SDGs, LED, and the role of regions in building a better World

Two weeks after my participation in the Third World Forum on Local Economic Development (DEL), organized by ORU FOGAR jointly with UNDP, UCLG, UNHabitat, and the City of Turin, it is my pleasure to share with you some results and thoughts about the relevance of this event, and the process it belongs to, and about the very outcomes of the Forum.

The presence of delegations from 130 countries and of more than 2,000 participants, among them several Governors and Presidents of regions or other decentralized authorities, confirmed and strengthened the importance of local actors, especially the regions and similar sub-national bodies, in the implementation of the new Global Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, the Forum was aiming at presenting “LED as a means of implementation of the SDGs”. It was organized around three thematic lines: Regional competitiveness and innovation for more sustainable and inclusive development; Localizing employment generation towards local inclusive growth and jobs; and Towards sustainable urbanization, LED strategies for creating positive urban rural linkages. 

The Forum is part of a continuous dialogue at global level about decentralization, local governance and local economic development. In 2011, the First World Forum of Local Economic Development Agencies titled “Territory, economy and Local Governance: New Perspectives for Times of Change” (Seville, Spain), initiated a process aimed at advancing dialogue and exchanges between local, national and international actors on the efficiency and impact of local economic development (LED) in tackling current socio-economic challenges through existing practices. The Second Forum (Foz de Iguacu, 2013) built on that momentum, as part of the new perspectives for Sustainable Human Development (SHD) in its social, economic and environmental dimensions at the local level, which led to the 2030 Global Agenda for Development and the SDGs, and to the specific process of implementation at the local level, known as "localisation".

The Forum offered the opportunity to strategically position regions as key actors of Local Economic Development, and therefore key partners in the implementation of the SDGs. This advocacy came not only from local actors, but also from World leaders. His Holiness Pope Francis contributed to the Opening Ceremony through an inspiring letter emphasizing the importance of the local level and of local actors in advancing sustainable development and SDG’s implementation strategies  (read the letter). UNSG Mr. Ban-Ki Moon, during the last plenary, reiterated the importance of Local Economic Development (LED) and of the local level within the 2030 development framework (watch the video/read his remarks):  “Local economic development raises living standards. It fosters social inclusion. And that contributes to stability and peace. […] When we unlock local solutions, we will advance global progress” he said. 

The UNSG perspective was reflected in the Forum’s Final Declaration  (read the declaration) that highlighted the significance of the LED as a comprehensive strategy for the implementation of the SDGs, particularly in light of its potential to mobilize territories’ endogenous resources.

The Forum promoted exchanges on how to best unlock the productive potential of regions and other territories, by improving coordination among a wide range of actors to develop enabling environments to create wealth at local level, by reinforcing multilevel governance and articulating local strategies and national policies, by building capacities for local governance and development, by engaging civil society, private sector and citizens in priority setting and decision making, among other.

The success of the Third World Forum of Local Economic Development also emerges from the long list of agreements between countries and regions that ORU FOGAR partly facilitated. Bilateral and multilateral partnerships between regions, South-North, South-South and Triangular, are instrumentals in sharing tools and best practices to reinforce local governance and local development.

In conclusion, the Forum was a tremendous opportunity to exchange with relevant stakeholders from all over the world on common challenges linked to important challenges faced by local authorities: How to enhance economic opportunities for all, especially youth employment, at the local level? How to improve access to public services for all the citizens? How to ensure inclusive growth? How to make this growth sustainable? Regions have a critical role to play in building a better world, and the Forum highlighted it as only few events did before. 



Michel Vauzelle

President of the PACA region, France


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