Partnering with other levels of government
Evidence received during the inquiry largely focused on the national
government level. However, Australia's first voluntary national review (VNR)
noted that 'many targets in the SDGs are in the purview of subnational levels
Therefore, the committee heard that, to 'be effective, a governance structure
that provides for coordination and communication across the Australian
Government and between the three levels of government will be needed'.
This chapter summarises suggestions from the evidence for how the
Australian Government can support SDGs implementation at international, state
and territory, and local government levels. It also includes some examples
illustrating how other levels of government are engaging with the SDGs.
The evidence received by the committee on the challenges to SDGs
implementation in Australia was similar to the situation in some other
countries such as the United Kingdom.
However, the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) contended that Australia
can learn from the countries ranked highest on the international SDG Index
(Sweden, Denmark, and Finland) as well as 'the so-called developing nations
that have been required to practise sustainable development for many years'.
The Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) stated:
A review of best practice across international examples
reveals several consistent elements for delivering effective progress toward
the SDGs; clear lines of responsibility, clear mechanisms for engaging and
communicating with a broad set of local and international stakeholders, a
comprehensive/national strategy, planning and policy approach, with targets
that refer to the SDGs and assessment of decisions, policies and programmes
against SDG outcomes.
Examples from submissions of international best practice in SDGs
implementation are dispersed throughout this report.
While it appears as though the SDGs have not been a consistent or
significant focus in ministerial statements and speeches to Parliament, submissions
from Australian Government agencies provided examples of international
engagement on the SDGs. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has
engaged 'with international counterparts to discuss approaches to implementing
the SDGs and preparing VNRs'.
Examples include bilateral discussions with development partners; high level development
dialogues with Canada, the EU, Korea, Japan and Germany; and engaging on the
implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda at the High Level
Political Forum (HLPF), ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development, and UN
General Assembly Second Committee.
Australia has participated in each HLPF, and in 2017 sponsored a side event on
closing the gender data gap.
Similarly, the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) stated
that it would continue to review VNRs and work directly with other countries 'as
appropriate to learn from their experiences'.
It has engaged on the SDGs at a range of levels with bilateral partners such as
New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
It has also engaged through multilateral organisations, and the majority of
meetings and conferences of the parties to various international environmental
agreements have standing agenda items on the 2030 Agenda.
An official from the Department of Jobs and Small Business also said that the
SDGs 'are often a reference point for us in our consultations and discussions
in the G20, the OECD, APEC and the International Labour Organisation'.
Other examples include the Department of Health, which has been involved
in the work of the OECD Health Committee to gradually integrate the SDGs into its
It also noted efforts 'to develop and implement policy that strengthens the
alignment between sport policy and the SDGs'.
When Australia hosted and chaired the 9th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting,
a key agenda item was 'leveraging sport investment as a contributor to the SDGs
and human rights'.
Australian Government agencies have also contributed to the
international effort to develop the global indicator framework and develop data
systems to allow measurement and tracking of the SDGs. In particular, the Australian
Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has 'made a considerable investment, and played a
key role', in developing the global indicator framework.
Geoscience Australia is also contributing to SDG data and monitoring at the
international level, and its Digital Earth Australia analysis platform is being
considered internationally as a tool for contributing to the SDGs and
monitoring and reporting progress.
Some departmental submissions also claimed that their general, pre-existing contributions
to UN bodies, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, can be seen to
support the SDGs.
Some submissions highlighted opportunities for Australia to further contribute
to the regional implementation of the SDGs. Vision 2020 Australia suggested that:
Agreements through the ASEAN on the SDGs could lead to the
betterment of many people throughout South-East Asia and Australia. It would
also cultivate closer ties with a region of growing importance to the
Australian economy and security.
Business Call to Action and Business for Development further proposed that
government support 'countries in the ASEAN region to develop inclusive business
policy as a means to stimulate private sector contribution to the SDGs',
including by assisting 'member countries in developing specific initiatives,
platforms and support structures that will amplify SDG impact'.
