In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/70/1 "Transforming our world: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" , which entered into force in October of the same year. The resolution outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that are interlinked and address economic, social, and environmental issues in equal measure.
Georgia was one of the first countries to join the resolution and begin the process of nationalization and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to facilitate the implementation of the goals and the monitoring of this process, an Interagency Council for Sustainable Development Goals (hereinafter referred to as the Council) and thematic working groups (hereinafter referred to as the Working Groups) have been established to assist the Council by the order of the Prime Minister of Georgia. In addition, a national agenda document for 2030 was developed - the SDGs matrix, defining national goals, targets, and indicators.
Given the universal and inclusive nature of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important that both central and local governments be involved in their implementation, as it is the local self-government that can deliver the benefits to the population in the most effective and expeditious manner. To facilitate this, with the financial support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has conducted a comprehensive analysis of the local architecture of Sustainable Development Goals in Georgia within the frames of the programme - Good Governance for Local Development South Caucasus (GGLD). Specifically, the report covers topics such as:
- Involvement of local governments in national mechanisms for the implementation of the SDGs;
- Identify key municipal structures for the introduction and implementation of the SDGs at the local level;
- Establish links between the program budget of municipalities and the budget required for the implementation of the SDGs.
In 2019, an audit  of the readiness for the implementation of SDGs conducted by the State Audit Office revealed that the SDG matrix was not integrated into the municipal priority documents, as municipalities were not involved in the implementation of the SDGs. In order to evaluate the ongoing processes in this direction, IDFI selected 14 municipalities  and addressed them with letters requesting public information. The letter included the following questions: Has the Council for Sustainable Development been established within the City Hall or the Municipal Council? Do they participate in the National Council for Sustainable Development Goals? Are they familiar with the national document on Sustainable Development Goals? Do they use the SDGs when drafting a medium-term development document for the municipality? And other thematic questions. In addition, IDFI conducted a survey  on SDGs in the selected municipalities to examine the trends in the level of awareness of various stakeholders, with the goal of generalizing the results.
At the same time, based on the example of 4 pilot municipalities (Keda, Senaki, Sagarejo, and Oni), the priorities and programs defined in the municipal budgets were studied, and their possible adaptation to the nationalized goals was determined. The results of the analysis are discussed in detail in Appendix I to the report .
Based on the analysis, the following findings and recommendations were elaborated:
Challenges on the Legislative and Institutional Levels
- In the nationalized matrix, local government is mentioned in only 4 of the goals. Each of the 93 identified targets has a lead agency, although the local government body is not named for any of the targets. The full list of working groups includes all the other actors mentioned in the guidelines, except for the local self-government representatives at this stage. It should be noted that the plan for localization of SDGs envisages the addition of representatives of municipalities to the list, which will take into account the mechanisms developed for their involvement. It is thus important to define the roles and responsibilities of the agencies/organizations involved in the thematic working groups. Develop action plans for the SDG Council and Working Groups, outlining short- and medium-term activities, timelines, and resources required. Given the universal and inclusive nature of SDGs, it is important that both central and local governments be involved in their implementation. This recommendation was also included in the 2019 state audit report.
- It is important to identify effective mechanisms for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in the development of individual policies, strategies, action plans, priority documents, or budgeting procedures by the municipality, taking into account the views and experiences of local stakeholders. In addition to the local context, municipalities need to consider nationalized goals and their potential contribution to achieving them.
- The mayor has the authority to study individual issues, to prepare relevant conclusions and recommendations, to establish councils, commissions, and working groups. However, based on public information requested from the municipalities, no local council for sustainable development or any similar deliberative body has been established within any of the municipalities at this stage. In addition, while the activities of existing councils, commissions, and working groups are linked to separate Sustainable Development Goals, nationalized goals are not taken into account.
