Shaping fair cities

SDG 17 in Italy: best practices of global partnership

Focus on SDG 17 - Partnership for the 2030 Agenda global goals, by the University of Bologna

The 2030 Agenda is an ambitious programme of global action adopted by the UN General Assembly to promote sustainable actions towards the planet, human lives, and health as well as economic growth. This plan entails a solid, comprehensive commitment to globally achieve sustainable development by 2030, through the implementation of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the last of which concerns revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development.

The fact that global partnership figures as the latter of a long list of objectives does not, and should not, mean that this Goal is less important than other to be achieved. Conversely, SDG17 encloses all the others and makes their realization possible, since the SDGs can only be accomplished with strong global cooperation. SDG17 concerns financial support to developing countries, cooperation to promote the use of, and the access to, benefits brought on by technology and innovation, including environmentally sound technologies and capacity-building mechanisms. It aims at fostering a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory multilateral trading system, encouraging exports of developing countries. To make sustainable development work for all, it stresses the need to enhance multilevel and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Some facts and data remind us why it is crucial to give effects to the themes addressed in SDG17, among which the following:

  • Whereas humanitarian crises due to conflicts and environmental disasters continue to demand more financial resources and aid, the total net Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2018 fell by 2,7% compared to 2017, while bilateral ODA decreased of 3% in least developed countries.
  • Although the number of Internet users in Africa almost doubled in the past four years, the digital divide is still significant, with 4 billion people without access to the Internet, 90% of which are from the developing world.  A Technology & Social Change Group study published by the University of Washington highlights that a regular and wide access to internet provides benefits, especially to vulnerable people in terms of education, jobs, and access to public online services (Sey et al, 2013).

Despite its evident importance, the report launched by Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, to monitor the progress of each State towards the 2030 Agenda, holds that only 8 countries in the world have achieved consistent progress in the majority of SDG 17 targets. Among these (Argentina, Tunisia, South Africa, Botswana, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Arab Emirates), only one EU Member State stands out (SDG Index 2019, Sachs et al, 2019).
Major or significant challenges remain for almost all the rest of the world, and the probability to achieve the goal by 2030 is becoming feebler.

According to the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS) (ASviS, Report 2019), in a six-year period from 2012 to 2017, the share of Italy’s ODA in gross national income increased substantially, as it included the costs of receiving refugees. In 2018, the expenditure in ODA decreased significantly (-21,3%) in real terms and this slowdown is projected to continue in the years to come, moving from €5.1 milliard in 2019 to €4.7 milliard in 2021, as portrayed in the 2018 Economic and Financial Planning Document.

Particularly, ASviS highlights the persisting challenges in achieving Target 17.14 (strengthening coherence in sustainable development policies) at the national level, due to the high clashes between international cooperation and migration or agricultural policies, as well as trade, and private sector. The Italian Development and Cooperation Act 125/2014 provides for various mechanisms to monitor the coherence of national policies with the purposes of development cooperation. However, these need further efforts to be fully operational. ASviS, for instance, states that part of the tasks carried out by the Italian Agency for Development and Cooperation would overlap with those of other institutions and that the role of the National Council for Development Cooperation, established through Law 125/2014, would be equally vague.

In this scenario, the EU-funded Shaping Fair Cities (SFC) project stands out for its commitment to reflect and promote the principles and the aims endorsed in the 2030 Agenda. The project operates through a solid multilevel, multi-stakeholder, result-oriented, and human rights-led approach. It focuses on the role that cities and sub-national governments need to play in achieving the SDGs, taking Goal 11 (making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable) and Goal 16 (promoting peaceful and inclusive societies) as points of reference.

