September 25 is a global day of action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commemorating the adoption of the 17 goals. Thousands of people, civil society organisations and institutions around the world are taking concrete actions to show the commitment for the achievement of the SDGs. A special UN #Act4SDGs campaign is organised to promote active involvement globally. The Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) joins this campaign, summing up the work and projects already accomplished in cooperation with local governments towards achievement of the SDGs and planning next activities.
Local governments in Latvia are experienced participants in the field of development cooperation implementing a number of projects together with partners from the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia countries – Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and others. The LALRG has been sharing its expertise and knowledge on local budget planning, negotiations with the government, involvement of citizens in the decision-making process, promotion of local business and other issues. It has been highly evaluated by the local governments and their associations in these regions as practical and instrumental input facilitating growth and development of local governments.
LALRG has implemented several projects in the past years and continues to work on public information and awareness raising regarding SDGs implementation possibilities and challenges in Latvia and globally. The project “Local Authorities as Drivers for Development Education and Raising Awareness” (LADDER) has given municipalities the ability to develop skills to think globally and act locally by linking the global challenges with the everyday life in local governments. The goal of the project was to strengthen the local government’s capacity and role in development education and awareness raising and to disseminate the best practise. In the framework of LADDER project, the LALRG has organised several training seminars for Latvian local governments how to promote awareness and understanding of local community on development education, international development priorities, sustainable development principles and personal engagement of every member of local society. Furthermore, two grant competitions were organized in 2016 and 2017 for the implementation of development education projects in Latvian municipalities. The highest-ranking projects were from Jelgava, Auce, Jēkabpils, Rucava and Ķekava municipalities. For example, Jelgava municipality produced a game which reflects the interactions between society, the environment and the economy to inform local community about all 17 SDGs. The questions and answers of the game cover Jelgava municipality, Latvia and the European Union, so it is a good opportunity to test and supplement our knowledge in these areas.
Since 2016 the LALRG is an active partner of the action “Working together towards empowering local and regional governments for effective development outcomes in EU partner countries”. This long-term action is implemented within the Strategic Grant Agreement (SGA) signed by the European Commission and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) on behalf of PLATFORMA. PLATFORMA is a pan-European coalition of 30 local and regional governments and their associations active in development cooperation.
The promotion of a multi-stakeholder approach both in development cooperation and in the implementation of the SDGs in Latvia is a key common trend of all LALRG’s activities within the framework of the action. The Association has organized a series of discussions devoted to the most topical SDGs for Latvian municipalities. For example, the seminar “The way of Latvia towards sustainable development: flashing lights for 2030” had been organized in cooperation with the Association of Executive Directors of Latvian Local Governments. It was dedicated to the SDG 11 “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” and discussed what has been already achieved and the future challenges and tasks how to facilitate joint work of citizens, local governments and state institutions, involving them in the national planning and financing framework. The seminar “It’s not a rocket science! Innovation and digitalization in municipalities and development cooperation” was devoted both to the SDG 9 “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and development cooperation topic. The seminar participants discussed how to facilitate the innovation ecosystems, i.e. cooperation between municipalities, universities and entrepreneurs.
One of the best practises of the project in Latvia is the cooperation with Jaunpils municipality involving youth and children in the awareness raising on localization of sustainable development goals. It was a series of events, including a creative workshop “Wise, even wiser: understanding UN SDGs together” where Jaunpils Secondary school students made a wooden puzzle depicting SDGs, followed by their study visit “Me and EU: understanding the European Union” to Riga and visiting the EU House, the national parliament and the LALRG to learn more about SDGs implementation in Latvia and the role of municipalities in this process. The participants of Jaunpils “Animation Studio” produced 10 cartoons featuring how children and young people understand SDGs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5ZV7BZa2uo .
Another set of activities within this project is organization of European Local Solidarity Days (EDLS) in different regions of Latvia in 2016 and 2017 to increase awareness of Latvian community and local governments on development cooperation and development education. Also this year 5 Latvian municipalities will organize EDLS hosting their partners from Eastern Partnership countries and organizing various events.
A lot has been already achieved towards the implementation of SDGs in Latvia, yet more and more opportunities open up for the LALRG and local governments in Latvia. Participation in the development education and development cooperation projects provide new knowledge, experience and skills to Latvian local governments.
We are proud that Latvian experience is acknowledged also internationally. Current and upcoming challenges in the implementation of the SDGs in the topic of the round table discussion moderated by Mudīte Priede, Secretary General of LALRG on September 26 during the retreat of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs