Partnerships for the Goals

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals Through Partnerships and Local Development

  • Dina WahyuniEmail author
Living reference work entry


The United Nations (UN) defines partnerships as “voluntary and collaborative relationships between various parties, both public and non-public, in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and, as mutually agreed, to share risks and responsibilities, resources and benefits” (UN 2015, p. 4). Partnerships for sustainable development denote multi-stakeholder initiatives that are voluntarily undertaken by government, nongovernment organizations and civil society aimed at contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (see UN 2015 for a historic overview of the UN legislative documents on partnerships). In the subnational context, partnerships involve integrated actions of multi-stakeholders to incorporate and implement the SDGs in local development.


In September 2015, after 3 years of negotiations and debates at the United Nations, 193 countries agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targeted at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all by 2030. The 17 SDGs of the 2030 Sustainable Agenda came into effect on 1 January 2016. Because the SDGs are not legally binding, they form a global roadmap that all countries are expected to take ownership of and to incorporate into their national development agenda. The SDGs call on all nations to pursue a holistic strategy that combines economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability (UN 2016). Because the SDGs are also known as the Global Goals, they are used interchangeably in this chapter.

While national governments are expected to establish national policies toward achieving the 17 SDGs, this chapter argues that subnational governments and local actors can and should play a substantial role in implementing these policies through partnerships. Local communities and actors are best placed to understand collective needs, close-to-home challenges, and available resources to achieve the SDGs. Local and regional governments (LRGs) are not only implementers of a sustainable agenda but also policy-makers and catalysts of change to link the Global Goals with local communities (GTF 2016, 2018b). Specifically, LRGs play a key role in ensuring that the SDG principle “leaving no one behind” is effectively implemented. This chapter aims to provide an overview of localization of the SDGs and to highlight the importance of partnerships to mobilize collaborative actions of multi-stakeholders. An extensive literature research was conducted to report the current and potential roles that local development and partnership can play in furthering the achievement of the Global Goals.

This chapter is structured in five sections, followed by a conclusion. Section “Localizing the SDGs: From Goals to Actions” identifies the context and significance of local development in the pursuit of the SDGs. Section “The Progress of Localization of the SDGs” provides an overview of the progress of SDG localization. Section “The Facilitating Factors of SDG Localization” identifies the enabling factors of localizing the SDGs. Section “Partnerships for SDG Localization” discusses partnerships for localizing the SDGs. Section “SDG Localization: The Growing Relevance of Cities and Urban Development” explores urban sustainable development as the emerging theme in sustainable local development. Finally, the chapter makes some closing observations.

Localizing the SDGs: From Goals to Actions

Localizing the SDGs refers to the process of their incorporation, implementation, and monitoring strategies in the local development of cities and territories. In other words, it places cities and territories at the center stage. Localization of the SDGs includes their translation into local agendas that leads to the creation of mechanisms, tools, innovations, platforms, and processes of sustainable development actions tailored to subnational contexts (nrg4sd 2018; UNDP 2018). Localization relates to both (GTF 2017b):
  • How the SDGs function as a framework of local development policy.

  • How LRGs can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs at a national level by undertaking a bottom-up approach and empowering collective actions of local actors.

Local Actors

Localizing the Global Goals needs to involve all levels of governance and engage the broader set of actors of the local development ecosystem, including LRGs, civil society, the private sector, traditional leaders, religious organizations, academia, and the broader public. Considering the complexity of the issues covered in the SDGs, the continuing engagement and commitment of local authorities and nongovernmental stakeholders are essential in working toward and achieving the Global Goals (SDSN Australia/Pacific 2016; nrg4sd 2018).

Local and Regional Governments (LRGs)

Regional governments refer to the next level of government underneath the central or national government (nrg4sd 2018). Depending on the country, the concept of regional government will associate with regions, states, provinces, or cantons. It is different from local governments which oversee cities and municipalities. Regional governments can bridge different levels of government in localizing the Global Goals. LRGs play a major role in the localization of SDGs – in particular, to transpose the Global Goals into their own agenda and concrete actions, reflecting their specific circumstances.

