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Published on 18 de December, 2018 at Uncategorized

The goals of sustainable development at local scale

By Francesc Quintana
3 min read


Periodically, international organizations, created by states to achieve certain goals globally, make multiannual programs to achieve them. This is the case of the United Nations, which in 2015 launched the process to achieve the 17 objectives that must transform the world by setting them on the global agenda and that are already officially operational since the General Assembly resolution of September the 25th 2015.

However, UN resolutions compliance depends a lot on the goodwill of countries as international actors. But nothing prevents other civil society actors as well as local or regional administrations from collaborating to forge strategies and projects that translate the objectives into realities that increase the quality of life and opportunities for people.

Local development and sustainability.

A total of 17 objectives have been established, defining sustainability: they not only tell us what these goals are but how we should achieve them. Traditionally, the word “development” refers to developing countries that still suffer from the lack of very basic services such as food, health or the most elementary education. Conversely, speaking on “sustainable development”, we are already referring, explicitly, to all countries. Think about it: is it sustainable an economic system that uses large quantities of plastic that later end up being part of the trophic chain of marine animals? Is it sustainable an economic system that places great strides on the use of clean energy and, therefore, contributes to climate change? Is a society sustainable if a half feels intimidated by the remaining half because of sex or gender? Is it sustainable an economic, social and financial system that always maintains a significant portion of its population excluded from the labour market? Of course not. That is why the concept of “sustainable local development” calls on all of Humanity, whatever its current level of life or income.


The list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a long one but it is worth to have a closer look. Any target set for each objective can be adapted locally, in each territory. The underlying will of this United Nations program is to trust that if all organizations and entities work together, the global impact will be real and in a positive way. The program does not say what needs to be done but it offers a common framework for rethinking my company, my club, my neighborhood, my town, my community of neighbourhood, my NGO, my family, my country … from which I can develop projects and actions directed towards common objectives.

Among the risks, it may happen that the SDG program becomes a fashion, a brand that everyone points to but that does not mean any change in the way we work, think, consume, make, move, interact, learn, etc. This, however, depends on all of us, because this program is just a scheme from which to begin work and in which companies, administrations and citizens are called to participate.

Monitoring progress

Responding to the SDG initiative launched by the United Nations in 2015, several proposals are already coming out for progress monitoring. The Spanish Network for Sustainable Development has published the report Looking to the future: sustainable cities. The Sustainable Development Goals in 100 Spanish cities (2018). It must be trusted that this and other initiatives will be pushing the social, economic, political and institutional actors towards the adoption of local development strategies oriented in the SDG. This will surely cause, for example, local governments to program their public policies in local development, taking into account United Nations SDG by 2030.

Other initiatives that derive directly from the SDG, such as the concept of “urban resilience”, understood as the measurable capacity of any urban system, including its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and tensions, adapting and becoming positive towards sustainability. Also, the celebration of the world day of cities on October 31, 2018, promoted by the United Nations, and which is due to the construction of resilient and sustainable cities.

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