Some Australian Government agencies indicated that they were already
engaging on the SDGs through regional organisations. DFAT, for example, noted
that it has worked with the Pacific Island Forum.
It has also participated in:
...regional and global meetings including the G20 and the
Spring Meetings of the World Bank, the ASEAN Ministers Workshop on 'Navigating
the Headwinds of Sustainable Development in ASEAN', the Asia Pacific
Development Effectiveness Facility conference on Financing the SDGs, and
Asia-Pacific Forums on Sustainable Development.
The Department of Health gave examples of contributing to the
implementation of the SDGs through a range of regional organisations. For
example in '2016 and 2017, Australian representatives participated in WHO [World
Health Organization] regional consultations to develop a monitoring framework
for tracking progress of the health-related SDGs in the Western Pacific Region'.
The Department of Education and Training also noted that the then Assistant
Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, the Hon Karen Andrews MP,
presented Australia's approach to SDG 4 to the 20th Conference of Commonwealth
Education Ministers in Fiji.
Group of Twenty
Mr Garth Luke, an international development consultant, acknowledged
that the UN can assist with the implementation of the SDGs, but argued that the
'G20 is the one co-operative body that has the heft, coverage, flexibility and economic
focus to drive the achievement of the SDG's. He suggested
that the 'achievement of the SDGs within all of the G20 countries would
transform the global economy, would put pressure on all other nations to
prioritise the SDGs and would provide much of the knowledge required by all
other nations to achieve the Goals'.
He proposed that Australia promote and engage in discussions about the
1. That achievement of the SDGs becomes a core part of the
continuing G20 agenda. 2. That each G20 member nation commits to achieving the
SDGs domestically. 3. That each G20 member also commits to actively support SDG
achievement in their neighbouring region.
Business Call to Action and Business for Development also suggested
Share learnings on approaches for stimulating the development
of inclusive business with member economies of the G20 through the G20
Inclusive Business Platform. The Australian government can also play a
leadership role in providing support to G20 members interested in developing
aid policy that is supportive of inclusive business.
The Department of Health indicated that, as a participant in the G20
Health Working Group in 2018, it contributed to considering the 2030 Agenda and
a range of health issues including antimicrobial resistance, childhood
malnutrition and obesity, and universal health coverage.
Supporting SDGs implementation across different levels of government
The committee heard that 'the SDGs are a global agreement between member
states through the UN process but that their implementation...happens at the city
or municipal level'.
As a result, submissions agreed that the Australian Government needs to support
subnational governments—state, territory and local governments—to implement the
SDGs. Countries have adopted a variety of approaches towards SDGs
implementation at different levels of government, as summarised in a UN report:
Some countries have used legal and regulatory instruments to
enshrine the SDGs in the environment of subnational governments...In many
countries, sub-national governments have been aligning their strategies and
plans to the SDGs, sometimes under a legal mandate. Some national governments
have issued guidelines or templates to facilitate these efforts. In some
countries, genuine multilevel structures or mechanisms for planning have been
put in place, where local and national governments can collaborate. The
so-called 'SDG localization' effort has been wide-ranging...
For example, it noted that:
In Indonesia, a Presidential regulation has been drafted,
which ensures the role of provincial governments in leading the implementation
of the SDGs at their level and in the districts under their supervision.
Submissions made suggestions for promoting the implementation of the SDGs
across Australia, including prioritising the SDGs within the Council of
Australian Governments (COAG), developing a framework for measuring and
reporting regional progress, and funding implementation by local governments.
Council of Australian Governments
Professor Rod Glover, Deputy Director of the Monash Sustainable
Development Institute (MSDI), identified the federal system 'as one of the big
challenges that not many people have spoken about in the SDG space in Australia',
noting 'how this works in a federal system, how it relates to COAG processes or
intergovernmental processes, is something that has been underdone'.
Several submissions proposed that COAG should play a larger role in
implementing the SDGs in Australia across different levels of government.