LRGs have been active in the discussion to solve global challenges since the LRG global network, the International Union of Local Authorities, was established in 1913 (see GTF 2016 for the milestones of LRG’s involvement in major international policy processes). A notable milestone in the global arena was when the major international networks of local and regional authorities created the Global Task Force (GTF) of local and regional governments in 2013. It aims to coordinate joint advocacy work relating to global policy processes and to facilitate the implementation of major global agendas at the local level. It focuses on the SDGs, the climate change agenda, and the New Urban Agenda (GTF 2018a). Adopted in 2016 during Habitat III Conference, the New Urban Agenda frames global sustainable standards for cities and urban development for the next 20 years. One of the key roles of the Global Task Force is to facilitate peer-to-peer learning to accelerate SDG localization.

Nongovernmental Actors

A wide range of nongovernmental stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, and academia, should be brought along on the journey to localizing the SDGs. Collaboration and partnerships with multiple stakeholders are crucial to leverage the skills, expertise, and resources of different sectors and organizations. All sectors have a role to play in achieving the Global Goals. Private sector action will be crucial to the success of each SDG, for instance, through responsible business operations, new business models, innovation, technology, and collaboration. Civil society organizations play a vital role in localizing the SDGs through their delivery of services, empowerment of citizens, and supporting public engagement with the agenda. In addition, civil society has a role in holding governments and other local actors accountable to deliver on the SDGs. Academia can contribute to SDG localization via teaching, research, and organizational leadership. The importance of embedding sustainable development in education is vital to equip students in becoming responsible global citizens. Academia can assist to develop practical solutions to implement and monitor the SDGs through their in-depth knowledge and expertise as well as their capabilities of research, monitoring, analysis, technology, and data science. A single actor alone cannot deliver on the 17 SDGs (SDSN Australia/Pacific 2016). Partnerships are essential for the efficient and effective efforts toward achieving the SDGs.

Roadmap for Localizing the SDGs

The GTF, UNDP, and UN-Habitat have been curating valuable resources, adaptable tools, and practical guides to support local actors in the process of localizing the Global Goals (localisingthesdg 2018). Their prescriptive roadmap for SDG localization includes the four major steps as follows:
  1. 1.

    Awareness raising

  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.



Awareness Raising: Getting to Know the SDGs at Subnational Level

The first step of localizing the Global Goals is to raise awareness about the existence of SDGs and their relevance to local communities. Awareness-raising campaigns should be aimed at increasing citizen understanding and ownership of the SDGs. As the closest level of government to the people, LRGs are in the best position to not only increase community awareness of the importance of SDGs but also to empower communities and multi-stakeholders to participate in working collaboratively to achieve the SDGs. LRG associations and networks should build the commitment of their members and enhance the institutional and operational capacities of their members.

Advocacy: Including a Subnational Perspective in National SDG Strategies

The participation of LRGs in developing national SDG strategies is essential. It will ensure that national SDG strategies address the local needs, priorities, and expectations. This bottom-up approach will also increase the LRGs’ sense of ownership of the national SDG strategies, effectively leading to their greater involvement in implementing the strategies. It is therefore important that LRGs and their associations advocate a participative approach in the process of defining national priorities and strategies relating to the SDGs.

Implementation: The Global Goals Go Local

The implementation of the Global Goals should both respond to local- and regional-specific contexts, needs, and priorities and be aligned with national SDG strategies. In this instance, multilevel governance mechanisms should be directed to ensure goal congruence between the sectoral priorities of national government departments and those of LRGs. SDG implementation strategies at the local and regional level can be developed either through creating ad hoc plans or by aligning current LRGs’ development plans with the targets and indicators of the SDGs.

At a subnational level, inter-municipal cooperation and cross-border cooperation can facilitate a more integrated approach to territorial SDG localization. This cooperation can also function as a peer-learning mechanism to improve LRGs’ political and technical capabilities based on the problem-based learning involved in localizing the Global Goals. LRGs should then be proactive to promote nongovernmental actors’ participation and ownership of the SDGs agenda via both formal and informal multi-stakeholder platforms.

Monitoring: Evaluating and Learning from Experiences

The 232 SDGs indicators should be used to monitor and assess the progress of localization. While most countries’ monitoring systems are managed by a national statistical office or national planning service, LRGs should set up joint initiatives to contribute to monitoring the achievement of SDGs. Multi-stakeholder mechanisms – especially universities, research centers, NGOs, and private sector firms – can take part in collecting, monitoring, and analyzing data.

