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SDG Implementation through Local Action

Fostering COVID-19 Recovery and SDG Implementation Through Local action in Asia-Pacific, Arab and African countries


Project Title: Fostering COVID-19 recovery and SDG implementation through local action in Asia-Pacific, Arab & African Countries

Executing Entity: UN-HABITAT

Other Implementing Entities: UNDESA, UNESCAP, UNECA, UNESCWA, UCLG

Implementing Countries in Asia-Pacific: Nepal, Philippines & Thailand

Implementing Agencies in Nepal: UN-HABITAT in Nepal & Chandragiri Municipality


Project Background 

Cities have been and still are the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN Secretary General’s policy brief on COVID-19 in an Urban World indicates that 90 percent of COVID cases were reported in urban areas in July 2020. The size of their populations and their high level of global and local interconnectivity have made cities particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Economic losses due to the pandemic have far wider-reaching impacts than on their immediate populations. UN-DESA’s policy brief (Achieving SDGs in the wake of COVID-19: Scenarios for policymakers) notes that due to economic decline, cities and local governments may, according to estimates, lose on average between 15 percent and 25 percent of their revenues, affecting their ability to provide basic services. There are strong links between the COVID-19 crisis and the achievement of the SDGs. UNDESA’s another policy brief (Impact of COVID-19 on SDG progress: a statistical perspective) notes that the “pandemic abruptly disrupted implementation towards many of the SDGs and, in some cases, turned back years of progress.

Since COVID-19 affects urban neighborhoods and groups of people in cities differently, addressing it requires a granular, localized understanding of cities and local realities. Meanwhile, according to the OECD, at least 65 percent of SDG targets will not be reached without proper engagement and coordination with local and regional governments. Thus, effective recovery from COVID-19 coupled with the achievement of SDGs requires increased localized action. SDG localization is hence understood as the process of transforming the Global Goals into reality at the local level, for local communities and their environments, in coordination with national frameworks; a two-way process where the local meets the national and the global and vice-versa.

Multilevel governance is a key to ensuring recovery and creating resilient cities. Cities do not work in isolation – on one hand, they are locally responsive and well positioned to put communities’ specific needs at the center of the response and development, and on the other, they are channels for the local implementation of national priorities. National governments set national policy agendas, but their effective implementation highly depends on localization mechanisms, by listening to cities, planning along with them and by systematically including communities into decision-making.


In practical terms, when it comes to technical support at city level, the projects adopt UN-Habitat’s comprehensive approach to SDG localization, anchored on three key pillars: i) the Global Urban Monitoring Framework; ii) Voluntary Local Reviews; iii) SDG Cities. Through this approach UN-Habitat and the implementing partners will be able to connect all component of the SDG localization chain – from the collection and management of data to the identification of development gaps and the design and implementation of transformative projects. In addition, implementing partners have past and ongoing experiences in promoting SDG localization sustainable development at local level and have developed respective guidelines to support cities in developing their own Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). The project builds on the experiences and knowledge of the implementing entities and aims facilitating the convergence of methodologies into a single joint approach, hence ensuring cooperation and coherence of UN support to both UNCTs and local partners. Such an approach will be reflected in the SDG Localization-COVID-19 tool.



To promote inclusive post-pandemic recovery and advance the localization of the SDGs in selected countries in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and the Arab States.


Nepal was the first country to produce a national SDG report and it has confirmed its commitment to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and its inclusive, multistakeholder partnership approach for the achievement of the SDGs. The Government aims to localize the SDGs to the Nepal context and to integrate them into national, subnational and local development plans. The federal model, which the country adopted in its Constitution, and which anticipates a three-tiered structure of government with the devolution of executive and legislative powers to provincial and local governments, and rural municipalities, should further support the localization of the SDGs in Nepal (UNDAF, 2018-2022).


Most of the provincial governments have established their policy/planning commissions, which have been sensitized about the SDGs; many have already prepared plans integrating the fundamental principles and goals of the SDGs. There is a need to expedite the mainstreaming of the SDGs into plans and programs at the provincial and local levels. Therefore, to assist in this process, planning and monitoring guidelines as well as SDG Localization Resource Book have been prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC). The provinces have established their own policy/planning commissions and have included SDG implementation in their plan documents. Most of the provinces have formulated SDGs responsive periodic plans and Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEFs). A few of the municipalities have released white papers and strategies on implementing the SDGs (VNR of Nepal, 2020). The implementing partners will provide direct technical assistance to the selected pilot city to develop Nepal’s fist VLR and City Development Strategy – in line with existing local and national policies.


