“Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) are critical for promoting inclusive sustainable development within their territories, and as such for the implementation of the post- 2015 agenda.”
“Local strategic planning would allow a greater integration of the three pillars of development: social, economic and environmental. Likewise, further integration between urban and rural areas needs to be promoted, in order to foster greater territorial cohesion.”
Post-2015 Dialogues on Implementation (UNDG 2015)
Creating policy coherence, integration and partnerships in the vertical direction among governments, civil society, the private sector and other actors is the essential and complimentary aspect to the horizontality described in Section B4. ‘Glocalizing’ the agenda within a country is an imperative if the SDGs are to be realized with no one left behind in the 2030 timeframe. The word ‘glocal’ means reflecting both local and global considerations. While examples of successful vertical coherence across national, sub-national and local governance scales around are not plentiful, the level of activity emanating from the local and sub-national levels towards achieving sustainable development, quality of life and wellbeing is abundant, in all corners of the globe (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2013c). And with this, we can be optimistic that mechanisms for creating vertical policy coherence and integration can indeed be realized.
UNCTs can begin exploring with Member States the various mechanisms available for creating vertical policy coherence, integration and partnerships. The guidance provided in this section is five-fold, proposing the use of:
- Institutional coordinating mechanisms: to foster partnerships and coordination across levels of government;
- Multi-stakeholder consultative bodies and forums: to create partnership and coordination;
- Local Agenda 21s and networks: for scaling up action for sustainable development at the local level;
- Monitoring and review at the local level: as a means for localizing nationally-adapted SDGs;
- Impact assessment processes: to ensure that nationally and locally-adapted SDGs are taken into consideration in large public and private development projects;
- Integrated modelling: to explore the benefits and impacts of key national policies and programs at sub-national and local levels.
MDG Lessons – Localization of MDGs: Factors for Success and the Case of Albania
Looking at the growing body of literature and case studies, four broad factors appear to be critical to the success of MDG localization efforts. These include:
- Involvement of non-state actors;
- Capacity at the local level;
- Coordination across development policies and strategies, and coherence between different levels of government; and
- Availability of financial resources.
Albania: Strengthening Civil Society and Local Government Cooperation
A rapid shift from a central party system to a multi-party democracy in 1991 introduced new concepts to the national and local governments and citizens of Albania. There was no tradition of citizen engagement in planning processes, and the idea of government being accountable for the services it provides was new.
SNV and UNDP supported local governments and civil society in participatory planning processes in a project with three distinct phases: first, a needs assessment was done; second, a package of capacity development interventions. Among the lessons learned from the initiative were the following:
- Partnerships for capacity development can only be successful if they put the client’s interest first – in this case, the local governments and CSOs in Albania. Furthermore, a thorough capacity assessment is crucial to develop a full understanding of the needs, and to ensure that any support that is provided is demand driven.
- A key factor in the success of this project was the willingness of regional and municipal governments to enter into a constructive dialogue with CSOs to engage in more participatory planning processes. The government, however, did not know how to find the right entry points to consult with the people. The CSO networks could provide such entry points.
- The project approach of working with and relying on local partners (CSOs and CSDCs) to bring in local knowledge and expertise proved very successful in understanding the capacity constraints and strengths of local non-state actors. The choice of civil society partners was crucial. Credibility in the eyes of local government was essential to gain their confidence in the process, which is a prerequisite for institutionalization of consultative mechanisms between civil society and local government. Furthermore, the approach of working with local organizations to support the capacity development of civil society builds confidence among local actors, and invests in the long-term sustainability of capacity development interventions.
- In Albania, the long-term presence of SNV in Fier and Peshkopi contributed to the success of the programme. Local authorities and civil society had trust in SNV, which facilitated a good start and constructive collaboration with SNV and UNDP.
Source: SNV and UNDP (2009)
Institutional Coordinating Mechanisms
To promote vertical coherence and integration governments can create explicit institutional links between sustainable development strategies and supporting processes at the federal and sub-national levels.
In Austria for example, a common strategy framework was prepared in the form of the Federal-State Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development (ÖSTRAT) with “the desire to combine the strengths of the state and federal levels in a common strategic and organizational framework (Austria 2015).” A number of vertical coordination mechanisms were put in place under this common framework, including: (i) an Expert Conference on Sustainability Coordinators; and (ii) Working Group on Distributed Sustainability Strategy (Local Agenda 21) which serves as a “platform of LA21 coordinators of the Länder and the federal government for the results-oriented implementation of the Joint Declaration on Local Agenda 21 in Austria (Austria 2015).”
In Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office for Sustainable Development (ARE) leads an array of horizontal and vertical coherence, integration and partnership mechanisms (ESDN 2012). For more information see the Innovative Case Example below.
Innovative Case Example: Swiss Vertical Coordination Across Federal, Canton and Municipal Levels
Accountability and implementation of Switzerland’s sustainable development strategy uses institutional mechanisms for creating both vertical and horizontal coherence, integration and partnerships:
- The Federal Council has supreme political responsibility for Switzerland’s sustainability policy
- The Federal Council givens the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) the task of coordinating the implementation of a sustainability strategy (controlling implementation as well as performing monitoring and evaluation tasks) at federal level and also in collaboration with cantons, municipalities and other stakeholders.