- According to the audit report conducted in 2019, the matrix of SDGs did not have a formal form and the goals, objectives, and indicators defined in it were only fragmentarily integrated into the basic data and directions of the country (BDD), 2019-2022 ministries' median action plans, and the priority documents of the municipalities. Although several Sustainable Development Goals are explicitly mentioned in BDD documents issued over the last 3 years, their consideration is still fragmentary and not yet found in municipal priority documents (based on responses to public information requests). Therefore, it is important to consider the Sustainable Development Goals in the methodology for drafting the priority documents. To address these challenges, the government should consider the GIZ-supported Sustainable Development Goals budgeting methodology and practical guidebook.
- It is clear from the responses to the letters requesting public information sent to the municipalities that most of them have not received an official letter from the Interagency Council for Sustainable Development Goals and therefore, do not participate in its work. It should also be noted that municipalities do not use SDGs at this stage in the development of strategies, medium-term plans, and budgets, and monitoring and evaluation systems for the implementation of action plans and strategies are not in place at the local level.
- Nearly half of the municipal civil servants surveyed by IDFI had not heard about SDGs, and 80% said they had never been trained on the subject. This indicates a need for awareness-raising activities, especially given that the vast majority of participants are interested in such an initiative and express their readiness to participate.
Main Needs with Regard to Major Stakeholders
- The municipalities themselves have a key role to play in localizing Sustainable Development Goals, with the involvement of the mayor, their deputies, and other decision-makers, as the mayor forms the working group for the municipal budget process according to the methodology given in decree №385 of the Minister of Finance. Meanwhile, for ordinary employees, it is advisable to conduct awareness-raising activities.
- When localizing goals at the local level, it is important for municipalities to guarantee the involvement of various stakeholders in the process - both by setting up new working groups or advisory mechanisms, and by incorporating Sustainable Development Goals into the activities of existing groups.
- The involvement of the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia, an organization that unites all local self-government units of Georgia, is also important in the SDG localization process. The aim of the Association is to improve the system of local self-government in the country and to promote local democracy, decentralization of state power, and development of local self-government institutions. Consulting, providing additional information and analysis with these and other local civil society organizations and representatives of the academia will ensure that the localization process is more complete and comprehensive.
- Finally, the municipality should take care to implement SDGs and involve the local population in the monitoring process and raise their awareness, as the accountability of elected political officials to the population is a strong democratic mechanism for achieving the implementation of SDGs at the local level.
- The indicators given in the National Document on Sustainable Development Goals should be broken down at the territorial level. That the implementation of this is envisaged in the plan for localization of Sustainable Development Goals is welcome. Given that the capabilities and data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia are quite strong in the regional and municipal context, it is necessary to analyze the existing statistics and disaggregate the indicators of Sustainable Development Goals at the municipal level. This will require the creation of a separate document by the central government, which will allow all stakeholders and decision-makers to view and analyze baseline and target data across all parties/municipalities according to the geographical map. For example, if the goal of the central document 1 includes country-wide statistics: "Proportion of the population living in extreme poverty: 2015 - 3.8%", the disaggragated document at the regional level should provide information on the data of this indicator (e.g. Poverty rate – 2015 – Guria, Kakheti, Racha, etc.). The addressee of this recommendation is the Administration of the Government of Georgia, which is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the country and creating a regional document proposed by this recommendation.
- The involvement of local self-government representatives in both the decision-maker (council) and the working level (council working groups) should be intensified in the National Council for Sustainable Development Goals. That the implementation of this is envisaged in the plan for localization of Sustainable Development Goals is a welcome step. This will require the implementation of the State Audit Office's recommendations and the effective involvement of municipalities in the central government's Sustainable Development Goals platforms. Effective support can be provided through their invitation and attendance at the meetings, sharing any SDG-related information and news with them, offering a common platform for SDG information exchange between municipalities, involving municipal SDGs in awareness-raising campaigns and decision-making in local government.
