Reporting on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Sweden: VLRs and their implications for local democracy

In 2021, four Swedish municipalities – Helsingborg, Malmö, Stockholm, and Uppsala – published their first Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), a report on the status of local implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). VLRs have become a common instrument for subnational governments to show progress in the achievement of the goals.

While more than 110 VLRs have already been published, the case of the Swedish cities is interesting for several reasons: a long-standing tradition of reporting on local sustainability policies; mutual learning and knowledge exchange initiatives, nationally and abroad; and a close relationship with Sweden’s national government, which published its national review (VNR) at the same time as the four local documents.

This report studies the process that led to the four Swedish VLRs, emphasising the role that social engagement and local democracy had on the outcome. The Swedish experience is analysed in relation to other cases of VLRs in different countries worldwide. The aim of this report is to provide insights and inspiration to other municipalities that plan to publish a VLR regarding how to use the elements of local democracy in that process.

This study has been prepared within the ICLD in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and UN Habitat. ICLD acknowledges the financial contribution to its research program made by the government of Sweden (Swedish
International Development Cooperation Agency – Sida).

A toolbox for VLR” is also developed in this project