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:

Local Citizens and Non-Citizens in the Middle of the COVID 19 Pandemic

Everything stood still during the Pandemic Lockdown. Schools, restaurants, businesses and public transportation, among others, stopped or operated in a limited capacity. Most of the people waited for the government to provide support in terms of financial assistance and food packages. The situation revealed two types of inhabitants (Beneficiaries) living in local governments (communities): the local non-citizens and the citizens.

First let us define what are citizens. Citizens are those who are living or resides in the community that are registered voters and/or included in the masterlist (whether as senior citizen, person with disability, solo parent, etc.) of the local government. Non-citizens are those living in the community who are not registered voters and does not directly deal with the local government. Usually these are the transient workers, company workers, stranded people, and those who by choice doesn’t want to engage or be part of the community.

During the pandemic (or any other disasters), the local government procures and prepares supplies for distribution and formulate programs to support its people. The local government uses the masterlist in identifying the number of food packages or the budget to prepare for the relief operation. However, during the pandemic, many inhabitants took to social media their cries of being excluded from the support. Sometimes, they air their complaints even before the actual distribution of support to the point of accusing local leaders of politicking, corruption, and discrimination.

On the government side, they cannot just allocate resources not based on actual data while on the side of the non-citizens, they are also part of the community contributing to its economy and development. Both sides have strong points. I do not want to decide which is the right argument. I only hope that this incident brought learnings on both sides. This way we can prevent this from happening again when disasters occur (and disasters will definitely occur whether we like or not).

If a person is a non-citizen by choice, he/she should be ready if he/she is not included in the masterlist of beneficiaries. However, being a non-citizen does not exempt him/her from government services such as peace and order, health, environmental programs, etc. Other non-citizens can easily be included in the local government masterlist if they just register in the local Commission on Election (COMELEC) Offices available in all local governments. This is a strong document that you are part of the community. However, take note that if a person fails to vote two consecutive times, he/she will be written off from the COMELEC masterlist. Another way is to get identification card from the local government Social Welfare and Development Office if you are a senior citizen, person with disability, solo parent, etc. There are many ways to become a citizen of the community which requires very minimal effort.

Local Government is tasked to promote the general welfare of its inhabitants (whether citizens or non-citizens). Thus, local governments formulate plans, programs, and activities in promoting what is best to the community. Masterlists are outdated the very time it is submitted and adopted. Everyday a person is being born (die) or transfer to and from the community which is not captured real-time in the masterlist. Local government should be adept in developing projections or actually capturing the number of its inhabitants on a regular basis. The Philippines has a lower level of local government below the city/municipal level. This is the Barangay (Village) local government unit. The duties of its barangay secretary are to keep an updated record of all inhabitants of the barangay containing the following items of information: name, address, place and date of birth, sex, civil status, citizenship, occupation, and such other items of information as may be prescribed by law or ordinance; and to submit a report on the actual number of barangay residents as often as may be required by the sangguniang barangay. Hence, it is the duty of the local government to have an updated record or masterlist. They should also promote the COMELEC registration of the inhabitants by making it accessible and convenient to the (qualified) people.

The Pandemic revealed this simple issue that created a big impact during the incident. I feel that it is both the duty of the inhabitants and the government to reach out to each other. The inhabitants to fulfill its moral duty of registering and voting and the local government to carry out its mandate, improve planning tools, and reach out/encourage its inhabitants to participate in local activities and governance.

I hope we learned from this experience and I hope that as a community, we are all prepared and focused on our next/future challenges.