How to Localize and Mainstream SDGs at the City Level

It is said that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were crafted using the bottom-up approach. Does this mean that the plans/goals came from City and Community levels? Or only at the Nation level? Is it safe to assume that there is a high understanding and commitment to the attainment of the SDGs at the Local Government Units (LGUs) level? Are the SDGs operationalize in its sense as an actual guide in local development planning and budgeting? How can Cities and Municipalities localized and even mainstream these SDGs?

SDGs are Global Goals enacted and adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015. SDGs are geared on universal call to action to end poverty, protection of the planet and ensures peace and prosperity to all people by 2030. The precursor of the SDGs is the Millennium Development Goals (MGs) 2000 – 2015.

For some LGUs, SDGs are big technical ideas that add to the increasing responsibilities of local public servants. Perhaps it is so big that a local project won’t even contribute to the said Big Goals. These SDGs requires baseline data that is not readily available and LGUs have difficulty producing exact required data sets given its lack of manpower and resources. It is an additional burden coming from the higher-ups. It is very seldom that we hear local officials include in their speeches and communications the importance of attaining the SDGs. It is best to continue doing business as usual taking care of the city and its populace without worrying about these SDGs. What they don’t realize is that if they are governing their LGUs well they are actually contributing to the attainment of SDGs. They just need to embrace and put to heart the importance and commitment to the SDGs.

In the Philippines, the National Agency assigned to collect data on SDGs is the Philippine Statistical Authority. Several memoranda were also released by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to LGUs regarding SDGs. Workshops were also conducted. Did it translate to the actual localization and mainstreaming of SDGs at the local level? I do not think so. It promoted awareness but not to the point of commitment to the goals.

International Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also coordinated with LGUs with regards to the promotion of SDGs. However, I observed that the sectors mostly targeted are only the Social Welfare, Health, and Environment at some degree. The attainment of SDGs requires all (majority) stakeholders’ support and commitment. The 17 SDGs are interrelated and interdependent in a way that you cannot isolate one SDG to another SDG. It is good that some sectors are already aware and actually conducting activities to support SDGs but we need to get everybody involved.

I would define localization as the adoption of SDGs by the LGU. Adoption may be in the form of an SDG-related program, plan, or activity. It may be a one-time activity or a series of projects. On the other hand, I define mainstreaming as sustainable adoption of SDGs. SDGs should not only be mentioned in plans and programs. SDG indicators should be embedded in the LGU plans, programs, and activities. These indicators should be monitored regularly. This is mainstreaming. Mainstreaming wherein stakeholders are both aware and supportive of the outcome of the SDG (indicators).

A few years back (2013), the Philippines Climate Change Commission (CCC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with the help of WorldBank chose the City of Santa Rosa as one of the pilot cities to mainstream Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET) in its Annual Investment Plan (AIP). The CCET purpose is to identify, prioritize, and tag Climate Change programs, activities, and projects as well as to track and monitor climate change expenditures of LGUs. In 2014, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2014-01 which encourages LGUs to track their climate expenditures in their AIPs. In 2015, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular 2015-01 which introduced the revised guidelines for tagging and tracking climate change expenditures in the local budget and DBM’s Local Budget Memorandum No. 70 which required LGUs to prepare their AIP using the revised AIP form which include a column under the CCET. These policies made sure that Climate Change activities are mainstreamed in the LGUs.

The Philippines has a good experience of mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) and Gender and Development (GAD) down to the level of cities and municipalities (LGUs). This was brought about by clear national policies and guidelines.

In 2010, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 10121 “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010”. The act mandated LGUs to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change in development processes such as policy formulation, socioeconomic development planning, budgeting, and governance. The act also required LGUs to set aside 5% of its annual budget (Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – LDRRMF) to support disaster risk management activities.