The Progress of Localization of the SDGs

The GTF, comprising more than 25 LRG networks in 2018, has been active in assessing the progress of SDG localization by administering an annual questionnaire on the involvement and engagement of LRGs. The GTF synthesizes this firsthand information based on practical experiences provided directly by LRGs to their network associations to assess the progress of SDG localization annually. Two comprehensive reports on the state of localization globally were submitted to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development 2017 and 2018. These LRG reports complement the yearly Voluntary National Reports (VNRs) submitted by countries to the HLPF, from the perspective of LRGs in 99 countries (GTF 2018b). The VNRs have become the main channel through which national governments internationally present their working progress toward achieving the SDGs (see the database at They serve as the basis for regular reviews by the HLPF on Sustainable Development.

The Progress in SDG Localization: 2016–2017

The first LRGs’ Report to the HLPF 2017 explores the involvement of nearly 408,000 LRGs from the 65 countries reporting to the HPLF in the first 2 years of SDG implementation, 2016–2017 (GTF 2017a). In many countries, associations of LRGs (see GTF 2017a for a complete list) have been active in raising awareness of the SDGs and in ensuring the widespread commitment to the SDGs. Their activities include the creation of fora, outreach campaigns, charters, as well as initiatives to foster knowledge exchange, training, and communication resources. Many metropolitan cities have been effective agents of change, driving SDG localization in their territories. Table 1 lists some of the examples of these LRGs and their associations and networks’ initiatives to promote the SDGs.
Table 1

LRGs’ initiatives for awareness raising and ownership of the SDGs for the 2016–2017 period




Brazil – 7,000 local elected officials contributed in the National Congress of the National Confederation of Brazilian Municipalities (CNM)

Charter and declarations

Germany – the national association declared their support to SDG localization, signed by the municipalities

The Belgian SDG chapter – signed by 73 municipalities and many stakeholder bodies

Finland’s Civil Society Commitment: The Finland We Want 2050 – a multi-stakeholder declaration supported by the Finnish government

Worldwide – 7,000 cities and 280 regions and provinces signed the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy that aims at decarbonized resilient cities and sustainable and affordable energy, i.e., to achieve goals 7, 11, and 13

Outreach campaigns

The Netherlands – Dutch municipalities participate in the Municipalities4GlobalGoals campaign

Guidelines and roadmaps

A training module on the Global Goals and the website “Localising the SDGs” for knowledge exchange – created by UCLG and its regional sections, as well as Metropolis, the global network of metropolitan cities, together with UNDP and UN-Habitat

Roadmap for Localizing the SDGs – disseminated by the GTF

Communication initiatives on various media

A series of animated movies on the SDGs – created by UCLG and the Flemish organization of local governments, VVSG

Municipal newsletters, activities in school, libraries and cultural centers, information evenings for public

Instagram competition – the Swedish municipality of Ljungby provided weekly prices for a month for residents to post a picture in front of the large 17 SDG sign with the hashtag #globalamalenljungby

#Local4Action hashtag on social media – created by UCLG and Metropolis to promote the Local Action 2030

Integration into the strategic plans

Metropolitan areas and regions – Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, and Seoul

Territorial level – 31 provinces in China, the Riau province in Indonesia, several provinces and states in Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the United States, and regions in France, Germany, and South Africa

Source: summarized from GTF (2017a)

The Progress in SDG Localization: 2018

The second LRGs’ Report to the HLPF 2018 examines the extent to which LRGs have been involved in the implementation process during 2016–2018 in the 99 countries reporting to the HLPF over this 3-year period. In 2018, LRGs were involved in the preparation process of VNRs in 53% (23/43) of the reporting countries, which is an increase from 43% in 2016 to 2017 combined. The involvement in the VNR processes took many forms, for instance, direct participative consultation, contribution to different multi-stakeholder meetings, national or regional dialogues, submission of experiences, online consultations, and via bilateral contact or high-level task group in charge of VNR preparation. During the first 3-year reporting period 2016–2018, LRGs were most involved in the VNRs preparation process in Europe (in 62% of the reporting European countries), followed by Asia Pacific (53%), Latin America (47%), and Africa (44%). The analysis result shows that LRGs have been engaged in the VNR processes, but their involvement is still limited. A more supportive environment is still needed to enable greater involvement of LRGs in high-level consultation mechanisms to develop the implementation framework both at national and subnational levels. LRGs should be empowered to participate in monitoring the progress at subnational levels. This involvement is necessary to foster local buy-in and ownership in the achievement of the Global Goals (GTF 2018b).

