One more year the Assembly of European Regions took part in the European Week of Regions and Cities with the organisation of a webinar together with its partners: Regions 4, ORU Fogar, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Catalan Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (ACCD), and the European Union EUROsociAL+ Programme.
The webinar which took place last 15 October addressed the question of “How cohesion policy can make regions deliver for a sustainable and fair Europe, and progress on the implementation of the SDGs“.
Magnus Berntsson, AER President, moderated the workshop and introduced the relevance of bringing cohesion policy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development together.
Local and regional authorities play a crucial role in achieving a sustainable future and accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Stefano Marta, OECD, estimated that the achievement of 65% of the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals depends on the regional and local action. Yet, municipalities and regions are not always meaningfully engaged in the implementation, follow up and review of the global goals.
Increasing the pace and scale of implementation efforts of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has become ever more important at this time of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the structural inequalities within and among countries, bringing to the fore the urgent need for further cooperation, stronger solidarity and resolute actions to build a more fair, sustainable, prosperous and resilient society. Regional inequalities aggravated by the pandemic have consequently under met prospects for realising the SDGs. In this regard, Agustí Fernández de Losada from the EUROsociAL+ Programme from the European Commission, stated that territorial cohesion is key to address regional disparities in Europe, and an indispensable element to allow sustainable development in an integrated regional perspective.
Javier Sánchez Cano from the Directorate-General of Development and Cooperation at the Catalan Government considered how the implementation of the 2030 Agenda can benefit from the policy capabilities of regions to strengthen the effectiveness and legitimacy of localized policy processes, and therefore, generate the necessary support to design and implement policies that will further enhance cohesion. Moreover, he emphasized the relevance to commit enhanced support to local and regional authorities for the localisation of the SDGs through a stronger cohesion policy and other relevant EU funding programme, which leads to a close alignment of the national programmes with the 2030 Agenda.
When it comes to the implementation of the SDGs, cohesion policy plays a central role. As Marta Marín, Delegate from the Basque Country to the EU, stated during the debate, cohesion policy through its multi-level and multi-stakeholder implementation approach and investments in strengthening people’s skills, creating job opportunities, fighting poverty and social exclusion, supporting small and medium enterprises, as well as in addressing major global issues such as climate change and migration; it will be an essential EU instrument for countries, regions and municipalities to make progress towards the SDGs.
The Sustainable Development Goals should be met leaving no one and no place behind. Regional and local governments must ensure cohesion policy programmes bring about the best outcomes for sustainable development and the localization of the SDGs, turning the 2030 Agenda into reality across Europe. The Secretary of Economy from the Government of Catalonia, Natàlia Mas, showcased how Catalonia has implemented the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development through cohesion policy.