While the current COVID-19 crisis reveals systemic interlinkages between all dimensions of sustainable development, it also reinforces the need to accelerate progress in the transformative pathways required by the 2030 Agenda.

In this context, Regions4, CoR/ECON, CEMR, Platforma, and Eurocities partnered in the event The Role of the SDGs in the Crisis Recovery held on 21 October 2020 within the EWRC, to discuss the contribution of local and regional governments in winning back the momentum of the SDGs, giving priority to a cross-sectoral action at the European level and beyond.

The event presented how local and regional governments are working with the SDGs while developing and implementing initiatives to overcome the consequences of the pandemic. Regions such as Åland Islands and Baden Württenberg stressed that even though COVID-19 has moved priorities, SDGs are a shared language for long-term thinking, and they help us move towards a more resilient world.

Some of the experiences shared include actions on strengthening the public health system, digitalization, support to local business, renewable energy, awareness-raising, stakeholders’ involvement, and collaboration across levels of governments and among governments worldwide.

Åland Islands’ representative said their bottom-up and inclusive plan to be fully sustainable by 2051 remains unchanged and is being used as a guiding tool to overcome the crisis. They formed a taskforce and produced the report “Åland’s path during and out of the corona crisis” stating that the crisis is not an argument to stop the work on sustainability. Åland also called for coherent actions at different levels and leadership, and continuity at the EU level, regretting the end of the EU sustainability award, which they won in 2019: “The European Commission should take full ownership of its role for an effective implementation of the SDGs.

Similarly, the President of Baden Württenberg Parliament declared “we should not postpone nor put SDGs aside, we need them more than ever.”

The event also addressed the goal to mainstream the SDGs in all EU policies and ensure coherent action and results, recovering ambitious recommendations of the EU Multi-stakeholders’ platform on SDGs. In this sense, Ms. Göger presented the plans of the EU Commissioner for Economy to integrate the SDGs in the European Semester and link them to the recovery process, addressing challenges such as the lack of visibility of SDGs and mismatches with individual goals.

The partners of the event are working together to put the SDGs back in the EU picture. In the concluding remarks, the Regions4 Sustainable Development Programme Manager said: “This event is another step towards a more constant dialogue with the European Commission on SDGs and will contribute to making progress on permanent institutional mechanisms. We urge the European Commission policy paper, which will be published later this year, to recognize local and regional governments as policy-makers and acknowledge the specific role of regions in the achievement of SDGs.

Further information

This year, the 18th European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) had more than 500 workshops organized fully online and spread over three weeks, each week following one of the main topics: Green Europe, Cohesion and Cooperation, and Empowering Citizens. Among the highlights was the first EU annual Regional and Local Barometer that measured the diverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and showed the ongoing negotiations between the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council.

To view the recording of the session The role of the SDGs in the crisis recovery, please visit the EWRC Replay section

To learn more about regions’ work to localise SDGs and Regions4 projects on sustainable development, please visit our Knowledge Hub or contact Ivy Moraes at imoraes@regions4.org