In 2012, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) – National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) -DBM released Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2012-01 Guidelines for the Preparation of Annual Gender and Development (GAD) Plans and Budgets and Accomplishment Reports to Implement the Magna Carta of Women. The PCW-NEDA-DBM JMC No. 2012-01 mainstreamed gender perspectives by identifying (attributing) GAD-related LGU programs, projects and activities in the AIP. Thus, mainstreaming GAD in local planning and budgeting. The JMC required a minimum of 5% of the total budget to be GAD-related. The budget for gender mainstreaming is a way for agencies to influence the entire agency program, plan and budget

Even without such National Government policies obliging LGUs to clearly mainstream the SDGs, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas of Santa Rosa in the Philippines took the initiative to mainstream SDGs in the City AIP. Mayor Arcillas asked the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Planning Head / Director) to conduct an SDG Orientation to all Department Heads and to request them to include the SDG indicators in their Department’s AIP.

Mainstreaming the SDGs in local plans will reinforce local public officials and employees to consciously include SDGs in their regular day to day activities and decision-making. LGUs would also feel that their projects are contributing to the Global Goals (how the small parts fit in the Big Picture). It is also easier to monitor the progress and outcome of projects using the indicators (Monitoring and Evaluation Framework – outcome measurement). Though, not all technical data are readily available at the LGU level, the LGU may start using indicators initially with known data sets. However, absence / inadequate data should not hinder LGUs in pursuing the SDGs. After all, even without acknowledging the SDGs, the LGUs are implementing projects that will directly affect the attainment of the SDGs.

Check your City / Municipality: Are your Local Leaders Localizing and Mainstreaming the SDGs?

Click the AIP SDG Orientation Report Below for Details:

3 Things I Learned from Attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School on Urban Resilience at the University of Southern Denmark

I am elated to be part of this year’s BLOXHUB Summer School on Urban Resilience 2020. The Summer School is under the International Urban Resilience Academy (IURA) program which serves as a platform for education, research, networking and capacity building activities on Urban Resilience hosted by the University of Southern Denmark. The BLOXHUB Summer School Urban Resilience brings together global practitioners, policy makers and researchers. This is the second the year that the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen hosted the summer school.

https://www.sdu.dk/en/forskning/sducivilengineering/iura/teaching+and+education+activities/bloxhub+summer+school+on+urban+resilience+2020

The summer school initial set-up was to invite participants to go to Copenhagen to attend the program. However, due the COVID 19 Pandemic, the plan changed and the organizers opted to conduct it on-line. The program itself was challenged by the Pandemic and proved its resiliency amidst the disaster. The conduct of the program served as a simple microcosm of what is happening globally. The program showed its resilience by understanding and analyzing the situation, being resourceful with the use of technology, and engaging the commitment of the participants and the organization as a whole.

But first, what is resiliency to you personally? When can you say that you are resilient? When can you say that your community or city is resilient? There are so many definitions of resilience – from being able to hang on through (survive) tough obstacles, being able to adapt to the current trials, up to being able to anticipate, plan, and not be significantly affected by the disaster when it arrives. My favorite is the UN Habitat definition of resilience which is “the ability of any urban system to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses while positively adapting and transforming towards sustainability”. Wherever we are in the world, there will always be issues and problems that will come our way, how we deal with these challenges define our state of resiliency.

The lecture part of the program was organized in two ways. First is the General Webinar hosted by IURA wherein anybody can register and attend. The second lecture is the Community Sessions exclusive for participants. The General Webinar and the Community Sessions presents a combination of lectures, reports, tools and methods or presentation of best practices. The Community Sessions served as an in-depth discussion of the general webinar.

This year’s batch is very diverse both occupationally and geographically. Though diverse, it seems that issues in different parts of the world are similar specially in climate change and its effects, governance, and this current pandemic.

Bloxhub participants

We were assigned to different groups and were given tasks and weekly outputs / deliverables.

