Entering the implementation decade, it is evident that the path staked out in front of us is the right direction and we have already taken our first steps towards a more sustainable world. We see it in our everyday life and in the media. Old technologies are phased out, we recycle more than ever, and environmental awareness and efficiency are often the main drivers for innovation and competitiveness. Extreme poverty is being pushed back by the day and major progress has been made globally on the access to education.

The European Union, as well as local, regional and national governments all over the globe, are taking initiatives to face common challenges that are pushing the boundaries in ways never seen before. To take one example: “The European Green Deal” has been said to be an effort at the same level of ambition as the moon landing. The European Commission has also clearly stated that the UN SDG’s shall be at the very heart of policymaking.

But is it enough?

These many positive examples aside, we have recently watched the Australian wildfires overshadow the burning Amazon. Major international players such as the US government have left the Paris Agreement. The risk for a global pandemic is suddenly plausible and open liberal societies working in cooperation, which we have come to take for granted, are not necessarily the default option anymore. Hunger is still far too prevalent and malnutrition rates are still alarming.

It is time for the next step.

The phrase “Think Global, Act Local” has long been a mantra and its message still stands. I strongly believe that the strength of society in the form of cities, associations, companies or even neighbours will be indispensable to tackle each and every one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, in order to align all the efforts made and to ensure the maximum outcome, we also must take on these challenges from a geographical perspective. The regional competence might vary between countries but the need for a level between the local and national is nevertheless always needed. Regions have another set of competencies than municipalities, a broader geographical uptake than the local actors and a proximity to the citizens missing on the national level. In many ways, the regions represent the golden ratio of multi-level governance.

The Assembly of European Regions has therefore started a Taskforce on the SDG’s and, together with our partners, we invite European and global regional actors to this high-level conference in Strasbourg.

It is an opportunity to take part in the discussion about the regional perspective of SDGs, participating in workshops to exchange best practices and to make your regions voice heard.

We aim to ensure that the regional level is taken into account by sending a clear message to the European institutions and member states. Our message is “if you want to change the world, you have to do it through the regions.”

Magnus Berntsson,
President of AER