The SFC project aims at raising awareness in the local territory of State partners located in 8 EU countries and 2 EU partner countries, as well as proactively involving a broad range of relevant development actors in the local implementation of the 2030 Agenda, among which local policy makers, citizens, civil servants and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), trade unionists, journalists, volunteers, the private sector, migrant communities, and students. Besides, in times of great migration and refugees flows, the project primarily seeks to enhance migration governance responses at the local level, and to share adequate and inclusive tools to release the full potential of migration and migrants as agents of sustainable development.
In promoting a well-managed and well-structured local governance of migration, great emphasis is given to embed a gender approach (Goal 5) in local migration policies, as well as to implement actions to combat climate change adverse impacts (Goal 13) on local communities and vulnerable groups, migrants included. Addressing these challenges in a comprehensive, inclusive, and human rights-based manner is essential to achieve also Goal 11 and 16.

Thanks to SFC project, 14 Local Authorities have been adopting an action plan for implementing, communicating and monitoring SDGs at local level particularly in relation with SDGs 5, 11, 13 and 16 with a special cross-cutting focus on migration.
Beyond the chosen targets, by concretely promoting multi-stakeholder online and offline collaborations to bridge local entities dislocated around the world, the SFC project also follows the guidelines for a global partnership, as embedded in SDG17.
In this regard, project partners are also involved in other global partnerships networks. For instance, all Italian municipalities have adhered to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to sustain the achievement of SDG 13 on climate change through a global net of local actions.
On the academic side, the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna together with the Punto Europa Forlì, centre for education and documentation located in the Forli University Campus, participate in the project by fostering the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through its institutional activities, including training, summer and winter schools, research, and social and public engagement (Report on U.N. Sustainable Development Goals 2018).

For its strong commitment to the promotion of sustainable development, the University Impact Rankings 2020 classified the University of Bologna at the sixth place in a ranking of 766 universities all over the world and at the first place among the Italian universities analyzed.
Among the activities coordinated by the University, it is worth mentioning the Advance Training Course for migration operators in collaboration with Servizi Integrati d’Area (Ser.In.Ar) to strengthen the multidisciplinary understanding of the migratory phenomenon and to provide participants with helpful professional skills.

Moreover, the Alma Mater Studiorum is committed to emphasis the role of SDG17 through a virtual structure called AlmaEngage, aimed to coordinate development cooperation activities within the University of Bologna at local and international levels. AlmaEngage actively participates in social and public issues, sharing knowledge and stimulating academic and non-academic stakeholders on sustainable development.
For instance, the Field Work international mobility program offers students the opportunity to spend a period with relevant NGOs or other entities involved in development cooperation, carrying out hands-on activities in developing as well as emerging countries.

Additionally, the University of Bologna is involved in numerous international university networks (Coimbra Group; IAU - International Association of Universities; Scholar at Risk) to encourage cooperative activities and higher education to follow the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. Furthermore, in pursuing sustainable development and cooperation, the University of Bologna takes part into several international network, such as RUS - Italian University Network for Sustainable Development, ASviS, and CUCS - University Coordination for Development Cooperation.

Finally, the University of Bologna promotes a new launched project called UNIversity COrridors for Refugees (UNICORE) with Ethiopia for the period 2019-2021, in collaboration with UNHCR Italy and with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Archdiocese of Bologna, Caritas Italiana, ER.GO – Regional Board for the Right to Higher Studies of Emilia-Romagna, Federmanager Bologna - Ravenna, Gandhi Charity, Manageritalia Emilia Romagna, and Next Generation Italy. The initiative has built a bridge between Italy and Ethiopia to allow refugee students from the latter to continue their academic career at the University of Bologna.

[by Chiara Scissa for UNIBO]

Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna, AlmaGOALS - Communication Unit, Finance and Subsidiaries Division - Evaluation and Strategic Planning Unit, Report on U.N. Sustainable Development Goals 2018,
ASviS, Rapporto ASviS 2019, Analisi del Goal 17,
Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN),
Sey, A., Coward, C., Bar, F., Sciadas, G., Rothschild, C., & Koepke, L. (2013). Connecting people for development: Why public access ICTs matter. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School,

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last modified 2020-07-08T15:42:27+02:00
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