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We are four years into 2030 Agenda and Kosovo and the region are yet to understand the importance of it and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  At this very start, it is important to highlight that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are clearly not a belonging of the United Nations. This is an agenda for everyone – an agenda for the society at large.  This is further confirmed by the fact that SDGs derive from the people and are designed for them. They are here to enhance the overall societal well-being.

Kosovo’s case in this regard is quite unique. Although it had no obligation to do so, in 2018, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted the Resolution for Sustainable Development as well as it established the Council for Sustainable Development. These developments signaled that the institutional willingness to work on 2030 Agenda is present, and that the commitment in this regard is highly focused at the central level.  As such, Institute for Development Policy (INDEP), decided to go a step further and engage in parallel work with the local governance structures. Through the project ‘Sustainably Developing (Local) Governments for Sustainable Development Goals – SDG4SDGs’ – a project supported by GIZ through the 2030 Agenda Transformation Fund, INDEP is working with 7 beneficiary municipalities (Prishtinë/Pristina, Prizren, Vushtrri/Vučitrn, Novobërdë/Novo Brdo, Drenas/Glogovac, Deçan/Dečane and Podujevë/Podujevo). In particular, the project is focused on: informing about and communicating clearly the 2030 Agenda, highlighting the importance of the direct involvement of local governance structures in this regard, evaluating capacities of these municipalities to implement the 2030 Agenda, and drafting of Local SDG Plans. These plans were published in a conference bringing together a wide array of stakeholders, comprising of central and local representatives as well as the international community. The plans provide a baseline assessment of the municipal capacities and selected local strategies vis-à-vis the SDGs, as well as a set of practical tools and recommendations regarding public investments, municipal mechanisms, capacity strengthening and strategy adjustment required to integrate the SDGs at the municipal level. The engaging and interactive formats throughout the drafting process created an atmosphere where everyone was empowered to speak up and to share insights – exactly what the 2030 Agenda needs.

In working with municipalities, the language of communication was central to the success of the engagement. The focus is on delivering clearly that SDGs are not different from local priorities. They are a framework built on values of human rights, inclusiveness, and equal opportunities, and that they should and can be well aligned with the priorities of the local level. Further on, for a country heavily focused on the EU integration agenda, it has to be made clear that there is no contradiction between EU and priorities of 2030 Agenda. Instead, these two reinforce and complement each other. These two agendas don’t represent two sets of priorities; instead, progress marked on one of those will be a direct contribution towards the fulfillment of the other.

Further on, it has to be made clear that the localization of SDGs is not a top down process; instead, it is rather a coordination process.  In order for progress to happen, we must engage in creating a safe operating space for civil society, non-­state stakeholders and community based organisations. Consistent with the 2030 principles, continuous efforts must be made to ensure and enhance cooperation and collaboration on all fronts, in order to deliver on the ‘Leave no one behind’ premise, standing at the core of the 2030 Agenda.

Equally important is the financial aspect and support. The participants in the conference  broadly agreed that the financial support and budgetary planning and spending must be closely aligned with 2030 Agenda and not only. The mere fact that only 25.3% of the total Kosovo budget is dedicated to Municipalities is an indicator in itself confirming the restrictive abilities of Municipalities to take necessary measures to actively pursue the objectives of 2030 Agenda. The municipal structures are the first point of contact and reference for the citizens, hence, empowering them, not only in financial terms but also in terms of human capacities, lies at centre of efforts to successfully meet the objectives of 2030 Agenda.

The drafting of the local plans for SDGs for the municipalities is only a starting point. The most challenging exercise is the prioritization of the targets dependent on case by case basis and the building of indicators based on local contexts, competencies and delivery responsibilities. Thereafter, the implementation will require an identification of resources related to the prioritized areas.

Nonetheless, the 2030 Agenda represent an opportunity for our generation and it calls for daring actions to tackle some of the most challenging social, economic and environmental problems of our century. This calls for ways of thinking, doing, financing and policy making in ways we have not seen so far. But, first and foremost, it requires a clear understanding by all stakeholders of its relevance and direct contribution to a generally improved social well-being. Ultimately, 2030 Agenda is not just another international agreement, it is an agenda designed by the people for the people, and it is a genuine representation of our nowadays struggles and a guiding framework for unified action to tackle those. INDEP, jointly with all the relevant stakeholders in the process, have to make sure that discussion in such conferences and fora don’t merely remain at the declarative level and that concrete actions are being taken to advance local and national efforts towards delivering on 2030 Agenda. In this journey, the role of municipalities and their contribution is quintessential to the long term success.

Learta Hollaj, INDEP

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