The initiative is quite unique, and we have high expectations for the results it can generate.

Bjørn Arild Gram, president of KS

Heads of state and other senior government officials from all over the world assembled at the digital UNs High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) between 6 and 15 July this year. The President of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), Bjørn Arild Gram, presented together with the Minister of Local Government and Modernisation (KMD), Nikolai Astrup, the Norwegian cooperation at the “Going Local” event held on the 8th of July. Watch the feature below.

Voluntary Reviews

Norway submitted its national report (Voluntary National Review - VNR) on its efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this year. The government decided that regional and local sustainability work must be a focus area in the report. By agreement with the government, KS has contributed with a dedicated chapter on local and regional government’s work with the SDGs and how they stand to reach these goals.

As a basis for the contribution to the national report, KS and its members have developed an aggregated report on the work in local and regional governments (Voluntary Subnational Review - VSR) in order to map the sector’s sustainability work, point out the limitations, and show the successes of the work.

The report addresses how Norwegian local and regional authorities work towards the goals and how the sector contributes to achieving them. It provides many good examples from all over the country. The report also includes summaries from municipalities and regional authorities that have carried out local surveys (Voluntary Local Reviews - VLR).

Voluntary Subnational Review — Norway

Attracting attention

- This cooperation between the municipal sector and national authorities has drawn international attention, says Bjørn Arild Gram, president of KS.

KS representatives were included in Norway’s delegation to the HLPF and were active contributors at several of the events, both as part of the main programme and in side-events. KS and KMD were invited to present their experiences from Norway and the importance of good cooperation across the various levels of government at the event.

In his speech at the meeting, Leendert Verbeek, president of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, singled out the Norwegian “whole-of-government” approach, where KS conducts a Voluntary Subnational Review and participates in the preparation of the country’s Voluntary National Review.

Both president Bjørn Arild Gram and the first vice-president of KS, Gunn Marit Helgesen, held speeches during several of the other events at the HLPF. Gunn Marit Helgesen held a speech on how local public service production can ensure sustainability in the aftermath of the pandemic at the Local Authorities Major Group Side Event on the 7th of July. On 9th Helgesen shared experiences from Norway on how the cohesion between local reports (VLRs) and subnational reports (VSRs) can make a powerful instrument for transformation.

Bjørn Arild Gram delivered a statement on key lessons learned in terms of service provision needs and partnerships related to the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, on fulfilling the SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-Being at the 4th Local and Regional Governments’ Forum on the 2030 Agenda on July 12th.

Norway’s Voluntary Subnational Review

Even though much of the work for achieving the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets before 2030 must be done at the local and regional level, few countries across the world have so far reported on the efforts of their local and regional governments.

Developing voluntary reports on both local, subnational and national level is a novelty and a contribution to demonstrate the advantage of inter-connectivity and multi-level governance.

KS' president Gram presented the Norwegian Voluntary Subnational Review on the 15th of July, along with reviews from Cape Verde, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, Sweden, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. The KS report addresses how Norwegian municipalities and regional authorities work towards the goals and how the local and regional government contribute to achieving them. The Norwegian VSR was developed in close collaboration with the global organisation for local and regional authorities (United Cities and Local Governments – UCLG) and peer dialogue with the seven other countries. Watch the feature below. The content is described in this paragraph.

The Norwegian Minister for Local Government and Modernisation, Nikolai Astrup, was invited to comment on the Norwegian Voluntary Review and on the comprehensive work on sustainability in the Norwegian municipal sector. Watch the feature below.

Reinforcing cooperation

KS will use the report to reinforce cooperation across the various levels of government, intensify support for local government’s work with sustainable development goals and share good Norwegian practice at both the national and the international level. As a first step in this work, KS and the government have entered into a political agreement on innovation and the sustainability agenda. The agreement defines specific action points that will make it possible to quickly progress from knowledge to joint action.

- The agreement makes sure that we can translate the knowledge from the voluntary reports to joint action across the different levels of government. “The initiative is quite unique, and we have high expectations for the results it can generate, says Bjørn Arild Gram.

Reports on the contribution of local government

At the HLPF, the European umbrella organisation, Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), presented its 2021 report on how European municipalities, regions and their associations are implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) titled “European Territories Localise the SDGs. Continuity and Change in Times of Covid-19”. The findings of the report are clear: Local governments are vital to the monitoring of and cooperation on SDGs.

A similar report at the global level, “Towards the Localization of the SDGs — Sustainable and Resilient Recovery Driven by Cities and Territories”, was presented at the “Local and Regional Governments’ Day” on 9 July. The report, which is published by the global municipal organisation United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), in cooperation with the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of local and regional governments’ (LRGs) efforts to respond to the pandemic in cities and territories worldwide, as well as of their connections with SDGs under review, with a particular focus on the 43 countries presenting Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) this year. The report illustrates the contribution of LRGs to promoting a safe, just and green recovery at all levels and identifies the challenges that must be overcome to harness their full potential.