It was suggested that COAG 'is the appropriate body to oversee achievement of
the SDGs', partly because it includes representation of local governments,
ensuring a 'whole of governance approach that is both 'top-down' and
The Centre for Policy Development (CPD) described how:
COAG could play a crucial rule co-ordinating action and
accountability on the SDGs across different jurisdictions, as well facilitating
sharing of innovations and best practice from local and state governments that
are already advanced in their use of the SDGs.
MSDI argued that the SDGs should be 'incorporated in the deliberations
and reporting of Ministerial Councils'.
World Vision Australia proposed that this be formalised through the development
of an intergovernmental agreement on the SDGs to 'signal the Goals as a
national priority and to unify action on sustainable development across
Australian jurisdictions'. RESULTS Australia
recommended COAG 'considers Australia's progress towards meeting the SDGs
domestically once per year, and agrees on actions to address those SDGs in
areas where Australia is falling behind in implementation'.
Some submissions supported the development of a COAG working group or
subcommittee on the SDGs.
One submission suggested this 'could assist to overcome this lack of
integration across tiers of government' and 'provide an integration function to
mitigate the potential for siloed approaches'.
Another called for COAG to develop and resource a strategy for aligning
existing state and territory reporting mechanisms with the goals.
DoEE explained that the SDGs are considered through COAG processes to a
certain extent, as the SDGs and 2030 Agenda 'are included for discussion in the
forward agenda for meetings of the Senior Officials Group of the National
Environment Protection Council and the Meeting of Environment Ministers over
the 2018–19 period'.
The committee heard that the Australian Government representative, Ms Lin
Hatfield Dodds, Deputy Secretary, PM&C, has taken the SDGs to COAG twice.
In describing the preparation of the first VNR, she stated:
PM&C [the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet] has
provided information at COAG meetings, and at the official meetings that sit behind
the COAG meetings, since at least August 2017, and we've been distributing on
an iterative basis relevant information to state, territory and local
government contacts. We've been trying to not just have the Australian government
forward facing and coherent but to work across all Australian governments.
In response to a question on notice, PM&C advised that there 'has
been no formal COAG statement about the SDG Agenda'.
It appears that the SDGs have not been a priority.
Framework for SDGs implementation
across different levels of government
Many submissions proposed the development of a framework for monitoring
and reporting SDG-related data that could be adopted by state, territory and
local governments. Professor Jago Dodson, Global Advisor, UN Global
Compact—Cities Programme, identified the need for a framework:
...because it's the national government—the federal government, in
Australia's case—that has signed up to the SDGs and is responsible for
reporting on progress against them. Therefore, there needs to be some kind of
framework by which the federal government accounts for the performance of
Australia as a country.
He suggested 'a wider perspective is likely to be needed' and described
'setting up an effective monitoring and evaluation regime that can track the
performance of municipalities, metropolitan areas or state governments in
responding to the SDGs'.
The Strategic Sustainability Consultants estimated over 100 of the 169
SDG targets are applicable at a local government level, and called for the
Australian Government to engage with the Australian Local Government
Association to 'encourage local governments to report annually on progress
towards the achievement of the SDGs in a standardised format'.
Similarly, the City of Newcastle argued:
A detailed nationally driven research and data framework
should be completed for implementation at the State and local level. This
framework would address measuring, monitoring and reporting in a transparent
manner. An integrated and consistent approach to data collection then allows
for nuanced indicators of progress and reporting across relatively small
geographic or local areas...A national data and delivery framework would reduce
costs for councils and stop individual councils capturing information in
different formats and having disparate data sets that can't be analysed to tell
a state or national story. Data with the credibility that ABS delivers is
integral to reporting on global imperatives across all levels of government.
It emphasised that 'a streamlined, integrated measurement framework for
local government' would also facilitate comparisons between other local
governments and identify best practice.
Councillor Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor of the City of Newcastle warned that 'unless
there's a way to capture the data at a local level and actually assimilate that
and then assess it and report back on it, we're not going to be able to achieve
these SDGs in the 15-year time frame'.
