Malmö has been working with municipal partnerships for many years now, including one with Swakopmund in Namibia which has been running since 2008 and is now on its third round of programmes, a relatively recent partnership project with Lusaka in Zambia, a pilot study with Cape Town in South Africa, which is currently simmering nicely, and a 5-year project with Tangshan in China, that has now been wound up.
The roots of Malmö’s municipal partnerships lie in such diverse fields as sustainable energy and waste, ecotourism, and local food production from the sea and the land. The focus is often on dialogue with local people and on including groups who often go unheard.
“In Lusaka and Malmö, we’re working on issues such as the problem of unsustainable energy use. We worked to come up with a problem formulation of interest to both cities.”
The cities identified two different points of attack – charcoal in Lusaka and energy efficiency shortfalls in Malmö – and they also identified numerous areas where they could learn from one another.
“We’re working towards goals that involve our respective municipalities’ capacity to address unsustainable energy usage and make it more sustainable.”
Working with Agenda 2030 has been a given for Malmö since 2015, and Malmö’s municipal politicians were the first in Sweden to state explicitly that, “yes, we will work with Agenda 2030.”
“Our aim is to be a city that implements these goals locally – we decided on that back when the goals were adopted in New York. That’s something that the entire municipal organisation is working towards,” says Monika Månsson.
And ever since then, Malmö has been working on drawing up plans and target structures that are now beginning to be implemented across the city.
“This is a matter for the whole world, and it’s something every single one of us must address. Our politicians regard Agenda 2030 as a driving force and a developmental issue, and understand that working on a local level with Agenda 2030 is good for the municipality.”
Has focusing so hard on global goals enabled you to achieve local results?
“Well, the goals are equally important and relevant at both local and global level. Plus they involve the sort of things for which a municipality is already often responsible – whether they’re in Malmö or Lusaka,” says Monika.
“Integrating them into our regular objectives system within the municipality is perfectly possible, but not totally straightforward, because many of the goals spill out over multiple discrete areas within a normal municipal organisation. But the real challenge, of course, lies in achieving the goals by 2030, and in that respect, we really need to pick up the pace in a number of areas.”
Unsurprisingly, given that it’s a coastal city, Malmö has focused much of its attention on goal 14 (Life Below Water). Sweden and Fiji are responsible for the global implementation of this goal, and this has helped spur on Malmö’s work in this area.
“We’ve started focusing on and working to draw up a framework for a coastal strategy with goal 14 providing the overall framework. And there is no doubt in my mind that Agenda 2030, coupled with the fact that we are working with these sorts of issues as part of our partnership with Swakopmund, has helped boost our efforts in this regard.”
Efforts aimed at addressing the charcoal use issue in Lusaka have developed into a partnership that targets several of the Agenda 2030 goals.
“The global goals are a good way of talking about the sort of things that can actually be achieved by a partnership between two such different cities as Malmö and Lusaka. They act as a sort of common meeting point.”
The two cities, Malmö and Lusaka, identified two goals which, in their opinion, were particularly relevant to both municipalities, namely goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and goal 13 (Climate Action). And then, of course, there’s goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
“But we’re also seeing knock-on effects from our activities on several other goals, albeit in different ways in the different cities. In Lusaka, for example, there’s been a knock-on effect in relation to goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), and the gender equality aspect of goal 5 (Gender Equality) was also affected, because the use of charcoal has a real effect on women. It’s also provided a new economic perspective and, hence, had an impact on goal 1 (No Poverty) and on the ecosystem and biodiversity aspects of goal 15 (Life on Land).”
Monika also notes that taking the global goals as a starting point has been useful in the context of the partnerships with Lusaka and Swakopmund:
“We have different realities, but the Agenda 2030 goals work well as overall goals when we discuss our partnership, giving us a shared strategic objective. Plus working towards the goals is a useful exercise when it comes to organising and assigning objectives at the various local levels and developing a methodology.”
What would you like to say to your municipal colleagues nationwide who are considering a municipal partnership?
“All global challenges have a local solution, and what we do locally as a municipality affects the rest of the world. Partnerships are good for municipal development because they allow you to choose issues of local importance, but which turn out to have global significance, too.”
Are you sometimes surprised by the direction a partnership can take?
“Constantly. We assume so much in our planning work and pre-launch, but the world changes over the course of a three-year partnership and reality is often not quite what we thought it was or would be. It often works out well in the end, just not always in the way we expected.”
Has Malmö changed its methodology as a result of Agenda 2030?
“Back in January, we launched something that is, I believe, unique in Sweden – something we call the “Sustainable Development Office”. Five people working at the City Administration Office in central Malmö have been tasked with implementing the global goals locally in Malmö. A lot of their work involves planning how the city will work towards the global goals in future.”
Malmö’s ambition is for its budget to be based on the global goals by 2020, and the fact that the Chairman of the Municipal Executive Committee is responsible for both financial and sustainability issues, clearly underlines Malmö’s desire to prioritise its sustainability work.
“The global goals are a way of pinpointing the challenges faced by the entire world. Take goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) for example – the overall relevance of which is very clear. But it’s when you take a closer look at the subsidiary goals that the picture changes slightly,” says Monika.
“Handling the 169 subsidiary goals is considerably more complex – they’re concrete and they make detailed demands when it comes to implementation. They’re the same for the whole world, so they don’t always dovetail exactly with a Swedish organisation. But implementing them in the context of our operations isn’t the biggest problem – the real challenge lies in achieving these goals by 2030.”
2030 isn’t that far off now and the subsidiary goals are pretty ambitious.
“Malmö has a long-term strategy for Agenda 2030 that will, we believe, be effective. And the municipal partnerships have a very natural part to play in a strategy of this kind.”