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The need to increase awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to integrate gender equality throughout, came across loud and clear on day one of CLGF’s regional conference in the Caribbean in partnership with the European Commission.
Bringing together eminent local government politicians and stakeholders from across the Caribbean to discuss the theme - Local government: a partner in achieving the sustainable development goals - the event aims to explore the experiences and achievements of the many projects to localise the SDGs funded through the European Commission's EuropeAid Department.
Opening the conference, Deputy Secretary-General Lucy Slack explained that CLGF wanted to focus on working with local government to build and develop empowering policies, drawing on the experience from local government throughout the Commonwealth.
SDGs are a local government priority
Running from 5th to 7th December in the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Port of Spain, the conference got off to a prodigious start with a series of speakers explaining the diverse projects in their own communities and countries. Kick starting the session on how local governments are localising the SDGs in the Caribbean, CLGF Programme Manager Claire Frost said that local government priorities are the SDGs.
Michael Sutherland from the University of the West Indies spoke about participatory governance and PPGIS (Public Participatory Government Information Systems) and how this could change the way in which participation takes place in relation to Penal Debe’s project to localise the SDGs.
Build back better
Mayor Titus explained the impact of hurricane Maria on Portsmouth in Dominica and the steps the council is taking to ‘build back better’, starting with the local abattoir. The rebuild of the structure that was totally destroyed supports the Government’s sustainable build policy, but also provides a boost to the Local Economic Development by supporting local businesses.
Delegates heard how a recent survey in Jamaica had revealed that only 18% of the population are aware of the SDGs and there was a unanimous call for young people to be part of the development agenda. Tourism and agriculture initiatives to reduce poverty are an integral part of Trelawny’s work with the local community to promote sustainability and to invest back in sustainable development with many women farmers benefiting – impacting pleasingly on SDG5 - the empowerment of women and girls.
All politics are local
The Mayor of Montego Bay reminded the audience that all politics are local and we all have responsibility to achieve the SDGs in our local communities in the Caribbean. St James is focusing on a community led approach to reducing waste and composting. Mayor Maragh from the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica (ALGAJ) explained how the association is sharing experience in developing Local Sustainable Development plans that align local development with the SDGs. All projects in Jamaica are part of the local sustainable development plans which were in place well before 2015.
Inclusive development and accessibility
The Port of Spain is working to achieve SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) by focusing efforts on inclusive development in the city and making the city accessible to differently abled citizens. Sangre Grande from Trinidad is working to address SDG1 (No poverty) with an app to promote tourism and promote LED to improve livelihoods for local communities.
Speaking at the close of the first day, CLGF's Lucy Slack praised the energy within the audience and looked forward to continuing discussions about work on the SDGs is making a difference at the heart of communities.