To help cities report on their progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals the UN has called on Cities to submit their own efforts via a new ‘Voluntary Local Review’ framework. These reviews are designed to help us bridge the gap between national SDG commitments and local action.

Governments are required to present national reports, or ‘Voluntary National Reviews’ at sessions of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened by the UN Economic and Social Council. The UK is due to submit its VNR report by July 2019. A ‘VLR’ is a parallel report created by local governments to report on progress towards the SDGs at a regional and city level.

According the VLR Lab website ‘The VLR process can serve as a way for local governments to engage citizens in the SDG review process, which contributes to strengthening accountability and increases inclusive governance’. In other words, a ‘VLR’ is a vehicle for local engagement with the UN SDGs.

Local governments submit their emerging findings and progress to the VLR Lab, and the lab then publishes a report on its website. One of only a few cities to have already submitted their VLR is New York. Its VLR was based on a few pillars such as ‘Resident Outreach’, ‘Business Roundtables’, ‘Advisory boards and regional coordination’ & ‘telephone and Web based surveys’. The UN SDGs are then benchmarked to NYCs ‘OneNYC’, a programme of projects that are helping address the SDGs within NYC. This VLR then becomes the basis for lessons to be shared and further progress documented.

It is only a matter of time until many other cities around the globe file their own reports so that local SDG progress can be mapped more clearly and impacts accelerated.