25 October 2019
SDG Partnerships: Bringing together Citizens, Cities and Businesses for a Sustainable Europe

SDG Partnerships: Bringing together Citizens, Cities and Businesses for a Sustainable Europe

#ProgressiveLocalLab in Mannheim

As part of the Urban Thinker Campus, the PES Group organises its second #ProgressiveLocalLab in Mannheim, Germany. The Lab was kicked off by PES Group member Peter Kurz, Lord Mayor of Mannheim (Germany), and Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions and Mayor of Coulaines (France).

Peter Kurz reminded the participants of a balanced and holistic approach when tackling sustainability issues. "Only if we combine social, environmental and economic dimensions, we will be able to achieve long-term sustainability", he stressed.

 

Christophe Rouillon added that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires joint efforts between citizens, cities, and businesses. "Through partnerships, we can build a solid foundation that allows us successfully localise the SDGs as well as the policies for achieving them", he underlined.

Peter Kurz then joined the panel discussion together with Yoomi Renström, First Vice-President of the PES Group and Mayor of Ovanåker (Sweden), and PES Group member Niall McNelis, Member of Galway City Council (Ireland).

Yoomi Renström stressed the importance of engaging with people's needs to accomplish a just transition and to prevent a divide in the population. In that sense, sustainability needs to be considered as a democratic issue, too, as there needs to be a constant exchange between politicians and their citizens to win their support. This is done best at local level.

Niall McNelis pointed out that investing in the city's culture can have a wide-spread effect because it touches on the everyday lives of citizens. Galway City, as the European Capital of Culture 2020, has been working on integrating sustainability into multiple policy areas. Although green leadership requires hard decisions at times, the approval rates increase if the impact of sustainability measures becomes more tangible.

Therefore, this process must entail exchanges, dialogue, and compromise, according to Peter Kurz. If we want to implement the SDGs in a manner that leaves no person nor region behind, we need to bring together all relevant stakeholders. Thus, the city of Mannheim initiated a participatory process for sustainability with its model "Mannheim 2030". "The bigger objective of a sustainable future consists of many small and detailed debates that need to take place on a local level", he emphasised.

On that note, our Lab also seized the potential of learning from the exchange with our participants. In the second part of the event, the participants were invited to take part in breakout sessions that focused on different aspects of sustainability. Alissa Ghils Mendoza, Sustainable Development Officer at SOLIDAR, worked with the attending thinkers on the question "What does social sustainability mean and how to put it in practice?". The group concluded that fighting inequality is a crucial component of securing a sustainable future. Civil society must be involved in implementing as well as in monitoring the 2030 agenda.

Niall McNelis worked on "How to strengthen local climate action?" with the second group. They identified communication as the biggest issue in realising measures to mitigate the climate crisis. The complexity of the matter makes it difficult to understand the urgency of climate action. Therefore, the group reiterated the necessity for better education, particularly through social media channels, to raise approval rates.

The third group was led by Umberto Constantini, Mayor of Spilamberto (Italy). He presented the local project "Sustainable Spilamberto" that encourages its citizens to get involved in big matters on a small scale. The participants agreed that helping one's own community bridges the gap between complex concepts like sustainability and the citizens' everyday life.

"The implementation of the SDGs can only be successful if we take a holistic approach", highlighted Evelyne Gebhardt, Member of the European Parliament (S&D/Germany), in her concluding remarks. Yoomi Renström agreed that everyone needs to contribute towards that common goal. "Solidarity and participation must be the guiding principles for progressive leaders of all levels to ensure a just transition", she pointed out.

There was a broad consensus among the participants that setting a sustainability agenda inspired by the SDGs can only work if we take the implementation seriously in all areas of life. Only if we create incentives for citizens to participate and set up the structures to take on board their input, we will manage to build those partnerships towards a sustainable Europe.

 

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