- Support the development of the production of municipal statistics, both at the central and municipal-administrative levels. As statistical information is the main source for monitoring and evaluating the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, it is necessary to strengthen the production of municipal statistics and allocate additional financial and human resources to this purpose. At the same time, it is necessary to adopt common guidelines and standards for the production of statistics at the local level, especially in the context of nationalized SDGs, in which case it is important to work closely with the the National Statistics Office of Georgia. No less important is the training of public officials in the field of statistics production, especially in accordance with the guidelines and standards developed for municipalities. All of this is also very important in the context of the decentralization reform. To this purpose, it will be necessary at the central level to identify in terms of statistical production those parties and municipalities where data collection is either not taking place or the quality and quantity of data obtained is very low.
- Given the structure and content of the budget documentation prepared by the municipality during the budget process, the links between the programs and sub-programs of the municipalities for the Sustainable Development Goals should be reflected in the priority document and program budget, allowing municipalities to calculate the budget for the implementation of each goal. In case of a deficit, it is necessary to begin looking for additional financial resources with the involvement of both the private and international sectors. This process should be planned and implemented openly, with maximum adherence to the principle of inclusivity. This will additionally enable them to determine what it achieving 1 goal would cost 1 municipality.
- It is important to increase the integration of Sustainable Development Goals into municipal policy-making. As the implementation of the goals is not a parallel process and is not separated from the domestic policy-making of the country, it is necessary to have separate policy documents to be developed at the municipal level: in the process of defining and creating strategies, action plans, concepts and priorities, the municipality should ensure the integration of Sustainable Development Goals. This entails the following: all priorities and plans should be in line with the goals and objectives of sustainable development, and directly or indirectly respond to their implementation, and the mentioned connection and compliance should be able to be verified in all relevant policy documents of the municipality.
- It is recommended to establish advisory bodies for SDGs at the level of city halls, which will be composed of representatives of public and private sectors, international and local civil society. The function of these deliberative bodies will be to determine compliance of municipal policy with sustainable development and to oversee the implementation of objectives. The bodies should work closely with the national council. The activity and involvement of the National Association of Local Authorities of Georgia and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia in the process of cooperation between these deliberative bodies and the Interagency Council is of vital importance.
- It is recommended to establish supervisory boards for the Sustainable Development Goals at the municipal council level, the main function of which will be to monitor the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda by the city hall, identify challenges in this process, and launch reciprocal legislative or other initiatives. This model will increase the openness of municipal efforts to achieve the goals and make the process more transparent.
- Raise awareness of the local public and civil society sector through regular trainings and information campaigns. That the implementation of this is envisaged in the plan for localization of Sustainable Development Goals is a welcome step. It is desirable that awareness-raising about thematic goals take on the character of a local campaign and be based on municipal needs. For example, in a municipality where clean drinking water is a problem, it is important to spread information about the relevant goals and objectives of thematically sustainable development - what does the international standard offer? What do the Sustainable Development Goals tell us about this problem? What is the local government's problem-solving plan for 2030? Who is responsible for solving the problem?
- In addition, it is critical to train and support public servants employed in self-government, especially decision-makers, in understanding the importance of sustainable development. That the implementation of this is envisaged in the plan for localization of Sustainable Development Goals is a welcome step. In-depth and substantive knowledge of the Goals is a natural and irreplaceable lever for local government officials to pay attention to the issue, put it on the political agenda, and give it due importance. In addition, according to a survey conducted within the project, the majority of officials are willing to engage in educational activities related to the SDGs.
In addition to the general recommendations developed based on the research, additional recommendations were developed specifically for the municipalities, based on the results of the analysis of the 4 municipalities targeted by the research. Accordingly, several measures can be identified to help municipalities effectively localize the Sustainable Development Goals:
- The local challenges and needs of these municipalities should be analyzed, on the basis of which the National Sustainable Development Goals Document (SDG Matrix) should be adapted to take into account the specifics of the municipality.
