While the SDGs represent truly global goals, their implementation relies on local efforts. The initiative “SDG Indicators for Municipalities” by various stakeholders in Germany offers an extremely useful tool that allows to measure progress while paying attention to the specifics of individual municipalities.
Starting Point and Objectives
More than 80 municipalities have already signed the sample resolution of the Association of German Cities (Deutscher Städtetag). Among them are major German cities like Bonn, Dresden, Hannover, or Stuttgart. By signing the resolution, the municipalities declare their commitment to implement the international sustainable development goals (SDGs). But how is it possible to depict the current and the desirable status of sustainable development? And how can the progress in terms of the 2030 Agenda objectives be determined? By the use of (SDG) indicators, municipalities can control their sustainability performance.
The multi-stakeholder-initiative “SDG Indicators for Municipalities” aims at providing indicator definitions and parameters for the creation of impact-oriented municipal sustainability management in Germany on the basis of the 2030 Agenda. Through various steps, the initiative works with municipalities to compile relevant indicators, define or redefine them when necessary, and – to the greatest possible extent – provide access to the indicator parameters. Indicator development consists of identifying and describing indicators for the relevant goals and sub-goals, as well as surveying and analysing indicator parameters.
The aim is to ensure that every sub-goal that is considered relevant for German communities is depicted by one or more indicators. In general, existing indicator definitions should be used as reference. New indicators should only be defined in exceptional cases i.e. when there are no appropriate indicator definitions for relevant sub-goals. Likewise, existing data from official statistics, or from other appropriate sources, should be used. However, “perspective” indicators may also be defined: these are indicators that possess the required good quality, but are not yet universally accessible.
A Modular Unit
In all cases, the SDG indicators shall be regarded as recommendations: individual municipalities decide voluntarily which indicators they want to use to depict or control sustainable development in their local context. A selection, amendment of, or additions to the proposed indicators are possible. In this respect, the SDG indicator catalogue can be used as a modular unit by individual towns, districts, and municipalities.
In general, the SDG indicators that have been developed and provided are intended as a contribution to the creation of impact-oriented municipal sustainability management in the sense and context of the 2030 Agenda.
Within the initiative, 47 indicators have been identified for German municipalities – independent of their particular type, size or location. Some of the indicators may also be applicable in other countries, yet some may be not – because the different conditions, problems, or tasks on the local level require different and very context-specific answers. In either case, it is surely possible to transfer the general methodological approach to develop and provide SDG indicators for measuring progress at city-level to other countries – regardless of their development status.
The methodological approach to the development and provision of SDG indicators for municipalities in Germany consists of four phases.
- SDG Relevance Check:
In the first phase, the relevance of SDGs to German municipalities is checked. In the first stage, the sub-goals of an SDG are divided into individual aspects if required. In the second and third stage, the questions of whether the respective individual goal addresses major problems or challenges for German municipalities (problem check) and whether municipal tasks or products could help to contribute to the achievement of the respective individual goal (task check) are addressed.
- Identification and Description of Indicators:
In the second phase, relevant indicators are identified and described. The identification of indicators includes their collection, evaluation, and selection. Appropriate indicators are collected on the basis of reliable sources of the United Nations, the European Commission, the Federal Government, selected Federal States, and other institutions. Indicators are evaluated on the basis of certain quality criteria, such as validity, data quality, and data availability. The selection of indicators is oriented towards certain minimum standards for the individual evaluation criteria.
- Survey and Analysis of Indicator Parameters:
In the third phase, the indicators are surveyed and analysed. The survey extends to all cities and municipalities with a population of more than 5,000 inhabitants as well as all rural districts (in Germany so-called Landkreise). When possible, the indicator parameters from the past ten years are taken into consideration. The data is taken from official statistics, other publicly available sources, or, in selected cases, commercial sources; individual municipalities are not surveyed.
- Provision of results:
In the fourth phase, access to the results of the initiative “SDG Indicators for Municipalities” is provided. Access is provided firstly in a joint publication by the partner organisations, and secondly via the internet. The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s internet platform “Municipal Signpost” (Wegweiser Kommune) and, later on, also the INKAR database of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) provides access to the data of the individual municipalities.
Following a multi-stakeholder-approach, the initiative “SDG Indicators for Municipalities” consists of various committees and other bodies. The multi-stakeholder-approach serves two main purposes: Firstly, expertise from different organisations and perspectives can be used for the development of the indictors. Secondly, the different stakeholders involved can help to communicate and to scale the results of the project.
- Working Group:
The Working Group contains representatives of the Bertelsmann Stiftung (BSt), the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR), the German County Association (DLT), the Association of German Cities (DST), the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), the German Institute of Urban Studies (Difu) and Engagement Global (EG) with its Agency Communities in One World (SKEW).
- Discussion Events:
The Discussion Events are aimed at the municipalities that have signed up to the example resolution of the Association of German Cities and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) on the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, as well as the model municipalities in the program “Global Sustainable Municipalities” of the Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW) of Engagement Global, and municipalities taking part in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s project “Monitor Sustainable Municipalities”.
- Project Advisory Committee:
The Project Advisory Committee consists of representatives of selected towns and rural districts (Landkreise) taking part in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s project “Monitor Sustainable Municipalities”, as well as representatives of the three German municipal umbrella organisations. The other partner organisations of the initiative “SDG Indicators for Municipalities“ also take part in Project Advisory Committee meetings.
In July 2018, the first results of the project were published. Currently, the indicator catalogue is tested in more than twenty municipalities. By the end of 2018, the first practical experiences will be evaluated. In 2019 and 2020, updated versions of the indicator catalogue will be worked out.
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