The City of Melbourne also proposed that the Australian Government
develop 'a reporting and evaluation framework [that] all levels of government
and business can easily feed into, that doesn't contribute to [an] additional
It suggested that a national SDGs scorecard 'should be filtered down throughout
all levels of government and sectors of society'. It
highlighted that 'existing state and local government reporting processes could
provide the mechanism to report performance towards the set national targets'. The City of
Many local governments across Australia already have datasets
that measure the wellbeing of their communities across a range of indicators
and it may be possible that this data could be used to contribute to the
overall picture of progress toward the SDG outcomes.
Several submissions outlined the benefits of drawing data from regions
within Australia into a national database or monitoring program. For instance, the
Eastern Regional Organisation for Planning and Human Settlements (EAROPH) Australia
suggested that a 'national monitoring program is needed, one that is
cross-sectoral and includes specific tailored targets and measures for cities,
so as to effectively co-ordinate the activities and investments of states and
territories and local communities'.
The committee heard that data from each level of government should be fed into
a coordinated national spatial data infrastructure. Submitters from the
University of Melbourne agreed:
Developing a platform that enables the harmonization of
datasets that measure and monitor SDG indicators at different levels of
governments...would minimize redundant efforts and encourage cooperation between
different levels of governments, the private sector, academic institutions, and
civil society organizations, enhancing evidence-based policymaking towards
achieving the SDGs, and ensure accountability of all stakeholders.
Some submissions suggested that a framework for subnational monitoring
and reporting should be included in a national implementation plan.
In response to a question regarding the possible inclusion of state,
territory and local government area data on the Australian Government's reporting
platform on the SDG indicators, the ABS stated:
Where appropriate and available the platform currently
includes data at the state and territory level. For example, indicator 4.2.2.
Local government area data can be supported by the platform if the Agency
loading the data has obtained data and deems it appropriate.
Streamlining reporting requirements
The City of Melbourne called for a collaborative review to understand
the reporting requirements that already exist for local and state governments,
in order to avoid a net increase in reporting burden and to ensure cities and
communities can learn from each other.
Similarly, the City of Newcastle stated:
Unless the SDGs are integrated or streamlined within existing
reporting frameworks (e.g. IP&R) there is a risk of added costs to
Councils, including increased resourcing to meet additional reporting
requirements. It will be important that the Australian Government consult with
State and Local Governments before developing new or modifying current
reporting frameworks to ensure there is no net increase in reporting
The University of Queensland identified examples of existing mechanisms
that could be leveraged by the Australian Government to encourage state and
local governments to support the SDGs:
SDG implementation and metrics should be added to the COAG agenda
with targets and milestones recorded in a COAG Performance Dashboard;
Requirements for environmental impact statements should be
updated to better align with SDG requirements;
Urban and regional development plans should be updated to include
transport links; and
Individual ministries should be required to develop, and report
against, SDG implementation plans.
The committee heard varying views about whether subnational levels of
government should be encouraged or compelled to report progress against the
SDGs. Mr Kennealy, for example, suggested state and local governments should
have the option to report against the SDGs. In contrast, Professor
Carol Adams suggested that governments 'should be required to report on their
material contributions to the SDGs and their material negative impacts on the
achievement of the SDGs'.
A recent UN report summarised some international approaches to
monitoring and reporting progress against the SDGs at subnational levels of
Vertical integration at the level of monitoring, evaluation,
follow-up and review is not common, but there are innovative examples from
different regions. In some countries, the national level recognizes
sub-national and local SDG indicators, or supports their development. Some
countries also ensure that SDG implementation is monitored at the sub-national
level, either through central government efforts, through the establishment of
sub-national monitoring structures, or through joint, multi-level structures and
mechanisms. Such joint mechanisms are observed in several European and Latin
American countries, among others.
Supporting implementation at the
The Addis Agenda acknowledged that, generally, 'expenditures and
investments in sustainable development are being devolved to the subnational
level', and included a commitment to 'support local governments in their
efforts to mobilize revenues as appropriate'.