Currently, there have been local governments that have initiated and completed the VLR process, one of them being the Dhulikhel Municipality. However, the VNR does not indicate linkages with the VLRs produced. With the leading support of the implementing partners (UNDESA; UNESCAP; UNECA; UNESCWA; UCLG), the project will organize VNRs-VLRs Studios to foster connection between local and national reporting. The latter will also be strengthened via the reinforcement of the national SDG coordination mechanisms, specifically looking at enhancing the structural participation of local governments.


In Nepal, Chandragiri Municipality is selected as a pilot city of the “Fostering COVID-19 Recovery & SDG Implementation Through Local Action in Asia-Pacific, Arab & African Countries”  project (UNDA 14 project) with the intention of providing lessons learned and innovative approaches to be scaled up and replicated in several other cities in Nepal through Voluntarily Local Review (VLR) report and related initiatives.

Core Dimension of the Project


Localization has never been so central. In 2020, the UN Secretary General launched the Decade of Action, a global call of action to spur on global progress to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Along with global and people’s action, the Decade of Action highlights local action as one of the key levels of intervention to achieve the SDGs. This refers to the need for “embedding the needed transitions in the policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks of governments, cities and local authorities”. In addition, the Secretary General’s recent Report on Our Common Agenda clearly states: “The role of parliaments, cities and other subnational authorities is particularly being recognized in inclusive approaches, with, for example, voluntary local reviews of Sustainable Development Goal implementation providing a model on which to build. Cities, local authorities and specifically VLRs are key actors and processes to advance sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism”. In this regard, the project is rooted in a comprehensive Territorial Approach to Sustainable Development and on the principles of the New Urban Agenda, as guiding framework to advance sustainable urban development, hence accelerating the SDG localization process. The core dimensions of the project are:


Leave No one


Ownership and





Building capacities


processes and

inclusion of

minorities and


ized groups in


processes and


planning – hence

strengthening the

social contract and

a recovery process

tailored on

communities’ needs

and priorities.


communities at the

center of


process to

ensure full


engagement and

sustainability after

the project’s


Enhanced dialogue

and coordination

for mutual learning

and alignment of

development and

recovery policies.

Focus on

strengthening the

VNR preparatory

process by

connecting it to

VLRs and local


Improvement of

data environments

at local level

through the piloting

of the Global Urban


Framework, the

adoption of a

spatial approach to

data and the

collection of nontraditional


qualitative data




Strengthening the

capacities of local

and regional

governments for

the design of



strategies and

policies for SDG

localization and

COVID-19 recovery.

Also, with the

objective of


sustainability and

through a blended



Approach to the work & planned Activities


The project is articulated around six key components: (i) Technical Cooperation; (ii) Regional Processes; (iii) Normative development; (iv) Multilevel Governance; (v) Capacity Building; (vi) Global and Regional Advocacy.


To ensure coherence of approaches and alignment of activities, the project will establish a Task Force including all implementing partners. The Task Force will also be the main entry point for coordinating with UNRCOs and UNCTs. In addition, implementing partners will make sure to support one another in learning from each other for the design and implementation of activities. This includes for example the support to the development of VLRs, but also the implementation of the Mayors’ Academy in each region. Breakdown of the activities are listed as below:

Technical support to cities: Technical support to pilot cities is the central activity of the project. Support will be coordinated by UN-HABITAT Head Quarters’ SDG Localization Team in full alignment and coordination with the implementing partners.

Rolling out of the Global Urban Monitoring Framework. Cities will be accompanied in adopting the UMF to support monitoring of SDG progress within their territories.

Elaboration of Voluntary Local Reviews. Cities will be technically supported to develop their voluntary local review. VLR methodology will be agreed and shared among implementing partners – with specific reference to the existing global and regional guidelines. Concerning the latter, the project will reference the VLR Global Guiding Elements prepared by DESA and the Regional Guidelines for Asia-Pacific and Africa, developed respectively by UNESCAP and UNECA.

Expected Accomplishments       

Strengthened capacities of Local and Regional Governments to develop Voluntary Local Reviews and localize the SDGs to advance the post-pandemic recovery process.

Enhanced multilevel governance and interlinkages between local and national governments as well as regional and international processes on SDGs implementation and COVID-19 recovery.