Mapping LRG Actions by Region

The involvement of LRGs in SDG implementation is diverse across regions, using different types of innovative initiatives. In Europe, LRGs in Northern and Western countries have been more active than those in East and Southeast Europe. For example, Spain’s LRGs have been very active in using the bottom-up approach to launch their own SDG strategies. In the North American region, although there is no federal framework for SDGs in the United States or in Canada, LRGs and their associations implicitly support multiple Global Goeating ad hoc plans or by aligniatin America is much more fragmented. The more active LRGs that implement SDGs include Brazil, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, while LRG involvement in other countries is still limited. In the Asia Pacific region, LRGs and their associations in Australia are promising examples with several initiatives already implemented to incorporate SDGs in the development plans across federal, state, and local levels of government. Asian countries have adopted a different approach of implementation. Many cities in Asia have been focusing on designing policies and plans and implementing projects to enhance urban and territorial sustainability. LRGs in Indonesia and Japan are particularly active compared to the rest of the region in incorporating the Global Goals in their local strategies and concrete initiatives. In Africa, the LRG associations in Benin, Togo, and South Africa have been active in supporting SDG localization by aligning the national and local plans with the Global Goals. In Eurasia, the involvement of LRGs is still very limited. Meanwhile in the Middle East and West Asia, the national governments in Arab countries do not appear to engage LRGs in incorporating the Global Goals into local governance policies (see GTF 2018b for the examples).

The Facilitating Factors of SDG Localization

Based on the first 3 years of engaging with SDGs at a subnational level, the surveyed LRGs have reported that the facilitating factors of localization include five dimensions: institutional frameworks, LRG financing, capacity-building initiatives, monitoring, and partnerships (GTF 2018b; nrg4sd 2018).

Institutional Frameworks and Policy Reforms

Over the first 3 years of implementation, there have been different mechanisms for the coordination and follow-up of the SDGs at the national level and various mechanisms to align national and local development strategies reported by countries in the VNRs. However, the interaction of national and subnational governments in defining and implementing the policies (termed multilevel governance) is functioning more as horizontal inter-agency or interministerial collaboration at this stage (GTF 2018b). Vertical communication between national-region and region-cities and interactions between different levels of government are also necessary for greater coherence and coordination of the efforts within a country (nrg4sd 2018).

Financing of the Localizing Process

Financing was one of the top enabling mechanisms reported by LRGs to support the localization process. Worldwide data show that, on average, LRGs account for 19% of total public spending, and their revenues represent 18.8% of national public account. Globally, LRGs still have limited financial resources to fund the SDG localization processes. Development banks and international donors need to facilitate funding mechanisms that are accessible by LRGs and create investment schemes that allow multi-sectoral partnerships to be implemented at the subnational level (GTF 2018b). This issue of subnational development finance was also highlighted in the 2018 Progress Report on Financing for Development (IATF 2018), published as part of the follow-up on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. It emphasizes the need to strengthen institutional and fiscal frameworks to empower LRGs in financing sustainable development projects in their territories.

Capacity-Building Initiatives

Actions on sustainable development depend on human competencies and capabilities. Specific training initiatives in the new integrated framework and thematic scope covered by the SDGs are crucial to effectively implement the Global Goals. The majority of the surveyed countries underlined the need to properly train their staff across multilevels of government in order to implement SDGs. LRGs and their associations across the world have delivered SDG training and workshop initiatives for local officers in their regions. In addition, there are many publicly available guidelines, manuals, and webpages (for instance, that provide resources to facilitate SDG implementation. At this stage, LRGs in many countries reported that further training is required. LRGs in some low-income and lower-middle-income countries face the issue of shortages of professionals and well-trained officers.

Co-production of Data and Local Monitoring

As the Global Goals involve long-term policies over a 15-year period, periodic reports must be undertaken to monitor and evaluate the progress made toward achieving the SDGs. How to report, monitor, and evaluate the progress of implementing SDGs at national and subnational levels remain challenging tasks for many countries. Several countries have implemented a system to monitor SDG localization, as coordinated by the central government through the establishment of dedicated multilevel monitoring mechanisms (GTF 2018b). While it is essential to develop indicators on local circumstances and to produce territorially disaggregated data, the indicators utilized for monitoring at the subnational level should align with those used at national and international levels, namely, for the purposes of preparing national reports and monitoring the progress nationally and globally (nrg4sd 2018).


Partnerships enable the sharing of experiences, bridging of knowledge gaps, and combining of personnel and financial resources to translate the Global Goals into concrete actions for sustainable development. Partnerships can take many forms of LRG collaboration with other governmental and nongovernmental actors, for example, partnerships with businesses, academia, NGOs, and international organizations. Becoming a member of expert networks and joining associations across different levels of governance are also reported to be beneficial to LRGs as a peer-learning mechanism to share knowledge and experiences in localizing the SDGs (nrg4sd 2018).

Partnerships for SDG Localization

Partnership is one of the five thematic areas identified in the Preamble of the Agenda 2030: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership – known as the 5 Ps of the SDGs (GTF 2017b). SDG 17 which reads “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnerships for Sustainable Development” emphasizes partnerships as essential vehicles to mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technologies, and financial resources to support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries (UCLG 2018). SDG 17 sets out to foster effective collaborations among multi-stakeholders by building on previous experience while responding to current and future sustainable development challenges within their territories. These partnerships are expected to complement governments’ efforts at the national and subnational level (Okitasari et al. 2018).

Value Creation: The Partnership Spectrum

The maximization of the value created by collaboration should be the basis for all partnerships. A partnership mechanism should only be used if it has the potential to create value more than each of partner’s individual value in the efforts to localizing the SDGs. Partnerships allow partners to not only focus their resources and work on delivering a greater impact and net value to all partners but also to avoid the areas where extra value is not being created. The range of partnerships can be classified into three broad categories, depending on how the nature of the partnership influences the types of value created for the partners and for beneficiaries: leverage/exchange, combine/integrate, and transform (Stibbe et al. 2018).

Leverage/Exchange Partnerships

The first category of partnership refers to complementary collaborations. One organization provides resources to another to utilize toward its own strategic goals. For instance, a mutual benefit collaboration between an aid agency with a university research center. The research center can access research funding or sources of data and case studies from the agency while providing expertise and research outputs to the agency.

Combine/Integrate Partnerships

The second type of partnership is a cross-sector collaboration between two or more organizations to use pooled resources to tackle a common challenge or to achieve a shared strategic goal. The aim of combining resources is to achieve the outcomes that cannot be created by a single organization working independently. Common challenges in combining resources include sensitivity to cultural differences among the partners. A commitment to build a mutual trust as well as a higher degree of planning and operational procedures are necessary in combine/integrate partnerships.

Transform Partnerships

The final type of partnership brings together multi-stakeholders to work on an innovative way to create systemic change in a complex environment. The problem definition in such environment is often unclear, and multi-stakeholders will have different views and ways to tackle the problem. Partners that collaborate to address a development challenge in a complex environment will need to adapt to find a solution that is feasible and politically acceptable to all.

The three categories of partnership exemplified in Table 2 demonstrate the spectrum of collaboration purposes, value creation, and nature of relationships between partners. This classification is not clear-cut, and many partnerships involved in localizing the SDGs may fall into more than one category (Stibbe et al. 2018). As of November 2018, more than 4,000 partnerships and initiatives to support the implementation of SDGs across the globe have been published in the Partnership for SDG Online Platform. It is the UN’s global registry of voluntary commitments and multi-stakeholder partnerships that functions as a platform to foster global engagement around partnerships and to link the progress of those initiatives to follow-up mechanisms of the 2030 Agenda. Registered initiatives are required to align with SMART criteria of deliverables, i.e., Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Resource-based, with Time-bound deliverables (UN DESA 2016; UN DSDG 2018b).
Table 2

Examples of the partnership spectrum


Project Last Mile

Value created:

Time frame: February 2010 to December 2019

 Organizational value

Partners: Coca-Cola, the donor partners (USAid, the Global Fund, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and key stakeholders (Ministries of Health in African countries where the project is implemented, Yale Global Health leadership institute)

Project Last Mile leverages Coca-Cola’s expertise in distributing beverages to the most remote corners of Africa, to build African government capabilities to ensure communities have better access to critical medicines and medical supplies

Source: UN DSDG (2018a)



Value created:

Time frame: January 2018 to December 2019

 Organizational value

Partners: SOLShare, Grameen Shakti and the UN DESA

 Mission value

SOLShare is a Bangladesh based partnership for smart peer-to-peer solar grids for rural electrification and empowerment. Grameen Shakti, a major supplier of renewable energy, provides access to its massive customer and solar home system networks. SOLShare brings expertise and cutting edge, innovative technology to train Grameen Shakti’s field staff on peer-to-peer smart grid installations, maintenance and accounting (mobile money wallets). The SOLShare market based platform enables villagers to swap electricity with a mobile money-enabled billing system. It facilitates villagers to gain flexibility to get power whenever they need and to generate income from their electricity trade