My 3 Major Takeaways from attending the 2020 BLOXHUB Summer School

1st Takeaway – Importance of Systems Thinking / Approach

A system for me is a group of interrelated parts wherein if something happens to one part it will affect directly or indirectly all the other parts. A system is a defined group of different parts or components. To appreciate a system, imagine an aching tooth, the aching tooth no matter how small will affect the function of your whole body or the performance of your daily activities. It is up to the researcher / student to provide the context or define the boundaries of your system. It may range from a simple to a complicated system. In my example, we can define the system as limited as the oral cavity or as extensive as its relationship to actual work performance or family relationships.

Our group looked at the Water, Sanitation, and Health (WASH) system in informal settlements in Asia during the Pandemic. We analyzed it geographically looking at different contexts, culture, and norms. We also looked at its temporal situation (before and during COVID 19 and what is ideal post-Covid 19). The problem of WASH is already significant in informal settlements before COVID 19. COVID 19 amplified the problem and further put families in greater danger. We also learned that problems go beyond the WASH system. This include poverty, livelihood and land ownership, among others. However, we defined our system boundary to only include access to WASH given the limited time in preparing our outputs.

Systems Thinking / Approach allows you to understand the problem deeper and better and gives you a comprehensive set of solutions. The Summer School advocated consistently the use of systems thinking.

2nd Takeaway – Use of Tools (Systems Approach and Collaborative Tools)

In the absence of face-to-face communication, the summer course used its resourcefulness and maximize the available internet tools that helped in delivering an effective program. All the tools or online applications presented in the course are all new to me. The three new online applications I learned are Slack, Miro Board, and Kumu.

Slack is very similar to Whatsapp, Viber, or Facebook. It is an online messaging application where team members communicate and work together. Similar to other applications, you can send different files through Slack. It is also nice that I can use different apps for different groups. I used Slack for the course while using other apps for personal mode of communication and expressions. https://slack.com/intl/en-ph/

One powerful tool for collaboration is the Miro Board. It helps group work together effectively. There is a common board where members can work simultaneously. It is the main collaborative tool used in the course. It is very effective in brainstorming wherein members may put digital sticky notes as inputs. https://miro.com/

I enjoyed making system maps in Kumu. It is a visualization platform used for mapping systems and better understanding relationships. The map can also be shared with group members and a good tool for collaboration. It provides great visual to the map of the system and the relationship of its elements. We also used Kumu in mapping our solutions / intervention using the Theory of Change. The map is also great as a communication tool to audience and stakeholders. https://kumu.io/

3rd Takeaway – Heart of Resiliency – Vulnerable Sectors

The first meeting of the group involved a workshop that requires group member to personally assess their knowledge (Head), skills (Hands), and advocacies (Heart). It is similar to stating your strengths and weaknesses, expertise and motivation. I was surprised that all of the groups chose to help or focus on the needs of vulnerable sectors.

Some of the participants are from international agencies but the focus of their advocacies are cities and communities and not at the country level. Some of the participants are also urban planners but instead of proposing “big plans” (like those of Daniel Burnham), they also focused on what the community really need and how to improve the daily lives of these communities. The advocacies are not that complicated but will create big impacts to the community.

As a City/Urban Planner, I advocate the localization of Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement, Vision of the New Urban Agenda, etc. in our City. I realized that these big goals are just goals in paper agreed by higher level organization if not localized at the city or community level. These big goals will only serve as lip service if not alleviate the daily situation or struggles of the vulnerable sectors. All communities must be involved and committed to attain this global goal. Communities should be empowered to promote sustainability and resiliency. Probably, these are the reasons why most groups focused on local settings.

Attending the summer course is a great experience for me personally and professionally. Sometimes when you are at the local level, you may feel that what you are doing doesn’t contribute significantly to the betterment of the world. Now I believe that the fight to a sustainable and resilient world starts at the community / city level. I hope that more participants from Developing Countries will participate in the coming years. A very special thanks to the Organizer.

Is your City / Community Resilient?

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My Team – Javed Hussain (Pakistan), Shailendra K. Mandal (India), Ermin Lucino (Philippines) and Gusti Ayu Ketut Surtiari (Indonesia)