This requires 'adequate capacities, resources and decision-making power, and
some estimate that decentralising responsibilities in the absence of such
conditions may stall implementation'.
Mr Clinton Moore, Vice-President of EAROPH Australia, identified raising
capacity within local governments as a priority.
The City of Melbourne suggested that the Australian Government provide
practical support to state and territory governments to implement the SDGs, '(potentially
in the form of grant funding, toolkits, guidelines, networking opportunities,
interactive website or events) to assist state and local governments to deliver
on the SDGs'.
UNAA called for the Australian Government to provide resources 'to 'demystify'
the SDGs, and to make them more widely understood'.
Healthy Cities Illawarra (HCI) and the University of Wollongong have
formed an intersectoral collaboration implementing the SDGs at the local level.
HCI is 'closely connected to local government' and its board includes
representatives from local councils.
Mr Justin Placek, General Manager, HCI, told the committee:
We are acting at a regional level in pursuit of the SDGs, and
to date have resourced all of our local cross-sector engagement ourselves. Unfortunately
this is not sustainable either. To accelerate Australia's pursuit of the SDGs,
the federal government will benefit greatly by piloting a regional
intersectoral approach to the SDGs, developing a replicable and scalable model
with local indicators and effectively operationalising the approach across the
country. We are seeking three years project funding as a catalyst to adequately
resource the research, community engagement, analysis and creation of such a
Councillor Nelmes noted that budget expenses for local government are 'often
predominantly around infrastructure delivery', and noted that the SDGs 'help
you look at how you can do that in a more efficient way, to actually have a
quadruple bottom line effect that is positive in all respects'.
Examples of state and territory government implementation
MSDI noted that state and territory governments 'have a key role across
most of the SDG and therefor[e] it is vital that they be actively involved in
Mr Moore, former Local Pathways Fellow and current Vice-President of EAROPH
...the state government level, in the context of the SDGs, is
perhaps not talked about as much as the local and the national, but, if you
have something like planning, for example, where local governments are asked to
interpret a planning scheme, that is determined by a state government.
Mr Jason McDonald, then acting Chief Adviser, PM&C noted the 'different
level of engagement on the SDGs across the different states' and indicated that
some have been more active than others.
Some submissions provided examples of how state and territory governments are
beginning to engage with the SDGs. For example, WWF-Australia noted:
...the Victorian government has a VicHealth Sustainable
Development Goals Partnership Grant to look at well-being research. The NSW
government tasked the Greater Sydney Commission with a priority on how to
integrate SDGs with their work particularly SDG11 on Sustainable Cities.
However, an effort will need to be made to ensure a more comprehensive uptake
across all jurisdictions.
Professor Glover added that 'at the state government level, the
Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability here in Victoria is using the
SDGs framework to just do things differently and to do her reviews quite
differently on a range of issues that are not just environmental issues but cut
across economic and social'.
MSDI also noted that some state and local government bodies are starting to use
the SDGs as 'a benchmarking and planning tool'. For instance, the
Victorian state government-owned water corporation Melbourne Water 'has used
the SDG framework to consider the costs and benefits of alternative capital
MSDI provided the following example:
...in considering whether to upgrade a sewer that was spilling
into the Dandenong Creek environment, Melbourne Water looked at options that
would best achieve SDG outcomes relating to health (SDG3), sustainable cities
(SDG11), infrastructure (SDG9) and biodiversity (SDG15). This process led
Melbourne Water to choose to expend funds on restoring the upstream creek and
catchment and improving the ecology and amenity of the area rather than the
traditional method of building a new sewer pipe.
In relation to New South Wales, Councillor Nelmes stated: 'I haven't
really seen a broadscale discussion [about the SDGs] in the state, but what I
have seen are opportunities for advocacy from local government up to state and
federal to encourage the adoption'.