- The selection of goals and targets is at the discretion of the municipality and should be done in accordance with the challenges at the local level. In this process, it is recommended that the municipality select at least 10% of the total number of targets in the national document. In order to select goals and targets, it is necessary to conduct municipal socio-economic, environmental, institutional, and gender assessment by the relevant administrative bodies of the municipality, so that the prioritization of goals and targets of sustainable development is based on evidence and is supported by the results of objective research.
- The goals/targets/indicators selected and adapted by the municipality should be integrated into the municipal strategies and action plans, as the established target indicators should be taken into account in the municipal thematic planning process. For example: consideration and understanding of poverty and unemployment indicators in the municipal social policy strategy and action plan; Consideration of school infrastructure indicators in the municipal education infrastructure rehabilitation policy and plan; Consideration of waste management indicators in municipal environmental policy priorities, etc. Similarly, national objectives should be linked to the strategies already adopted by municipalities, their action plans, and outcome indicators, in particular, in reviewing/evaluating these documents and monitoring their implementation.
- It is necessary to specify which administrative body is responsible for the performance of this or that target in the municipal adjusted document of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The municipality should develop a monitoring and evaluation system for this document, which in the beginning can only be a monitoring and evaluation methodology, based on which the responsible public institution will monitor the achievement of goals and objectives and evaluate the results in real time. In the future, it would be for the best to make an electronic monitoring program (so-called "software"): an e-government system that provides automatic data generation, while a universal database of e-systems will allow other municipalities to get involved and work through the program. At the same time, it is important to integrate this program and/or link it to the national platform for monitoring Sustainable Development Goals, which will make it easier to reflect the results achieved at the municipal level in the national report.
- It is desirable to name the relevant structural unit of the municipality as a public institution responsible for monitoring and evaluating the objectives.
- The city hall of a specific municipality should be accountable to the municipal council and report on the results of the systematic monitoring of the implementation of the measures required for the implementation of this document. The recommendations of the municipal council should be mandatory for the city hall to consider.
- In the process of prioritizing and implementing the goals/targets/indicators, the city hall should involve the local thematic civil society, academia, and the private sector within the platform of the relevant thematic council.
- In order to integrate municipal priorities, strategies, action plans, and Sustainable Development Goals, it is necessary to consider all the indicators that measure the achievement of SDGs in the budget planning process. To achieving the goal, the implementation process needs the appropriate financial resources, which must be considered by the municipality when preparing the budget. In this process, the municipality should be guided by the “methodology of reflection of Sustainable Development Goals in the budget by municipalities.” In case of a lack of financial resources, it is necessary for the municipality to work actively to seek international donor funds.
- The municipality should be actively involved in the work of the National Council for Sustainable Development Goals, attend meetings and working group meetings, share information on activities carried out at the municipal level, and voice municipal needs and share response action plans within the framework of sustainable development. This process naturally lays the foundations for healthy competition between municipalities and activates and engages municipal civil society and the private sector in the implementation of SDGs. As the implementation of the goals is not only the responsibility of the government, it is important that the process become more active with the help of local entrepreneurs and NGOs, effective and result-oriented, adhering to the core principle of SDGs: "Leave No One Behind", which facilitates the production of statistical information on vulnerable populations at the municipal level in the process of achieving the goals, analysis and taking this into account in the process of developing and expanding municipal state programs.
 Tbilisi City Municipality, Batumi City Municipality, Kutaisi City Municipality, Telavi Municipality, Mtskheta Municipality, Zugdidi City Municipality, Tsageri Municipality, Akhaltsikhe Municipality, Marneuli Municipality, Gori Municipality, Keda Municipality, Senaki Municipality, Oni Municipality, Sagarejo Municipality and Ozurgeti Municipality. See the selection methodology in Appendix II.
See the questionnaire in Appendix III
Such analysis is important for planning localization process awareness and advocacy campaigns.
The report was prepared by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) within the frames of the programme - Good Governance for Local Development South Caucasus (GGLD).
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of GIZ.
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