Making real the local action we need to achieve global aspirations

Closing statement delivered by Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP´s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at the launch and opening of the Local2030 Coalition Secretariat in Bilbao, Spain

October 31, 2022

Your Excellencies:

  • Mr. Iñigo Urkullu, President of the Basque Government
  • Mr. José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain
  • Mr. Juan Mari Aburto, Mayor of Bilbao
  • Madam Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General
  • Madam Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director

Excellencies, Colleagues,

It is an honor to join you today to open the Local2030 Secretariat here in Bilbao.  

This momentous event demonstrates the kind of “breakthrough” that the UN Secretary General called for in Our Common Agenda --- the concerted action and direction that the global community needs to take to avoid a “breakdown and a future of perpetual crises”.

The messages and the discussions we just heard all point to the urgency of the times: We face challenges today that are complex and interlocking. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict has rolled back progress we have made on our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To add to what previous speakers have pointed out:

  • The pandemic wiped out more than four years of progress on poverty eradication and pushed 93 million more people into extreme poverty in 2020. The forecast this year notes that 73 million more than expected before the pandemic will be living in extreme poverty. It disrupted essential health services, which resulted in a drop in immunization for the first time in a decade and a rise in deaths from tuberculosis and malaria. And, more than 24 million from pre-primary to university level are at risk of never returning to school, making their future even more uncertain. 
  • Also, one quarter of the global population today live in conflict-affected countries, with 100 million people forcibly displaced, and the war in Ukraine creating one of the largest refugee crises of modern time.
  • More, economic pressures are intensifying, with developing countries battling record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens that further complicate pandemic recovery.

The immediate and knock-on effect of these crises on economies and societies around the world are playing out in the lives of people everywhere --- putting at risk the inclusive, resilient and sustainable future we envision for all.

Decisive and coordinated action from the global to the local level will be crucial as we approach 2030. But that kind of action does not happen automatically, particularly at the level and scale necessary to shift directions for the future of the people and the planet.

Thus, the great significance of this “event” here in Bilbao today. It will make that action possible.

It underlines first of all that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development hinges on the collective efforts of government and partners at all levels. The Local2030 Coalition centered here in Bilbao will pull together the knowledge, resources and skills from the global to the local level that will be crucial for real, transformative change.

Second, it raises the local dimensions of global trends and challenges and will help ensure multi-level governance and coordination that serves all communities. We need local action to achieve our global aspirations, particularly as 110 of the 164 SDG targets require the engagement of local actors to be met.

Third, efforts facilitated here at the center in Bilbao will help build local capacities for a future tied to global shifts. All levels of government are seriously affected by the crises around the world today, but local governments serve at the front lines. In many countries, they are responsible for many services and operations supported by local revenues, and they are bearing pressures to an extent not seen before.

In closing the launch proceedings today, I convey the UNDP Administrator’s deep appreciation for the commitment and support of Spain and the Basque Government. Through this center here in Bilbao, and through the significant support to SDG localization programming on the ground, the City Council of Bilbao, Basque Government, and the Government of Spain have put in place an unprecedented effort --- making real the local action we need to achieve global aspirations.

UNDP congratulates the people of Bilbao and all of Spain for these breakthrough efforts, and commends the leadership and crucial support of the UN Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

UNDP is privileged to serve as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Coalition and to be part of its foundational efforts. With Coalition stakeholders, we will advance SDG localization efforts that help guarantee “spaces” for local actors and ensure alignment of local-to-global priorities ---and assets--- to secure a future that is inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

Thank you.