Localizing SDGs in Catalonia: Matching Global and Subnational Agendas

Article written by Arnau Queralt, Director of the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) & Raquel Ballesteros, Staff member of the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS)

In 2016, the Government of Catalonia pledged to develop a National Plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to elaborate an integrated system of targets and indicators to assess the degree of compliance of the Sustainable Development Goals. This clear commitment was included in the Government Plan, which constitutes the Executive’s road map for the current political term. A first draft of the 2030 National Plan was delivered to the Government on 7th July 2017 and now is under review.

The elaboration of the plan has taken into account a report prepared by the Council for Sustainable Development of Catalonia – CADS, which contains a comprehensive target-by-target diagnosis at the sub-national level and identifies the overall challenges that Catalonia needs to address in order to achieve the different SDGs. The report, entitled The 2030 Agenda: Transform Catalonia, Improve the World , was launched in September 2016 and includes contributions not only from the council members but also from more than 60 external experts.

Localizing SDGs by integrating them in subnational policies, plans and programs

Due to the transformative nature of the 2030 Agenda and the ‘urgent urgency’ of the challenges we face in terms of sustainability, the Government of Catalonia decided to proceed in a very practical way to effectively integrate the SDGs in all its policies, plans, programs and regulation. This is why the Plan concretizes the UN 2030 Agenda targets in clear and tangible commitments. The deliberate use of ‘commitments’ instead of ‘targets’ expresses the will of the Catalan Government to be proactive in order to fulfill the SDGs.

The current version of the Plan contains more than 750 commitments both at Catalan and international scale. Furthermore, it sets deadlines for the achievement of every commitment and specifies the ministries in charge of it. Finally, the plan includes a list of indicators that will be discussed by an ad-hoc inter-ministerial taskforce.
In order to match the global and the subnational agendas, the Plan identifies in a first layer those commitments to be developed in Catalonia and those representing a direct contribution from Catalonia to the global community or third countries. In a second layer, the plan divides those commitments aligned to existing regulation and planning from those included in the regulation and planning under preparation or under review. Some commitments recently included in the existing regulation and planning are:

  • The establishment of a universal guaranteed minimum income for citizens (SDG1),
  • The creation an Observatory on Gender Equality (SDG5),
  • The approval of a new maritime program based on an innovative governance system and a strong scientific basis (SDG 14).
  • The approval of the Climate Change Bill by the Catalan Parliament in July 2017 (touching upon several SDGs).

To identify these commitments, an exhaustive review has been done on actions currently being undertaken and how their implementation allows us to achieve (or not to achieve) the global goals and targets. Most of the global targets have a qualitative nature and, therefore, it is necessary to fix quantitative references in Catalonia.

Although all SDGs are interlinked, the existence of 17 individual goals does not help to overcome the traditional fragmentation of public policies. The plan tries to solve this situation by working with a strong collaborative approach, but also by reviewing the different commitments from the gender, urban , intergenerational, and socioeconomic equality perspectives.

Localizing SDGs through inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms

The 2030 National Plan is coordinated by the Ministry of Transparency, and Foreign and Institutional Relations and Affairs through the CADS, the Directorate-General for Multilateral and European Affairs and the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation, with the and support of its Technical Office. However, the design and implementation of the plan involves the entire Catalan Government.

According to this, on 14th February 2017 an inter-ministerial commission was created to elaborate the Plan, ensure consistency, and monitor compliance with the SDGs. This inter-ministerial body is composed of high-level political representatives of all 13 ministries and is assisted by a technical committee, which is a task force composed of technical representatives of all ministries.

The technical committee works with 17 groups coordinated by the ministries holding the most competences related to the SDG. For instance, the working group on SDG 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere) is coordinated by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Families and includes representatives of the following ministries: Presidency; Vice-presidency, Economy and Finance; Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency; Education; Governance, Public Administrations and Housing; Territory and Sustainability; Health; and Business and Knowledge.

Due to the crosscutting nature of SDGs, any ministry has played a leading role: the ones that coordinate the group create a successful dynamic to bring everyone to the discussion in the same position. This methodology contributed to promote synergic work among the different ministries, breaking existing silos, and creating a comprehensive vision on challenges and solutions.

Localizing SDGs with contributions from citizens and stakeholders

Public participation is a key element when localising SDGs. A dual participation process will be organised in Catalonia (autumn 2018): an open consultation to citizens and stakeholders, with dialogues all around the country, and a more tailored work with the main advisory and consultative councils and similar bodies to the Catalan Governments (where main experts and stakeholders are represented).

Prior to this comprehensive –and complex- participatory process, since 2017 the Catalan Government organizes seminars focused on the SDGs to be discussed at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Besides contributing to the dissemination of the 2030 Agenda, these seminars are a first step towards the participatory process open to all relevant actors in order to get the maximum consensus regarding the commitments included in the plan.


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