- The Interdepartmental Sustainable Development Committee (ISDC) is headed by ARE. This committee furthers the Confederation’s sustainable development policy, and serves as a platform for sharing information on the Confederation’s numerous sustainability activities. Around 30 Swiss government agencies affiliated to ISDC perform tasks relevant to sustainable development.
- In the Sustainable Development Forum, ARE works closely with cantons and municipalities and promotes sustainability processes at cantonal, regional and local level.
Source: ARE (2015d). See also, ESDN (2012)
Multi-stakeholder Consultative Bodies and Fora
Multi-stakeholder bodies can be leveraged by governments to create vertical policy coherence across levels of governance. The European Sustainable Development Network (ESDN) describes how consultative bodies have served as important vertical coordination mechanisms for sustainable development strategies and their implementation in Europe. It is noted that while consultative bodies “provide some platforms for coordination of policies between the political levels”, compared to the institutional mechanisms described above, “coordination is done more on a case-by-case or ad-hoc basis (either in a specific project of in a specific policy topic) (ESDN 2010).” For guidance on applying multi-stakeholder approaches, including consultative bodies and forums, see Section B2.
Innovative Case Example: City to City – South-South Cooperation
City-to-city South South Cooperation has emerged as an effective way to share knowledge and solutions and contribute to the localization of the sustainable development agenda. The ILO and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) have signed an agreement to promote bottom-up interventions responding to local needs to create decent jobs and boost local economic and social development. Recent activities have stimulated cooperation between Maputo (Mozambique), Durban (South Africa) and Belo Horizonte (Brazil) in the promotion of safe and health work environments in the informal economy.
Source: ILO (2013) City-to-City and South-South and Triangular Cooperation, Geneva
Local Agenda 21 Processes and Networks
A Local Agenda 21 is a concept for local sustainable development strategies born out of the 1992 Earth Summit. Through continued and increased support of Local Agenda 21 processes, national governments can realize a tremendous mechanism for creating vertical policy coherence.
Local Agenda 21s have achieved appreciable success in some countries over the past two decades. The Republic of Korea was an early adopter and by the year 2000 close to 86% of regional government units had adopted a Local Agenda 21, fostered in part by the country’s National Action Plan of Agenda 21 through financial and capacity support and the establishment of the Korean Council for Local Agenda 21 made up of local government officers to better co-ordinate the implementation process (Swanson et al. 2004).
Today an even greater level of success can be witnessed in Spain’s Basque Country. Udalsarea21 is a network of municipalities in Spain’s Basque country whose mission is to “promote the effective establishment of the Action Plans of the Local Agenda 21 and to integrate sustainability criteria in all the municipal management areas.” In 2000 the vast majority of municipalities had not initiated a local Agenda 21 plan of action; however, by 2010 through effective promotion and networking, 95% of municipalities had approved plans. Cited among the main reasons for the network’s success is “close coordination and alignment of Local Agenda 21 with supra-municipal policies” including the Basque Country’s EcoEuskadi Sustainable Development Strategy 2020 (Udalsarea21 2012).
Switzerland too has a vibrant Local Agenda 21 process (ESDN 2012) where 239 municipalities have sustainability processes ongoing, representing about 35% of the population (ARE 2015d).
Monitoring and Review at the Local Level
Monitoring and review processes are an important mechanism for countries to create vertical policy coherence, integration and partnerships across levels of government.
In the context of monitoring there exists a tremendous opportunity today for localizing The 2030 Agenda through integration with community indicator systems in cities around the world. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cites community indicators as “a vehicle for encouraging civic engagement both through the system’s development process and through action once the indicator system is in place (GAO 2011).” The GAO also noted that such systems “help address community or national challenges by facilitating collaboration of various parties inside and outside of government” and “provide solutions to long-term challenges.” Community indicator systems are created and implemented in myriad ways, including by local government, civil society organizations, or a partnership among both (IISD 2014).
For specific guidance related to monitoring, review and accountability, see Section B7 of this Guidance Note.
Innovative Case Example: Community Indicator Systems
The U.S.-based Community Indicators Consortium (CIC), an international network of local government monitoring systems across North America “seeks bridges that span the gap between community indicators use and performance measurement, providing ways for community groups and governments to coordinate efforts and jointly enhance knowledge about the use of indicators to leverage positive change (CIC, 2015).”
In 2013 the CIC recognized the efforts of the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. in the U.S. state of Florida “as one of the most enduring and impactful institutions in community indicators work (CIC 2013).” Since their inception in 1985, JCCI has released 30 community quality-of-life reports to help inform and catalyze community action (JCCI 2015).
Among the CIC’s 2014 Impact Award Winners was ‘Peg’, the Canadian city of Winnipeg’s state-of-the-art community indicator information system, in recognition of its unique interactive visual explorer, maps utility and indicator stories (CIC 2014, Peg, 2015).
Impact Assessment Processes
Project level and cumulative impact assessment processes represent opportunities for governments to localize nationally tailored SDGs given their place-based scope of application.
