New York City Announces Voluntary Local Review of SDG Progress


by Nathalie Risse, Ph.D.

(This story was originally published on IISD SDG Knowledge Hub. To see the original article, please click here.)

1 May 2018: The New York City Mayor and the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs announced that New York City will release the world’s first “Voluntary Local Review” (VLR), reporting on city-level progress on the SDGs. The VLR, to be presented during the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), will be modeled after the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena made the announcement on 1 May 2018. According to the press release on the announcement, New York will be the first city in the world to report directly to the UN on the status of its implementation of the SDGs, and its VLR will highlight the City’s achievements in sustainability since 2015. The VLR will be presented during the HLPF’s “sessions dedicated to local government engagement.”

The VLR, produced by the Global Vision | Urban Action programme of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs in close collaboration with relevant NYC agencies, compiles and presents existing New York City’s data and programs, the press release notes. An article by Alexandra Hiniker, NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, indicates that the VLR will look at the City’s progress on a set of key SDGs, and will both reflect on successes and identify areas where New York can learn from others to address remaining challenges.

New York’s Global Vision | Urban Action programme shares innovations in sustainability with cities and countries around the world, “using the lens of the SDGs.” Established in December 2015 by the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, the programme seeks to, inter alia: engage with experts and representatives from New York City and the international community interested in achieving the SDGs; organize public events, expert meetings, and site visits to allow participants to see the SDGs in action and learn from each other about successes and challenges they face; and research links between New York City’s sustainable development work, the Mayor’s commitment to equity, and the SDGs. Hiniker reports that since the establishment of the programme, the City has hosted tours, panel discussions and other events to discuss how NYC is localizing the SDGs.

Global Vision | Urban Action also identifies links between the SDGs and the 2015 ‘One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City’ (OneNYC), the City’s roadmap on economic growth, sustainability, and resiliency. OneNYC commits to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025, to expand access to nutritious and affordable food, and to fight against climate change and strengthen resilience, among other goals. As outlined in the document, ‘OneNYC 2018: Progress Report,’ which assesses New York City’s progress on the plan, New York’s accomplishments so far include: a “record job and wage growth” and a “record low unemployment,” with gains in all five boroughs; and the lowest poverty level since the Great Recession. The report also notes that New York is the first major city or state in the US to commit to divesting pension funds from fossil fuels, and the first city to align with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The OneNYC plan is available on the OneNYC website, along with its progress reports each year. The website also includes a list of indicators and initiatives related to the plan, and links to the NYC Open Data platform.

The HLPF will convene from 9-18 July 2018, in New York, US, on the theme, ‘Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies.’ It will conduct in-depth reviews of SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 15 (life on land) and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).