Priorities for Subnational Governments to Overcome COVID-19 and Accelerate SDGs Localisation

A new UNU-IAS report and video offers insights into the challenges and opportunities facing local governments during the global pandemic.

A new UNU-IAS report explores how local and regional governments can overcome the deep impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver a resilient and sustainable recovery. Produced in partnership with United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific (UCLG ASPAC), COVID-19 and Progress on Subnational Localisation of the SDGs offers insights into the challenges and opportunities facing local governments during the global pandemic.

The report examines how COVID-19 has affected subnational progress on the SDGs as well as its broader socioeconomic impacts. It analyses the responses of subnational governments to the pandemic and their priorities for action in the short, medium, and long term. The findings are based on survey research engaging 52 regional and local governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, conducted in February 2021. An accompanying video (below) presents the key findings of the research.

Authored by Mahesti Okitasari (Research Associate, UNU-IAS), Richa Kandpal (JSPS-UNU Postdoctoral Fellow, UNU-IAS) and Upalat Korwatanasakul (Research Fellow,UNU-IAS), the report is an output of the UNU-IAS project Governance for Sustainable Development.


Research Findings

The key research findings include:

  • Vertical and horizontal coordination mechanisms across levels and among sectors are recognised by subnational governments to have a critical function in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • While the socioeconomic crisis linked to COVID-19 has had adverse impacts on subnational governments’ finances, its severity is perceived differently across different city types (i.e., small, medium, metropolitan) in their short and medium-term finances.
  • Subnational governments underline shifting priorities in overcoming the health crisis as the main challenge of localising the SDGs during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) are identified as the areas of high priority for implementation.

Policy Recommendations

The report identifies priorities for national and subnational governments, and other stakeholders working to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and accelerate SDGs localisation. Key recommendations include:

  • Ensuring coherent policy and governance to build back better — through multi-level and cross sector coordination to manage impacts of the pandemic; horizontal cooperation between subnational governments and with non-state actors; and national recovery strategies that manage the differentiated impacts of COVID-19
  • Pursuing resilient, inclusive, and green subnational finance — introducing financial management measures and fiscal tools to reduce imbalances at the subnational level and restore fiscal stability; increasing transparency and accountability; and establishing a funding mechanism for multi-year green recovery
  • Accelerating SDGs localisation to achieve inclusive, sustainable, and resilient recovery — aligning short-term responses with longer-term objectives by internalising the SDGs and other international frameworks; adopting SDGs-related approaches to support subnational government strategies; and accelerating digitalisation of services

This publication is available to download at UNU Collections.

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