Actions taken at the local levels in Africa are central in the continent’s efforts to ‘build forward better’ from the pandemic. This recognition has resulted in African member States embracing this approach. This was a key takeaway from a side-event on Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), hosted by ECA on the sidelines of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York.
The side-event featured a presentation and discussion of the forthcoming Africa Regional Voluntary Local Review (VLR) Guidelines, produced jointly by ECA, UN-Habitat and UCLG-A. In introducing the guideline, Jean-Paul Adam, Director of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management Division at ECA, revealed that it was developed in response to a mandate from member States at the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in 2020, and that it will assist countries in tracking both the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
Oumar Sylla, Regional Director for Africa at UN-Habitat, noted that more than 60 per cent of SDG targets relate directly to local regional governments, and that Africa continues to urbanize – with more than half the population set to live in cities within 15 years – making the localization of sustainable development even more vital.
This was echoed by Jean-Pierre Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG-A, who added that COVID-19 has presented challenges to local governments particularly regarding their budgets, and that the VLR is a holistic approach wherein all actors are partners and can contribute – a process that will benefit localities’ COVID-19 response plans.
In responding to the regional guidelines, high-level representatives of Hodh Chargui, Cape Town, Accra, Victoria Falls and the Uganda National SDG Secretariat noted that such a guide is pivotal to build on the specific experiences of African cities, districts and governorates. These localities are at different stages of VLR completion, and their experiences both directly fed into the guidelines, and will be further assisted by the publication of the guidelines.
The event, which was hosted by ECA, UN-Habitat, UCLG-A, DESA and OSAA, is one in a series of consultation and dissemination events organized around the VLR process in Africa.