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Localising SDGs within Bangladesh municipalities

© sneha saran, flickr, 2017

Bangladesh is expected to graduate from the status of a Least Developed Country (LDC) by 2026. However, economic development is at risk due to the impact of climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2020, Bangladesh ranks 7th among the 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events. Adapting to climate change is thus vital to the country’s development. Furthermore, having one of the highest urbanisation rates, 50 % of Bangladesh’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2037. Therefore, the focus of SDG Localisation in urban areas is essential for Bangladesh.

The joint GIZ project ‘Improved Coordination of International Climate Finance’ (ICICF) implemented with the Economic Relations Division (ERD) within the Ministry of Finance, is addressing the country’s capacity development at local and national level to improve the access to finance and supporting to reach the Susatinabe Development Goals (SDGs).

Due to the dependency on additional funds to meet the financing needs for addressing climate change, the country plans to receive increased access to international climate finance by the following:

  1. approaching bilateral and multilateral development partners and international funding sources and
  2. mobilising sustainable finance from the private sector.

These approaches are being integrated into the national 8th Five Year Plan and in the SDG Financing Strategy. Bangladesh already developed national priority targets, a SDG Mapping, a SDG financing strategy and a national action plan, as well as a monitoring and evaluation framework to increase national SDG efforts Nevertheless,  due to the lack of tools and capacities of local officials, local efforts of SDG processes are not being reported to the national level and are not included into the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

Improving capacities to report SDG efforts to the national level

The joint project is focusing on developing climate projects that are ready for financing and address the involvement of the private sector. It is aiming to mobilise additional sources of climate finance through the three objectives:

  1. Support of the establishment of an International Climate Finance Cell at the Ministry of Finance to access financing
  2. Development of bankable climate projects achieving SDGs in cooperation with the private sector to pitch to funders and
  3. Involvement of local level actors in the achievement of the SDGs in the context of adaptation projects.

With the focus on objective 3, the project highlights the need for improved capacities to recognise SDG contributions on the local level and report the SDG achievements to the national level. The localisation of the SDGs is implemented together with the Governance Innovation Unit (GIU) and the  Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which holds the main coordination function for SDGs in Bangladesh.

The National Institute of Local Government (NILG) has the role of building capacities and concluding relevant research activities at the local level within governmental institutions. An SDG Manual developed by NILG is focusing on the localisation within district and sub-district level. In combination with the toolkit City WORKS, the SDG localisation process could be further expanded to local government institutions and address their major environmental and sustainability issues. Working closely with GIZ, NILG and a team of national experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, a team of international consultants has supported the development, customisation and validation of a comprehensive and practice-oriented training approach and a specific excel- based localisation tool for local government institutions officials. The tool was tested with 13 officials of one city cooperation and was revised after receiving feedback of its different city departments.

Implementation of City WORKS and the SDG Manual

In total, 15 NILG and 2 GIU trainers received a training of City WORKS. The jointly developed and customized approach also being included in the NILG annual course curricula. Afterwards, a training called “Tools and Methods of SDG Localisation for City Corporations and Municipalities of Bangladesh” was conducted with the participation of 31 officials and 8 selected representatives of six city corporations and municipalities. By having representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the NILG and from municipalities, the trainees gained an improved understanding on how to localise SDGs, how to design and implement projects that are aligned with the SDGs as well as on how to report properly their implementation.

The training was constructed in assessing the local priorities and a baseline and built on already conducted efforts of linking global goals and national indicators to project planning. Working together with national and local institutions provided a deeper understanding of the local needs and allowed the development of tailored training to meet the local demands. The user-friendly SDG Manual, an excel tool, allowed participants to develop and understand indicators of localisation processes.

©Luciana Maia, 2023

Through the trainings, local government institutions improved their capacities to identify SDG contributions of their implementing projects. SDG progress can now be better quantified on the local level and be reported to the national level so that progress towards achieving the SDGs locally in Bangladesh can be upscaled.

Increasing the visibility of subnational contributions to the SDGs

© GIZ/Lennard Kehl

The goal in Ghana was to set up an adequate monitoring system at the regional level that contributes to national SDG reporting. So what data already exists? And what kind of data is really suitable for (local) SDG reporting? President Nana Akufo-Addo seeks to position Ghana as a pioneer in the process towards achieving the SDGs. Since 2016, the SDGs have been embedded at the national level, with their implementation falling under the direct command of the High-Level Ministerial Committee and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) as lead implementing agency. Moreover, a Civil Society Organisations platform on SDGs was founded shortly after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda to coordinate efforts for achieving the SDGs. It unites over 300 unions, community-based organisations, NGOs and other groups. At the subnational level, it coordinates efforts, shares information and promotes peer-to-peer learning. At the national level, it serves as a space for collaboration between CSOs, government and the private sector.