However, Ms Andrea Spencer-Cooke, Partner at One Stone Advisors, recounted
...closely with the New South Wales Office of Environment and
Heritage. Through their Sustainability Advantage program they have been
actively promoting the SDGs among their corporate and organisational
membership. ...they're a very enlightened government organisation...In terms of
dealings with government I have had excellent dealings at the state level
through that body in terms of awareness of the SDGs and desire to promote them.
Australian Government engagement
with the states and territories
The Secretary of PM&C wrote to state and territory counterparts in
August 2017 inviting them to contribute case studies to the first VNR.
Some Australian Government agencies have also sought to engage further with state
and territory government officials on the SDGs. For example, DoEE noted:
At the officer level, we have reached out to our counterparts
in state and territory governments on a number of occasions—to seek their
engagement in SDG events, to seek input for the Voluntary National Review and
to identify possible data sources that support the SDG Indicators....We received
a strong response from state and territory governments following our request
for case studies of work underway across Australia on the environment and
DoEE has been 'working to strengthen our engagement with our state and
territory counterpart agencies through more regular interactions and to
identify opportunities for potential collaboration'. Dr Rachel Bacon, First
Assistant Secretary, Policy Analysis and Implementation Division, identified:
...willingness from states and territories in relevant
environment related Commonwealth state forums to discuss the SDGs as a highly
relevant agenda to the issues that we're tackling nationally and also to
participate in things like the VNR exercise. There are lots of things happening
in lots of different jurisdictions, including at the very local level.
The Department of Health also stated that it 'will continue to advocate
for opportunities to discuss and consider the 2030 Agenda within existing fora
to ensure a strong and cohesive national approach'.
In contrast, a number of Australian Government agencies acknowledged
that while their work is consistent with the SDGs, they have not tended to
explicitly refer to the goals or 2030 Agenda. For example, an official from the
Department of Jobs and Small Business noted that the SDGs had not arisen as an
agenda item during his engagement with state colleagues.
Similarly, an official from the Department of Infrastructure, Regional
Development and Cities indicated he had not recently engaged with states and
territories or local governments explicitly on the SDGs, and suggested
'awareness in the states would vary among agencies and among individuals in
The committee heard from the Attorney-General's Department:
There are multiple different examples of where the work of
both the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and our state equivalent
agencies are already aligned with the goal 16 targets. But we haven't
specifically sought to reach out to state and territory government agencies in
relation to the SDGs and to put that within the framework of the SDG agenda at
International examples of state
The Global Compact—Cities Programme provided the example of the Paraná,
a state government in Brazil that is 'leading nationally and globally with an
integrated approach to SDG implementation'.
Paraná's integrated approach to the SDGs has the following six pillars:
- Formal commitment of all the municipalities of Paraná to
- Training of municipal administration officers to develop
projects that meet the SDGs with the support of the private sector;
- Alignment of SDG priority and eligible indicators for the
State of Paraná;
- Development of technological solutions, such as Business
Intelligence and the Bank of Good Practices, for integrated management of
- Incorporation of SDGs into the State budget. As early as
2018, the State will have its first thematic budget fully aligned with the goals
of the SDGs;
- Provision of government accounts based on the SDGs, through
a model being developed by the Court of Audit of Paraná for both state accounts
and municipal accounts.
Key lessons from Paraná's approach include:
...to appoint one lead agency with carriage for bringing all
departments together, have all department[s] analyse their current priorities
and reporting systems in relation to alignment with SDGs and pool this data
centrally but share responsibility for implementation. This process requires a
mandate from the highest levels of government and ideally needs to be linked to
central budgets that then cascade to the municipal level.
The Global Compact—Cities Programme noted that similar integrated
approaches are being implemented in Honolulu and the state of Sao Paulo.
Examples of local government implementation
The committee heard that local governments are also crucial in
implementing the SDGs, as the Strategic Sustainability Consultants described:
It is at this level that meaningful results can be achieved
in areas such as recycling, infrastructure, infant health and tackling climate
change. Local government is also the best conduit to community engagement with
the 2030 Agenda through public forums and community events.
