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‘’Cities’ social services are key in the implementation of the SDGs as they strive to make our communities more inclusive and sustainable” stated Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive of the European Social Network (ESN), during ESN’s third Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) working group meeting, which took place on the 2nd and 3rd of April 2020.

Since 2018, ESN has had a working group on the SDGs, which meets on a yearly basis to explore the role of social services in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda at the national, regional and local level. This year, working group members explored the role of cities’ social services in the implementation of SDG11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The meeting brought together representatives from cities’ social services across Europe and focused on two sub-topics of SDG11- city social planning and housing and homelessness. Best practices from Tel Aviv, Zagreb, Barcelona, Riga and cities in the Gothenburg Region were presented.

Cities’ social services are essential in the development and implementation of local inclusion and sustainability strategies advancing SDG11, as these are the ones which work with population groups of concern and ultimately plan, finance, manage and deliver services to cities’ citizens. By working with the most vulnerable people in cities, they can lead or support the development of city social strategies bringing their knowledge and expertise on target groups, providing data or supporting the monitoring and evaluation of city social strategies advancing the specific SDG goal of creating inclusive and sustainable communities. Importantly, they can reach vulnerable groups to create participatory models in city social planning contributing to a collaborative, participatory and democratic city social planning including all stakeholders, making the city social plan more inclusive and sustainable. Therefore, in the countering of current and future social challenges in cities “co-design is crucial in the development and delivery of services advancing inclusion and sustainability in cities”, as Serdar Türkeli, Researcher at the United Nations University- Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology reminded during the webinar.

ESN’s SDGs working group members formulated several recommendations regarding the development of local inclusion and sustainability strategies. All participants agreed that political will and a multi-level governance approach is fundamental in the advancement of SDG11. Working group members furthermore stressed the importance of city social strategies being inclusive, integrated and sustainable. A co-productive approach in the planning and implementation of strategies with the involvement of all stakeholders, including service users, is of fundamental importance for the successful outcome of city strategies. Collaboration between different levels of government and different sectors is a success factor. Lastly, strategies need to be carefully planned, evidence-based and lead to the creation of long-term plans and continuous monitoring and evaluation to ensure their sustainability. Adequate funding is consequently of great importance for the development and implementation of city inclusion and sustainability strategies.

As a follow up to the 2020 working group meeting, a policy brief is being drafted and will be published in the upcoming weeks. Best practices on the development of local inclusion and sustainability strategies across Europe will equally be published in ESN’s Practice Library soon.  

External resources

United Nations (n.d.) Sustainable Development Goal 11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

ESN Resources

European Social Network (2018). Policy Briefing- Implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda: the Role of Social Services- SDG1: /sites/default/files/publications/SDG%20Policy_briefing_interactive.pdf

European Social Network (2019). The Sustainable Development Agenda- The Role of Social Services- SDG3 Improving health and well-being: /sites/default/files/publications/SDG%20Policy_briefing_interactive.pdf