These assessments go by different names in different jurisdictions. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Social Impact Assessment (SIA), Regional Impact Assessment (RIA), Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) are but a few of the names and classes of impact assessment processes used by countries around the world to assess the future impacts of proposed public and private sector projects. Criteria used in these assessments could potentially be tailored to test their contribution to the long-term economic, social and environmental goals of national development plans and SDGs.
Integrated modelling approaches of the type described in Section B4 for creating horizontal policy coherence, are also useful for achieving vertical coherence owing to their ability to explore regionally specific impacts of national strategies and policies.
MDG Lessons – Integrating the MDGs into the local development context: Lao PDR
Under the UNDP and UNCDF supported Governance and Public Administration Reform (GPAR) and Service Delivery project – the UNCDF’s District Development Fund (DDF) initiative lays out one structure that facilitated the integration of the MDGs into local development. Building on the core elements of the GPAR programme, the proposed approach for delivering MDG-based services to districts included the following elements:
- Building legitimacy and commitment through wide awareness in districts about the PM’s Orders on strengthening district administration, and plans, targets and tasks for each district to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
- Developing capacity and carrying out field assessments as well as preparing local responses including dialogue with kumbans on validating baseline conditions related to MDGs, applying localized MDG planning tools and evidence based needs assessment and facilitating localized action plan preparations and resource allocation.
- Establishing frameworks for providing and utilizing financial resources, which would cover the provision and use of untied capital grants for expanding MDG-related infrastructure, provision and use of operational expenditure block grants to support MDG service delivery, use of scholarships, pensions, safety nets and social protection mechanisms for vulnerable households and individuals, implementation of the computerized National Accounting System, which will enable central monitoring of expenditures on real time basis, transparency and disclosure with local stakeholders, as well as comparative assessment with peers (other districts) on financial performance.
- Assigning tasks related to MDGs, and monitoring performance of district staff through clarification and revision of Job Descriptions, implementation of Performance Management and the use of Personnel Information Management System to support the above.
- Establishing a One Door MDG Service Centre to enable individuals and Village Chiefs to receive information and advice on support available under the MDGs, receive applications and plans for support like pensions, grants and sector services, and make suggestions and complaints on delays and difficulties.
- Disseminating information and creating linkages with external stakeholders including civil society, creating wide awareness and demand for services through community radio and access to information initiatives, forming village-level MDG Task Forces to address highly visible MDG issues, leveraging and delegating specific MDG-related tasks to CSOs depending on their strength, organizing progress reviews with kumban chiefs.
Source: UNDP and UNCDF, Lao PDR.
- Austrian Strategy for Sustainable Development (ÖSTRAT) (Austria 2015).
- Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE 2015).
- Linking Regions and Central Governments: Contracts for Regional Development (OECD 2007)
- See Section B2 for tools on applying multi-stakeholder approaches
- Benchmarking Workshops: A Tool For Localizing the Millennium Development Goals (UNDP and SIPA (2003).
Local Agenda 21 Networks
- Udalsare21, Basque Network of Municipalities for Sustainability (Udalsarea21 2012).
Community Indicator System Examples
- Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI 2015).
- Peg Community Wellbeing Indicator System (PEG 2015).
- Governing Regional Development Policy – The Use of Performance Indicators (OECD 2009)
- See Section B4.
References and Links
ARE (2015c). Accountabilities and implementation. The Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE).
ARE (2015d). Facts and figures. The Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE).
Austria (2015). ÖSTRAT federal-state strategy. Government of Austria.
Bertlesmann Stiftung (2013c). Winning Strategies for a Sustainable Future. pp 30. Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung: Gutersloh.
ESDN (2010). National Sustainable Development Strategies in Europe: Status quo and recent developments. ESDN Quarterly Report, September 2010. European Sustainable Development Network.
GAO (2011). (2011). Experiences of other national and subnational systems offer insights for the United States. U.S. Government Accountability Office.
IISD (2014). GovernAbilities: The nexus of sustainability, accountability and adaptability – Essential tools for successful governance in the 21st century. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD): Winnipeg.
ILO (2013) City-to-City and South-South and Triangular Cooperation, Geneva
JCCI (2015). Jacksonville Community Council Inc.
OECD (2007). Linking Regions and Central Governments: Contracts for Regional Development. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
OECD (2009). Governing Regional Development Policy: The Use of Performance Indicators. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Available at:
SNV and UNDP (2009). Going Local to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals: Stories from Eight Countries. SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and United Nations Development Programme. Available at:
Swanson, D.A., Pintér, L., Bregha, F., Volkery, A., and Jacob, K. (2004). National strategies for sustainable development: A 19-country study of challenges, approaches and innovations in strategic and coordinated action. IISD and GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit). Available at:
Udalsarea21 (2012). Appraisal of a decade of Local Sustainability in the Basque Country 2000-2010. Basque Network of Municipalities for Sustainability.
UNDP and SIPA (2003). Benchmarking Workshops: A Tool For Localizing the Millennium Development Goals – A pilot project in Bulgaria and the Russian Federation. United Nations Development Program and the School for International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.
 See Oxford Dictionaries at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/glocal