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Ministerial Segment of the High-Level Policy Forum for Sustainable Development: Message from the President of the Congress

Presidency New York, USA 14 to 16 July 2020
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Ministerial Segment of the High-Level Policy Forum for Sustainable Development: Message from the President of the Congress

On the occasion of the Ministerial Segment of the High-Level Policy Forum for Sustainable Development, held at the United Nations in New York from 14 to 16 July 2020, Congress President Anders Knape made the following statement:

"The Sustainable Development Goals commit all levels of governance - international, European, national, local and regional - to work towards their achievement. The success of the UN 2030 Agenda is based on this multi-level approach.

At a time when the whole world is facing the COVID-19 crisis and trying to revive the functioning of our societies, in terms of health, economic, social, political and democratic development, cities and regions must more than ever be involved in the policies adopted.

At the Congress, we are convinced that achieving SDGs is a responsibility shared by all levels of governance. We advocate to the 47 Council of Europe member states the territorial dimension of SDGs and we strongly defend a broad definition of the concept of sustainability which covers several aspects - democratic, social, economic and environmental - and which must be based, in our view, on the principles of local self-government, dialogue and inclusion of all citizens in the decision-making process at local level.

Today, the Congress is working on 12 of the 17 objectives set out in the United Nations' 2030 Agenda. We also pay particular attention to the challenges of climate change and the impact on local and regional governance. Municipalities and regions are key partners for national authorities in this respect.  

The European Charter of Local Self-Government guarantees the rights of local authorities based on the principle of decentralisation. In environmental matters, too, local and regional authorities must be consulted and involved in drawing up national strategies to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities. This is why the Congress will continue its work to mobilise local and regional authorities and develop innovative strategies for a healthy environment," concluded the Congress President. He also welcomed the statement of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, highlighting the role of local and regional authorities in implementing the SDGs.

For several years, the Congress has been strongly committed to promoting the right to a healthy environment in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. It has adopted recommendations and resolutions on various crucial issues relating to environmental quality, climate change and energy transition. Today, this action is framed in the context of the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local and regional level – in particular Sustainable Development GOAL 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.