SDGs and the role of local governments

When the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) were introduced in 2000, the development agenda relied heavily on national government involvement. The implementation modalities were primarily top-down and little role was left for local government.

As Reddy argues in a paper published in the African Journal of Public Affairs, the new SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) positively stress the critical role that regional and local governments have to play. Moreover, from the 17 adopted SDGs, SDG 11 is a clearly dedicated urban goal.

According to Reddy, this move to localisation “began earnestly in 2005, five years after it was initially  and implemented” (p:10). It was clear that the MDGs needed to ensure a better local anchorage. Thus, until the new SDGs were adopted, there has been “strong advocacy from local governments to be a key implementation partner in the achievement of the new SDGs” (p:1).

One of the advantages of the SDGs is to provide the international community with a shared framework for sustainable development. However, to reach the targets requires “support politically, financially, managerially and technically in a country context” (p:14). We therefore need to reflect on what tools, mechanisms, and strategies African local governments require in order to implement the SDGs at the local level.

Reddy particularly focuses on local government funding for SDGs, stating that “local government should be able to raise revenue towards the SDGs” (p:12), and that consideration should be given to raising bonds. Additionally, the role of local government in achieving the SDGs should be fully costed and worked out in partnership with higher spheres of government, especially at the national level.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving SDGs locally. Localisation can theoretically bring more flexibility and contextualisation to the implementation of the SDGS but there is also a need for greater linkages between national and local development objectives.

Article available in African Journal of Public Affairs Volume 9, Number 2 (2016), Open source.

Image: Wikipedia creative commons


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher African Journal of Public Affairs
Year 2016
Author(s) P.S. Reddy
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