SDGs localization to design sustainable development strategies | ARCO

Title Designing local strategies for sustainable development: Benchmarking analysis on international case studies

Location Tuscany

Duration 2019-2020

Partner ANCI Toscana 

Funding Direzione Affari Internazionali della Regione Toscana


The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development requires an innovative approach of multilevel governance, based on the vertical alignment of responsibilities and functions between the international, national, regional, local level and on the horizontal interaction between public, private and social actors in each local context.

In fact, local governance plays a crucial role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Firstly, because the local level is the point where the interactions between authorities, institutions and citizens – and therefore society as a whole – are more immediate and stronger. However, it is also where inequalities, forms of exclusion, imbalances of power and vulnerabilities are experienced by people more immediately.

Secondly, at the local level it is possible to establish a sustainable development planning strategy that reflects the real opportunities, needs and aspirations of the communities and territories as a whole.

Finally, issues of environmental, social and economic sustainability can be effectively addressed by local actors if they are empowered to play a constructive role in politics and are committed to the protection and long-term sustainable use of local resources.

In this scenario, the Tuscany Region – one of the most active European regions in the international debate on SDGs localization – is planning its regional strategy for sustainable development. In this context, it funded a research project aimed at increasing the awareness and capacity of policy makers at local level in promoting sustainable development, improving their knowledge on how to plan, implement and monitor tailored strategies, policies and initiatives.

General Objective

In line with the principle of universality of the 2030 Agenda, this research project  aims to inspire and contribute to the design of the regional strategy for sustainable development in Tuscany through:

  • ♦ An analysis of international good practices on the localization of the SDGs in order to draw useful lessons and relevant examples.
  • ♦ The in-depth study of the international activities managed by local Tuscan actors in the framework of the SDGs, in order to include the international dimension and cooperation in the regional strategy for sustainable development.


Our conribution

ARCO Researchers carried out a benchmark analysis of local strategies for sustainable development useful in a “comparative learning” perspective. In particular, they explored in the large repository of relevant reports and documentation, the SDGs localization practices of: Åland (Finland), Basque Country (Spain), City of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Catalonia (Spain), Flanders (Belgium ), New York (USA), North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Palawan (Philippines), Seoul Metropolitan City (South Korea), Valencia Region (Spain), Wales (United Kingdom).

In particular, a documentary analysis was conducted on official strategies, reporting, websites and communication with the media, in order to draw conclusions on the following key aspects of local sustainable development strategies:

  • ♦ Design process, including political validity, phases, principles and participatory tools;
  • ♦ Contents of the strategy, including vision, diagnostic analysis, selection of objectives and priority targets;
  • ♦ Multilevel governance, in terms of vertical alignment with global, supranational and national strategies;
  • ♦ Governance and horizontal articulation of responsibilities, roles and commitments (eg with local authorities, private sector organizations, civil society and universities);
  • ♦ Implementation and monitoring, including application mechanisms and indicator systems;
  • ♦ Formal aspects, including structure, content and lengths of strategies, graphic design and communication tools.

The benchmark analysis for each key action highlights both the lessons learned and the recommendations to support the regional government of Tuscany in the design of its regional strategy for sustainable development.

The Executive Summary of the research is available below, or download it here.

Read more on our Local Development Unit