However, while implementing the SDGs is prioritised in national policymaking, regional and local authorities had not been sufficiently involved in the process and thus were less aware of their role and potential contributions. However, to ensure an effective commitment to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda’s vision of “leaving no one behind”, a multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach is required that pays attention to both quality data and capable local actors and institutions for implementing, monitoring and reporting on the 2030 Agenda.

Thus, the goal in Ghana was to set up an adequate monitoring system at the regional level to foster awareness and improve SDG localisation where data is primarily collected – in cities, municipalities and districts. To do so, the key task was to identify which data is already being collected and what kind of data is suitable for (local) SDG reporting.

Within this context, GIZ’s Support for Decentralisation Reform Programme (SfDR), which was a joint collaboration between the Government of Ghana and the Government of Germany, collaborated with 60 district authorities, the national government and civil society organisations. Out of these, three partner districts in the Volta Region, namely Ho, Ketu South and South Tongu, were selected as pilot regions for improving subnational reporting capacities.

Localising the SDGs with the City WORKS approach

The localisation process was kicked off with a two-day workshop in November 2018. Since improved cross-sectoral cooperation is key for achieving the SDGs, the approximately 25 participants came from a wide range of municipal, district and regional departments, such as statistics, budget, regional and economic planning, health, gender equality, education and environmental protection.

Following the City WORKS method, the workshop was structured into different phases. The first phase focused on raising awareness and gaining a comprehensive and contextually specific understanding of the SDGs. Choosing suitable entry points, the SDGs were linked to the respective cities’ priorities as well as district development plans. This enabled participants to connect the SDGs to their day-to-day work and understand them as a guiding framework.

Moreover, the self-assessment with the SDG wheel was perceived as very useful. It allowed for a critical and in-depth reflection on the current implementation of selected SDGs, drawing particular attention to challenges around data collection and availability. The assessment also demonstrated that everyone and every department counts, as stated by the District Environmental Officer from Ho: “I have really understood the SDGs and I now know that I have a major role to play in making them work.”

Thus, the lively discussions from the first phase of the workshop helped participants to better position themselves and understand their roles within the process of localising the SDGs. It also initiated peer-to-peer learning and exchange across districts.

The second phase of the workshop aimed at identifying more specific measures for an effective monitoring framework. To this end, a detailed analysis of critical SDG targets was conducted. The exercise showed that participants had a good understanding of existing data challenges. Based on the analysis and a presentation of success stories from different sectoral areas, they then formulated ideas for a more effective data management and developed specific, localised SDG indicators to better measure progress and overcome the identified data gaps.

Last but not least, to foster the implementation of the previously defined measures, each district prepared a plan for action. The plans entailed activities in the fields of raising awareness, stakeholder engagement, capacity development and data management, and defined a timeline and responsibilities for each activity.

What happened afterwards?

To disseminate the newly gained knowledge, two further trainings – one on data visualisation and one on monitoring & evaluation – were conducted in each of the three pilot districts and later scaled up to cover the remaining fifty-seven partner districts of the SfDR programme. Effective data visualisation is key when communicating on SDG-related data in a more accessible and comprehensible way. Besides reports, communication materials such as flyers and banners were created. Watch the following clip to hear what Doreen Korkor Dugbatey, assistant statistician at Tarkwa-Nsuaem municipality, has to share about what she learned:

As a result of the second training on SDG monitoring, a District Development Data Platform (DDDP) was developed. It addresses identified gaps in data quality and assurance and includes visualisation and SDG tracking tools. Bringing together local, regional and national monitoring and reporting, it thus provides a comprehensive monitoring system. Additionally, its public interface allows for interaction with platforms of other (international) institutions. Have a look at this short introductory video about the DDDP:

Since the piloting phase proved to be very successful, an institutionalisation of the aforementioned process at national level is currently taking shape. Within the revision of Ghana’s national policy guidelines and framework for districts, some of the City WORKS tools, such as the SDG self-assessment shall be incorporated to become a requirement for all municipalities and districts. Moreover, based on the City WORKS tools, roadmaps were developed by the districts, on the basis of which respective districts were supported to incorporate them into their Medium-Term Development Plans (MTDP). From the MTDPs, district annual action and development plans are derived for implementation.

Aside from these overall developments, a hackathon – one of the many innovative ideas envisioned during the kick-off workshop – was conducted in 2019. During the hackathon, two apps for citizen-generated data were developed by GIZ and its partners, with the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) being the lead agency. The apps allow for easy and anonymous reporting of incidents reaching from gender-based violence to poor waste management to the respective municipal authorities. After an initial successful testing and launching phase in 2020, the apps were piloted in three districts (Central Gonja, Bono East and Ho). In a next step they will be scaled up to other districts before becoming fully accessible for the public.