Source: UN DSDG (2018d)


Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)

Value created:

Time frame: 2010 to N/A

 Organizational value

Partners: 43 countries, hundreds of local actors across civil society, the United Nations, researchers, business enterprises, and donor agencies

 Mission value

SUN countries establish priorities and plans to combat undernutrition in their territories. The focus is on a set of evidence-based direct nutrition interventions. National and subnational governments of SUN countries are putting the right policies in place. At the country and subnational levels, the governments collaborate with multi-stakeholders to mobilize resources to implement SUN programs locally, with a core focus on empowering women

Source: UN DSDG (2018c)

Source: adapted from Stibbe et al. (2018)

Partnerships for Financing the Efforts to Localize the SDGs

The attainment of SDGs requires a shift of how stakeholders work in partnerships and finance local actions for sustainable development. The focus of financing is on accelerating the level of both public and private investments in the development programs that are tailored to address territorial challenges and local context. Partnerships for financing SDG localization include public-private partnerships (PPPs) and philanthropy/community foundation.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP)

The term public-private partnerships (PPPs) is used internationally with a wide variety of meanings (see Acemah 2017 for an overview of PPP definitions). In this context, PPP refers to private investment in public infrastructure. The latest report released by the World Bank (2018) on the review of 135 countries infrastructure investment highlights the substantial gap between the investment need and actual investment. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) play a critical role in helping fill this gap to facilitate access to capital, allow off-balance sheet borrowing, increase innovation, and help transfer risks (Mohieldin 2018). As long-term large infrastructure projects, PPP projects involve a vast array of interconnected relationships among local actors. The fundamental one is the long-term contractual collaboration between the government’s procuring authority and the private stakeholder (the project company). Another crucial relationship is between these two parties with other stakeholders, including the end users, local community and businesses, and civil society groups that will be affected by or can influence the project (Global Infrastructure Hub 2018).

Philanthropy/Community Foundation

The Council on Foundations (2018) defines a foundation as an entity that engages in their own direct charitable activities or supports charitable activities by making grants to unrelated organizations or institutions or to individuals for charitable purposes. Depending on the parties involved, foundations can be classified into private foundations and public charities. Private foundations are financially supported and run by either a small group of individuals, families, or corporations. Public foundations are publicly supported charities such as hospitals, schools, and churches. Public foundations receive their funds from multiple sources.

Community foundations have been actively involved in localizing the SDGs. The Council of Foundations’ report (Ross 2018) emphasizes that more than 1,800 community foundations operating globally can connect their local work with the Global Goals. The report presents nine case studies of community foundations from around the world that channel their philanthropy interests toward attaining SDGs 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 17. The involvement of community foundations in localizing the SDGs is crucial. They work with local partners in the communities they serve to solve local problems and improve lives at the local level. The SDG Philanthropy Platform (2018) reports emerging examples of collaboration between foundations around the SDGs in seven focus countries: Ghana, India, Indonesia, Zambia, Kenya, Columbia, and Brazil. Notably, many community foundations have not engaged in the SDGs yet. Governments and other local actors need to engage community foundations as an important partner to implement locally relevant development programs.

SDG Localization: The Growing Relevance of Cities and Urban Development

Urban development is a significant factor in achieving the Global Goals as the population data show that the future of humankind is linked with cities. Globally, more people live in cities than rural areas nowadays. While only 30% of the world’s population lived in cities in 1930, a recent statistic showed that 55% of the global population reside in urban areas in 2018. This share of people living in urban areas is projected to increase to 70% of the global population by 2050 (UN 2018). The urban population growth will in turn lead to the changing landscape of the global economy, as around 70% or the world economic activity currently occurs in urban regions (ICLEI 2015). This trend illustrates why cities have become one of the most crucial players in incorporating the Global Goals on urban development.

The significant role of cities in achieving the Global Goals was highlighted in SDG 11, which was clearly a dedicated urban goal. SDG 11 focuses on putting cities at the heart of sustainable development in an urbanizing world (GTF 2018b). It aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030. Notably, for the overall global development agenda, SDG 11 or the urban goal is not only about cities. SDG 11 emphasizes the importance of localizing SDGs across multilevel governance. It is a territorial-based approach to sustainable development with a specific focus on urban, rural-urban, and regional linkages. The future global achievement of the SDGs will depend on how people in cities manage their lifestyles and consumption within the interrelated networks of urban-rural and rural-global resource flows and chains of production.

Targets for Cities and Urban Development

The targets for SDG 11 can be classified into two groups: seven thematic targets (11.1–11.7) addressing the areas that the urban development needs to focus on and three targets on the means of implementation (11.a–11.c) (ICLEI 2015). The thematic targets include SDG 11.1 Housing and Basic Services, SDG 11.2 Public Transport, SDG 11. 3 Urban Planning, SDG 11.4 cultural Heritage, SDG 11.5 Urban Resilience, SDG 11.6 Environmental Impact, and SDG 11.7 Green and Public Spaces. Three targets of implementation include SDG 11.a Urban-Rural Relations, SDG 11.b Integrated Policies, and SDG 11.c Governmental Capacities. Based on the premise that cities do not live in isolation, urban governments need to cooperate with rural and regional governments on which they depend on for food and natural resources to create a better future (ICLEI 2015). Table 3 show the example of initiatives addressing each of SDG 11 targets.
Table 3

Initiatives for the urban goal

SDG 11 targets


11.1 Housing

Ireland – the National Asset Management Agency identified 6,575 vacant units owned by the banks. A total of 2,526 units was then allocated for social housing purposes

11.2 Transport

WhereIsMyTransport – launched in 2016, an open digital platform that provides information on formal and informal transport services in 20 cities in 10 countries in Africa and Middle East regions

11.3 Planning

The Joburg 2040 – the strategic city planning of Johannesburg, the long-term plan that represents multilevel and integrated responses to the city’s urban challenges

11.4 Heritage

The agenda 21 – the UCLG report launched in 2018, contains over 130 examples that are indexed based on 17 SDGs, and 9 thematic commitments of 21 culture actions

The international council on monuments and sites (ICOMOS) has been active in capacity building and advocacy efforts to preserve heritage

11.5 Resilience

100 resilient cities (100RC) – created in 2013, provides resources to the cities in 100RC network to develop a roadmap to resilience

11.6 Environment

Beijing – relocated 1,200 polluting plants from the urban core areas in 2016 to control air pollution

11.7 Public spaces

Bristol, UK – growing a European green capital

11.a Urban-rural relations

Vancouver, Canada – uniting municipalities with regional food system strategy

11.b Integrated policies

Sendai, Japan – Role Model City in making cities resilient campaign

11.c Governmental capacities

Bonn, Germany – Project 50 municipal climate partnerships until 2020: Bonn partnerships with Cape Coast (Ghana), La Paz (Bolivien), and Linares (Chile)

Source: compiled from ICLEI (2015) and GTF (2018b)

Concluding Summary

While the SDGs represent a global agenda, they require local action to achieve them. Local development requires linking local and regional governments’ agendas with the Global Goals. Globally, the involvement of LRGs and their associations in SDG localization is progressing in all regions. A better support system for LRGs is needed to accelerate SDG localization. Main areas that need to be improved include enabling institutional framework, the access to financial schemes, capacity-building initiatives, monitoring framework, and partnerships with multi-stakeholders.

Multi-actor partnerships play a key role in the implementation of the interlinked Global Goals. Partnerships focus on creating an enabling environment and supportive conditions for the effective attainment of the other 16 SDGs in local development. The fundamental benefit of cross-sector partnership is co-creation to maximize the value created by collaboration toward localizing the SDGs. Partnerships facilitate multi-parties to bring together diverse resources to operate together in SDG localization to achieve more: more impact, more sustainability, and increased value to all.

Considering that cities represent more than half of the world’s population and two thirds of the global economy, concrete actions on sustainable development at the city level are crucial to the successful attainment of the SDGs. If LRGs and other urban actors are sufficiently empowered by nations and international agencies, local development can unlock its full potential to achieve the 17 Global Goals and the SDG principle “leaving no one behind.” As cities become more sustainable globally, so will the world.




The research was supported in part by the 2018 Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ) Research Grant and Faculty of Business and Law, Swinburne University of Technology.


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Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne Business SchoolSwinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Monica Thiel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public Administration and School of Business AdministrationUniversity of International Business and Economics & China University of PetroleumBeijingChina