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Voluntary local reviews: evidence for greener, resilient and sustainable urban recovery in Eastern European and Central Asian countries in transition.
14th Tranche of the Development Account

The project aims to advance the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals in select Eastern European and Central Asian countries in transition by harnessing the potential of Voluntary Local Reviews as powerful long-term accelerators.

Project Goals
  • Strengthen capacities of Local and Regional Governments to develop Voluntary Local Reviews by connecting them to learning and capacity building activities, resources and global and regional advocacy.
  • Ameliorate multilevel coordination arrangements among cities, national governments, and strengthen linkages between regional and international processes on SDG implementation. 

How will this be achieved? The project outcomes will be achieved by focusing on 4 main components of work: technical cooperation, learning and capacity building, multilevel governance and regional and global advocacy.

Download the project overview

Implementing Partners
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
Main Activities
Technical cooperation
Voluntary Local Reviews

Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) are a process to monitor SDG achievement at the local level and powerful accelerators of the SDG localization process. UN-Habitat supports the development of action oriented VLRs that connect planning, financing, monitoring, and implementation of local implementation of the SDGs.

UN-Habitat’s strategic approach to VLRs connects the development of Voluntary Local Reviews with the Global Urban Monitoring Framework (GUMF) and action-oriented recommendations. VLRs hence become the building block of a long-term and transformative SDG localization process.

The project aims to support the pilot cities to develop VLRs by gradually strengthening the capacity for monitoring and reporting including, data collection, disaggregation, and analysis at local and national levels thought the piloting of the UMF. Furthermore, the development of VLRs will be based on a wide and robust participatory process where communities and territorial stakeholders are continuously involved.

Based on the analysis of findings, the VLRs will provide action-oriented recommendations for long-term strategies and planning.

Finally, the technical support to the development of the VLRs endeavors to inform the Voluntary National Reviews of the pilot countries, with the aim of creating coherence and efficiency through effective multilevel governance arrangements.

The project strives to be the launching point for further VLR development in the region and feed into the wider global SDG Localization movement.

Learn more about UN-Habitat’s comprehensive approach and methodology to VLRs for SDG localization

Learning and Capacity Building

Building on the learning and capacity building offers of the partners of the project, national and local public officials in the pilot cities and countries of the project will be trained on the concepts and practices of SDG localization and multilevel governance. The project proposes a mixed approach to learning and capacity building, combining traditional in-person opportunities and self-paced online tools. 

Specifically, trainings will be based an updated edition of the SDG Localization Training Module 2 and the online Voluntary Local Review Massive Online Open Course , amongst other learning and capacity building tools. The experience of the pilot cities and countries will then be fed into an online VLR Builder Tool to facilitate access to the VLR process to all involved stakeholders, particularly ensuring inclusion of those with less resources and capacities. 

Explore and learn more about the learning and capacity building tools.

Multilevel governance

The project adopts an overarching multilevel governance approach, aiming to enhance the SDG delivery capacity of both national and local governments. The project’s approach builds on vertical, horizontal, and stakeholder engagement coordination mechanisms of multilevel governance.

A key component of this process is the connection between the Voluntary National Reviews and Voluntary Local National Reviews. The project aims to strengthening the local governments inputs to the nation SDG reporting and implementing mechanism but also encouraging national governments demonstrate the creation of enabling environments and empowering local governments to accelerate the SDGs.

Global and Regional Advocacy

The partners will facilitate the connection of the project activities with the main UN-led and intergovernmental processes for SDGs with the aim of scaling up the lesson learned and results of the project, while exposing local and national representatives to global debates and processes.

Sessions to present and discuss the VLR and SDG localization process as well as to facilitate exchanges with partners from around the globe will be organized in the context of the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, the UN-Habitat Assembly, and the High-Level Political Forum. In the second part of 2023, the SDG Summit, Urban October, and the Forum of Mayors will be the central events the project will focus on. The cities’ VLR process will be finally link to the World Urban Forum 12, taking place in March 2024 in Egypt.

Explore the dedicate page to see upcoming and past advocacy efforts.

The National Urban Forum of Serbia!

The city of Nis

11-12th April, 2024- Held in Niš, the forum saw the presentation of the initial findings of the VLR of Niš and shared the theme of World Urban Forum, SDG localization. 

Bishkek VLR Working Group and Task Force Meetings

Meeting image

November 13, 2023- the meetings aimed at presenting the project to the Bishkek working group as well as the VLR methodology in order to advance the development of the VLR, including the selection of the SDGs and their indicators. SDGs 6,7,11,13 have been selected!

Dushanbe VLR Task Force Meeting

Meeting image

November 8-9, 2023- It was Dushanbe's turn for a task force meeting! It aimed to to gather inputs on available data and map the responsibilities of the city administration to be able to visualize the specific SDGs they are responsible for.  

Tbilisi VLR Task Force Meeting

Meeting image

October 30-31, 2023- The meeting served to share the VLR methodology, advance coordination of the project’s activities in Tbilisi, discuss the project’s roadmap of activities with the Task Force Members and discuss and agree upon the selection of SDGs and their indicators.

Meeting between the monitoring unit of Niš and UN-Habitat

Meeting picture

The project team travelled to Serbia and met with the monitoring unit in Niš to discuss and lay the plans for the VLR development, including the engagement of stakeholders and key upcoming events like the National Urban Forum of Serbia. 

SDG Monitoring Units at the Local Level Workshop

Meeting screenshot

September 26, 2023- The city of Niš recently achieved a significant milestone by establishing a dedicated monitoring unit within the City administration. Inspired by this experience, this technical workshop aimed to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with local-level SDG monitoring units/departments, featuring valuable insights from international partners who have successfully established local-level monitoring units (Greater Amman Municipality, Jordan and La Paz, Bolivia).

Partners meeting

Partners meeting picture

March 31, 2023 — a partner’s meeting was held in Geneva after the ECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The partners discussed the next steps for coordination with the pilot cities and countries including further coordination with the partners and stakeholders and detailed consultations on the ground to implement each of the project’s workstreams. The next step identified was the nomination of focal points in the local and national governing bodies.

A VNR-VLR studio is held at the ECE RFSD

Picture of the VNR-VLR studio

March 30, 2023 - The implementing partners, pilot cities and countries of the project gathered at the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in the ECE region to engage in a VLR-VNR studio.

Evidence for greener, resilient and sustainable urban recovery Workshop

Workshop flyer

December 6, 2022- The technical workshop kickstarted the implementation of the project.