Tracking SDG progress the Bhopal way

Source: The post is based on the article “Tracking SDG progress the Bhopal way” published in The Hindu on 20th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for Protection & Betterment of Vulnerable Sections

News: Bhopal has released its Voluntary Local Review (VLR). With that it has become the first city in India to join the growing global movement on localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2015, 193 United Nations member-states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda consists of 17 SDGs and 169 targets aimed at people, planet, and prosperity.

To depict the progress on the agenda, member-states submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF). This submission was recently extended to the local level. Now Voluntary Local Review (VLR) is also submitted which reports local implementation of SDGs at the sub-national and city levels.

What are the provisions of localisation of SDGs through VLRs?

Cities are crucial for achieving at least 65% of the 169 SDG targets, necessitating local urban stakeholders’ involvement. The VLR serves as a tool to showcase local actions leading to equitable and sustainable transformations.

Although it is ideal for city’s VLR to align to the State-level action plan (where available) and the country’s VNR, VLR mechanism allows flexibility to the cities to select the SDGs to focus upon.

This flexibility is given, considering the fund crunch and logistical challenges of cities.

India’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

India has made notable progress towards adoption and achievement of the SDGs, with NITI Aayog presenting India’s second VNR at the HLPF in 2020.

The Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) of India has published a National Indicator Framework (NIF) for the review and monitoring of the SDGs, representing India’s unique development journey.

Efforts of India towards localisation of SDGs

India has made significant progress towards adoption and achievement of the SDGs. NITI Aayog presenting India’s second VNR at the HLPF in 2020.

NITI Aayog reported that at least 23 States and Union Territories have prepared a vision document based on SDGs. Almost all of them have initiated steps to localise the SDGs. However, it is a time taking process.

Significance of Non-Governmental Stakeholders in the VLR Process

A VLR does not necessarily have to be initiated by a local government. It can be carried out by any city-level stakeholder within the framework of Agenda 2030.

Bhopal’s VLR is the result of a collaboration between the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, UN-Habitat, and more than 23 local stakeholders.

Bhopal’s VLR has helped identify the city’s performance areas in solid waste management, public transportation, and open spaces per capita.

It also highlights areas that need improvement, like provisioning of adequate shelter, air pollution, city planning capacity, and even distribution of open spaces.

In the city of Canterbury in the United Kingdom, some residents and local groups came together to do the VLR, with the help of local government. However, the local government merely served as interlocutors in the VLR process.

Similar examples have been observed in Dhulikhel (Nepal), Singra (Bangladesh), and Amman (Jordan).

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