The Australian Academy of Science and Future Earth Australia agreed the 'combination
of practical goal-setting and implementation may, indeed, have its greatest
potential for transformational leverage at the city-region level'.
Councillor Nelmes stated:
...a lot of those on-the-ground outcomes, whether it's around
waste collection, sewer, access to clean drinking water—all of those municipal
type services that local government provides, on top of the community and
cultural services—are done at a very local level.
The Global Compact—Cities Programme suggested that there is 'a wealth of
sustainability activity at the local government level, but most of this is not
articulated in connection to the SDGs'.
Submissions generally agreed that while there are a few active local
governments and cities (as detailed below), many local governments have not
engaged with the SDGs. For example, Ms Nikki Jordan, Team Leader,
Sustainability Integration, City of Melbourne, undertook a desktop review for
Victoria and 'nothing really came up'.
She explained that there 'is interest but no-one really knows what to do'.
CSIRO acknowledged the work of some local governments, such as the
Melbourne City Council, but stated 'the direct experience of CSIRO researchers
indicates that appreciation [of the SDGs] is heterogeneous across Australia's
WWF-Australia suggested leading cities should 'share their leadership model
with other capital city councils along with other local governments'.
There are resources available online for localising and implementing the
SDGs at the local level, such as the SDGs Cities Guide.
A UN report noted that '[a]ction at the local level is critical to realise most
of the targets', and stated:
An increasing number of initiatives are being promoted by
national and subnational governments to foster vertical integration across
levels of government to implement the SDGs. However, there are still few
examples of full and effective vertical integration across national,
subnational and local levels for SDG implementation.
Mr McDonald, Chief Adviser, PM&C, told the committee at a hearing in
December 2018 that there were no plans to link formally with local government
networks on the SDGs.
Integrating the SDGs into local
The literature supports 'the development of long- and medium-term
spatial plans for state/local implementation of the national vision and
The City of Melbourne argued that the SDGs should be 'localised' for state and
local governments to 'address specific issues that are relevant in a local
context that work to contribute to the national and global effort'. EAROPH
Australia agreed local governments should embed the SDGs in their planning.
The committee heard that some local governments are 'taking really
strong action and using the SDGs to inform their own sustainability and
For example, the City of Melbourne stated: 'As a major Australian capital city,
we have a key role to play in localising and addressing the issues articulated
in the Goals'.
It is 'commencing work to incorporate the SDGs into strategic planning
Ms Jordan described:
We've integrated them into our new strategy development
guidelines. So when anyone in the organisation is developing a new strategy they
will have to refer to the SDGs, together with the megatrends that have been
articulated for the City of Melbourne...We are also looking at integrating into
the Municipal Strategic Statement, which sets vision for the city.
The City of Sydney has embedded the SDGs into the overarching local
strategy, Sustainable Sydney 2030.
Ms Andrea Beattie, Executive Manager, Strategic Outcomes, City of Sydney,
characterised this as 'a plan for the delivery of the SDGs in our local area'.
The Perth Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council is also incorporating the SDGs
into its planning processes.
Councillor Nelmes explained that every local government area in New
South Wales is required to develop an adopted community strategic plan under
the Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework. She described how the
City of Newcastle, in consultation with the community, aligned their holistic
community strategic vision with the SDGs.
When asked by the committee if this alignment entailed a major administrative
change, she responded:
No. The SDGs were embedded in the work we were already
delivering. What we have done is aligned it with our strategy and what SDGs align
with different parts of the strategy.
She told the committee:
The way we have done it is by looking at our seven strategic
objectives for the city—they are around transport; protected environment;
vibrant, safe and activated public spaces; inclusive community; liveable and
built environment; smart and innovative city; and open and collaborative
leadership—and then mapping the appropriate SDGs that meet and match with the
achievement of those seven overall strategies for the city.
The Central Coast Council also considered local government community
strategic planning to be 'a vehicle for enabling greater understanding and
awareness of the SDG in the wider community'.
