Regions4, AER, ORU Fogar, UNDP, OECD, ACCD, and FIIAPP joined forces on 15 October 2020 to organise the event Achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development through Cohesion Policy, with the aim to tackle the main question of how cohesion policy can make regions deliver for a sustainable and fair Europe.

The event, convened within the European Week of Regions and Cities, called for stronger cooperation and solidarity in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, using cohesion policy as an essential instrument for SDGs implementation in regions. Basque Country and Catalonia shared their experiences and made recommendations on how to achieve better results in both agendas.

Setting the scene

Despite the increasing participation of many cities and regions in global fora, we are not on track. OECD’s recent data shows that 80% of regions have not achieved any of the targets in all goals, being the main gaps on environment and gender. There are opportunities in strengthening multilevel governance and using the SDGs as a tool for policymaking and not only compliance. Moreover, according to the specialist of the EUROsociAL+ Programme, regions should address challenges for territorial cohesion, such as the redefinition of economic models and consumption patterns towards a circular and green economy; the digital transition and technological transformation; and the increased inequalities reinforced by the current crisis. We must continue working on SDGs localization as a way out of the crisis, “from design to monitoring, it is an opportunity to redefine structural aspects of the way we live and the way we govern.” Similarly, the ACCD reiterated the importance of good governance and the key role played by regions in ensuring effective institutional coordination, mobilizing stakeholders’ participation, and establishing platforms for evaluation and progress tracking.

Successful stories

Basque Country and Catalonia shared their experiences and stressed the importance of having the 2030 Agenda as a framework for strategic guidance and the power of cohesion policy as an instrument for cooperation that represents 1/3 of the EU budget and is results-oriented.

The case of the Basque Country is an inspiration for partnerships with the private sector and smart specialization strategies. Its experience recommends the reinforcement of a territorial approach and the establishment of regional indicators to bring more effectiveness on reporting and measurement of SDG progress.

In Catalonia, the annual budget is linked to the SDGs and efforts are being made to increase economic resilience, supporting the transition to a carbon-free economy, accelerating digitalization, and strengthening public services. These elements are not only in line with the 2030 Agenda and the cohesion policy, but they reinforce each other. Both require finding a balance between social, economic, and environmental aspects as well as convergence towards a shared development standard.

It is widely accepted that successful and long-lasting transformations need bottom-up solutions. In order to have regional governments stepping up to make both agendas a reality, it is necessary to provide them with adequate competences and funding from higher instances of government – otherwise, subsidiarity cannot be achieved – and ensure their participation in decision-making processes – being simply asked to implement policies is not enough. “It is time to recognize the role of the subnational level and put the citizens at the center of the policies” said Natàlia Mas, Secretary of Economy of the Government of Catalonia.

Further information

The event recording can be accessed here: EWRC Replay

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