The story of nrg4SD

“The story of nrg4SD is a story of different regions, languages, colours and political ideas, all united by a profound conviction: the political will to contribute with subnational land management to global sustainable development and tackling climate change.

The story of nrg4SD is a story of people who are no longer with us, or that are still with us, as well as the story of those who will be joining us. We are the result of the efforts of those few leaders and enthusiasts who from the very beginning believed that subnational governments are key actors for sustainable development, and that by working together it would be possible to ensure that this theme remained a priority at global level.

The story of nrg4SD is a story of tireless work, dedication and persuasion in the struggle for recognition of the vital role of regional governments in global environmental governance. Furthermore, it is a story of solidarity, diversity, mutual understanding and united action in a sphere where regional governments act in coalition not just to be heard, but to be taken into consideration and also recognised as protagonists of decentralised environmental management. The story of nrg4SD is a story of regional governments showing courage and leadership, conscious that the success of international agreements depends partly on the effectiveness with which they exercise their competencies and their boldness in the face of pre-established conditions.

We were born out of the dream of a group of regional politicians who, in the final preparatory meeting of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, manifested their concern for the lack of space and representation to express their situation and points of view, in a context where the challenges of sustainability were losing their place in the agendas of developed countries. As the outcome of that claim, with the support of the Stakeholder Forum, 23 regional governments and four associations of regional governments gathered in a parallel event in Johannesburg, from which the main result was the Gauteng Declaration: a manifesto on the importance of regional governments for sustainable development issues, on the utility of cooperation between regions and on the willingness to create a network of regional governments to deal with the whole field of sustainable development. Nine months later, the first nrg4SD Conference took place in San Sebastian, the Basque Country, where the Network and its statutes were created and the first Chairs and the members of the Steering Committee were elected.

Fifteen years have passed since these first milestones and real progress has been achieved by a network that is now stable and consolidated with more than 50 regional governments and associations of regional governments on four continents that are united through their diversity and their willingness to contribute to a sustainable world. Both the United Nations system and the European Union consider us to be one of the most important representatives of regional governments. In addition, we have set up partnerships and created working groups, initiatives and projects. We have collaborated with UNFCCC, UN-DESA, UNEA, UNEP, UNDP, CBD and the Committee of the Regions, and thanks to our efforts in the framework of the negotiations, we have been formally recognised as necessary actors for the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda, as well as for various resolutions of the UNFCCC COP 16, COP 21 and COP 22, of the CBD COP 10 through its decision X/22 and COP 13, and of the many thematic resolutions adopted by UNEA, for example on Air Quality.

In the beginning, we worked for our demands to be known, then next for our demands to be heard and later for acceptance of our active participation in governance. Having achieved formal recognition, we have been seeking a strategic role. This is the battle we are fighting now, reflecting the maturity of a Network which has been working for 15 years, advancing step by step with unshakeable determination towards global, multilateral and inclusive international relations, where international actors can be integrated into the new system of international public law. Only if we advance together, with each of us contributing according to our capacity, will we overcome the great challenges of our time, which are global and complex. Everything is connected; everyone counts. This is the moment for a global architecture and for a coordinated multi-level action; this is the time for courage, solidarity and the common good. The members of nrg4SD, with their commitment and their existing actions, set a very good example of this. In the next 15 years, it remains for us not only to maintain these characteristics, but also to widen our scope in preparing, formulating and executing global policies touching territorial management and the threats to sustainability, which are the key challenges for the 21st century.

We acknowledge all the people who have formed part of the inspiring project which is nrg4SD; we will continue to provide enlightened leadership around our planet, showing the world that good examples of sustainable development are already a reality in many regions of this planet”.

By Natalia Vera, nrg4SD Coordinator

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