In recent years it has become clear that many of the world’s greatest transformations from digitalization to climate change make their most profound impacts at the local level. Cities are the new powerhouses of the world, and now build a global community much like nation-states before them. The desire to move our role from a mere implementor to the setting of the global agenda is shared among many cities. As mayors, we are responsible for providing the best possible conditions for the everyday lives of our citizens. Increasingly, this means responsibility beyond our physical borders.

In July 2018, New York City became the first city in the world to submit a Voluntary Local Review of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to the United Nations. Through this historic move, New York City took what had been essentially seen as nation-state level commitment to the level of the people. NYC’s example paved the way for other local governments to develop similar targets for achieving the SDGS.

Launched in 2017, Helsinki’s strategy illustrates many areas in which the city champions the implementation of the SDG’s. Ensuring comprehensive economic, social and ecological sustainability is one of the growing city’s core missions. Helsinki also aims to profile itself as pioneer local implementer of global responsibilities.

In July 2019 Helsinki became the first city in Europe to submit a VLR to the UN. The goal of the commitment is simple: to illustrate the successes and challenges of Helsinki’s progress toward achieving the SDGs, to produce understandable and open information about the city’s sustainable development, and to encourage open dialogue on sustainability within the global community.

From early on it was evident that many cities around the world consider joining the VLR movement. New York’s example has encouraged us to use a stronger voice on the global stage, and inspire others to use their local experiences as evidence of the important work that cities are doing. Dialogue with the United Nations is crucial in ensuring that in the future, cities will not be mere implementers of the global project, but are part of setting the agenda in collaboration with nation-states. This will in part ensure the efficient delivery of the SDGs on a global scale.

I challenge all European cities to join the VLR movement and commit to a successful implementation of the global goals.

See further:
From  Agenda to Action. The Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Helsinki 2019

Jan Vapaavuori
Mayor of Helsinki
Jan Vapaavuori
Mayor of Helsinki