connection to citizens. The report shows that at least 105 of the 169 SDGs targets will not be achieved without proper engagement and coordination with local and regional governments. The report also argues that cities and regions should go beyond the “compliance” agenda and embrace the full potential of the SDGs as a policy tool to improve people’s lives in a shared responsibility across levels of government. In particular, the SDGs provide a powerful vehicle to implement the OECD New Regional Development Paradigm, which promotes a holistic, multi-sectoral, bottom-up, participatory and place-based approach to territorial development.

Building on a bottom-up policy dialogue with 1000+ stakeholders and evidence-based analyses in nine cities and regions, this report analyses how cities and regions are increasingly using the SDGs to design, shape and implement their development strategies, policies and plans; innovate and experiment; promote synergies and manage trade-offs across sectoral domains; and engage stakeholders – in particular the private sector, youth and civil society – in the policy making and process.

The report also proposes an OECD localised indicator framework for SDGs that measures the distance towards the SDGs for more than 600 regions and more than 600 cities in OECD and partner countries, comparing them to their national averages and their peers. With its 135 indicators available up to now, the OECD localised indicator framework already covers all the 17 goals, both at regional and city level. Data show for instance, that cities and regions in OECD countries are far from achieving the SDGs: at least 80% of OECD regions have not achieved the end values proposed by the OECD for 2030 in any of the 17 SDGs, and at least 70% of cities have not achieved the suggested objectives for 15 out of the 17 SDGs. The goals where most of the regions and cities are lagging behind are SDG 13 on “Climate action” and SDG 5 on “Gender equality”. On the other hand, the goal where most regions and cities are performing relatively well is SDG 16 about “Peace and institutions”.

The report concludes with a Checklist for Public Action addressed to policy-makers at all levels of government to facilitate the uptake and implementation of the SDGs as a tool for better policies and better lives. The Checklist covers five key components, namely Policies, Planning and Strategies; Multi-level Governance; Financing and Budgeting; Data and Information; and Engagement.

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© OECD 2020

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