It completed 'an extensive community engagement project to develop the Central
Coast Community Strategic Plan' which links eight community planning areas to
HCI and UOW also reiterated the importance of 'incorporating the SDG narrative
into the governance frameworks' of local governments and networks, such as
local government area community strategic plans. They noted that,
following community consultations, Wollongong and Shellharbour councils have
revised their community strategic plans to incorporate the SDGs.
Communicating about the SDGs at the
Several submissions representing local areas emphasised the importance
of connecting the 2030 Agenda to community values. The Central Coast Council
For the SDG to become part of the vernacular of people in
place, we accept that people must first identify with their own aspirations,
for themselves, their children, community, opportunity and environmental areas,
and, that local government is best placed to connect citizens and communities
to the SDG.
The City of Newcastle echoed this view.
Ms Beattie, City of Sydney, said:
...the issues that sit behind the Sustainable Development Goals
are things that our community cares about and wants us to act on. So it's the
issues that sit behind them, and it's how you talk about them, rather than if
you present the 17 goals and the 169 targets...it's not a language that the
community would understand.
Mr Placek, HCI, explained:
We need our people to feel that we own these things...I think
both our submission and the submission from the City of Sydney are about
community engagement versus this top-down compliance issue. If we go this
compliance route with the SDGs I think it's going to become really hard work.
But if we engage our communities around it, I think that's where the energy and
the power will come from.
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples also called for the
SDGs to be implemented in connection with the needs of local people, stating:
We stress that a myopic focus on national statistics has led
to a failure to account for the particular needs of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples living in remote and regional communities. Local
solutions, based on the expertise and experiences of community members, must
play a greater role in any implementation of the SDG.
International examples of local
Submissions provided examples of how different countries have approached
implementing the SDGs at the local level. For instance, WWF-Australia stated:
Cities such as New York, Sydney, and Davao in the Philippines
are all using the SDGs as a framework for achieving their respective visions by
balancing economic, social and environmental needs and opportunities.
US Cities Index
Several submissions nominated the United States (US) Cities SDG Index as
an example of international best practice.
The Index includes a consolidated database of indicators to monitor sustainable
development in America; a snapshot of where cities stand on SDGs implementation
to help identify priorities for early action in each city; and a list of data gaps
that are hindering cities' and the federal government's ability to effectively
monitor sustainable development at the local level. The Index has been
applied to the 100 most populous cities in the US. The City of Melbourne
San Jose, Baltimore and New York City are taking steps to
implement the SDGs within their jurisdictions. They are surveying how their
citywide plans and data monitoring systems could be made more holistic and
ambitious, consulting local stakeholders to define priorities, and developing
strategies to achieve sustainable development through evidence-based policy and
The City of Melbourne noted '[t]here has been no work undertaken in the
Australian city context to take a similar approach'. Ms Jordan told the
It would be great to see some kind of benchmark between
cities...I think what's missing is some direction from the federal government
around how the SDGs translate to the city level...We talked about doing a
localisation process at the City of Melbourne but, if we did that in isolation,
we didn't think it would mean much. But if you could benchmark yourself against
Adelaide and get a bit of competition going, that could also help inform where
you spend your dollars in terms of developing programs.
There would be indicators that would be common to all cities,
which would feed into the national indicators and then, complementary to that,
there would be local indicators that would be relevant to each council, whether
it is a major capital city or a regional area. So, you would probably need the
cities index and then maybe a regional version to sit beside it...there needs to
be some kind of framework for councils to work collaboratively towards. There
is just nothing there at the moment...We don't really know how we can help the
government live up to its commitments.
City Partnerships Challenge
Professor Dodson described the City Partnerships program as:
...a model of engagement where it works with cities—principally
municipalities—but also local civil society and local private sector academia
to identify projects through which all the partners can come together to give
support, which will enable the implementation of the SDGs.
EAROPH Australia suggested this approach could be used to help
accelerate action on sustainable urban development via the official development
assistance program and effective cross-sectoral partnerships.
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