Flemish cities and municipalities are becoming more sustainable

Flemish cities and municipalities are becoming more sustainable

Flemish municipalities are one step closer to achieving the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Preserving open space, qualitative education and responsible consumption remain the biggest challenges towards 2030. This is according to IDEA Consult's SDG Monitoring 2022. The Association of Flemish Cities is satisfied with the progress, although the work is not finished and efforts from all governments remain badly needed.

Open space, education and responsible consumption require additional efforts

The latest update of the monitor (2022) shows that since 2010 Flemish cities and municipalities have systematically improved in terms of sustainable development. 'This is certainly the case for 'poverty', 'work and economic growth' and 'inequality'. For 'health and well-being' we see an improvement in prevention and road safety, but a decline in physical health,' says Valentijn Vanoeteren of IDEA Consult. A number of other SDGs did improve since 2010, but experienced a decline in recent years. In 'education', for instance, attendance rates in pre-school education and participation in adult education are falling. 'Responsible consumption and production' also experienced a small decline due to an increase in waste. 'Strong public services' were under pressure due to corona, resulting in declining satisfaction with municipal councils and counter services. 'Living on the land' has consistently fared worse since 2010. Reasons are the constant reduction in open space and a reduction in green spaces in 87% of municipalities. 

Cities face the biggest challenges, but are also triggers

Although the central cities have made up a lot of ground in recent years, the figures on 'poverty', 'climate', 'safety' and 'public services' remain strikingly worse than in the average Flemish municipality.  At the same time, they are the pioneers in a number of areas, such as organic farming, sustainable food, environmental awareness and innovation.

It is also striking that a high median income of inhabitants is one of the main explanatory factors for differences in SDG scores between municipalities. The richer the residents in a municipality, the better the scores. In turn, these municipalities do struggle with higher inequality, not just in terms of income.

Delivering sustainable development goals locally

The SDGs are the international compass for a sustainable world towards 2030. To turn the 17 goals into reality, cities and municipalities are badly needed. The Sustainable Development Network (SDSN) estimates that 65% of the success of the SDGs depends on the immediate and active involvement of local governments. 'The SDGs will be local or they won't be, it's as simple as that. It is good that this monitoring challenges every municipality to make further work on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, although here we are also looking at central governments which have important levers at their disposal to support municipalities,' said Wim Dries, president of the VVSG.

*IDEA Consult developed an SDG monitor with UNU-CRIS, which can show the situation of each municipality with regard to the 17 SDGs. The monitor can be accessed free of charge at www.sdgmonitor.be. The latest update allowed IDEA Consult and UNU-CRIS to expand the dataset to +200 indicators. The additional data were collected as part of the preparation of the Voluntary Subnational Review (VSR) by the VVSG, together with the VVP.