When adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Governments pledged to work with local authorities and communities to renew and plan our cities and human settlements to foster community cohesion and personal security and to stimulate innovation and employment. Local governments, therefore, need to operationalize the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in their cities, aligning national priorities and other international development frameworks at the local level.

'Localizing’, is seen not merely as a technical or predefined process, but as a process that is sensitive to local opportunities, priorities, and ideas. It goes beyond adjusting global goals to the local level and calls for co-creating solutions through the generation of genuine partnerships, resulting in more inclusive, needs-driven, local-level responses to global challenges and objectives. Ultimately, localizing means enabling local governments and communities to be the catalysts of change to support the achievement of the global goals. 

Localization relates both to how the SDGs can provide a framework for local development policy and how local and regional governments can support the achievement of the SDGs through action from the bottom up.

While the SDGs are global, their achievement will depend on our ability to make them a reality in our cities and regions: around two-thirds of all targets will need to be met in or by cities.  While SDG 11 is specifically pledging to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, it is not the only SDG relevant to cities. Local and regional governments must be at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and they have responsibilities and duties, particularly to their role in delivering basic services. The localizing SDGs process requires the building of local capacities to address various urban development issues.

Localizing SDGs can help to:

+Understand and raise awareness of the importance of integrating efforts to avoid duplication and wasting finite resources, and realizing that a synergistic approach can provide a more inclusive and effective solution than a siloed approach;

+Strengthen capacities by supporting understanding of the processes and benefits of collaborative governance, integrated analysis and planning, and evidence-based decision-making; and

+Provide guidelines and tools to mainstream and accelerate adoption of the SDGs into local action in the area of sustainable urban development.


Following the seventh Asia Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-7) in 2019, a need was identified to provide cities with guidance on the development of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR) to support localizing SDGs. Although gaining in momentum, the VLR process does not have any official status as part of the formal follow-up and review processes hosted by the UN for progress on SDGs implementation. There exists no specific template or official format that cities can follow if they choose to undertake a VLR. Therefore, ESCAP, together with the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization (PPSU) developed the Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines on Voluntary Local Reviews as a practical framework for local policy makers to review progress on the SDGs. The Guidelines provide practical tools, checklists, and templates that local governments and other stakeholders can use when conducting a VLR alongside a country’s VNR reporting.

ESCAP was the first Regional Commission to include a review of VLRs in the formal intergovernmental segment of the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development, and has also developed an e-learning portal, the VLR Journey to provide tailored guidance on VLRs. The portal also acts as a platform for local and national stakeholders to engage and share experiences and lessons learnt from their VLR journey with their peers.

Following the launch of the regional VLR guidelines in October 2020, Subang Jaya city in Malaysia applied the guidelines to develop its own VLR which was shared at the 2021 High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Subang Jaya’s efforts, along with other Malaysian cities undertaking their first VLRs, was also acknowledged in the country’s second VNR report. In Indonesia, Surabaya city completed the country’s first VLR report. Indonesia’s third VNR report accommodates results from the VLR report and notes how the process has been encouraged by the integration of SDGs into the mid-term development planning of the city government. Dhulikhel in Nepal and Singra in Bangladesh, also launched their VLR reports with the support of Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) programme and ICLEI South Asia, in April and June 2022, respectively. Other cities including Naga (Philippines) and Nakhon Si Thammarat (Thailand) are in the process of completing their first VLRs.

To learn more about VLRs, visit vlr.unescap.org.


Are you a city official or an urban stakeholder looking to…
Implement best practices and policies based on other cities’ successes?
Localize successful projects according to your city’s context?
Replicate case studies while adapting them to your city’s needs and capabilities?
Identify challenges and obstacles on implementing urban projects?

The Toolkit on Localization of Urban Practices will help you assess whether a best practice from another city can be localized and successfully implemented in your city.

As a platform connecting cities and other urban stakeholders, CityNet works on facilitating cooperation among its members.

The Toolkit on Localization of Urban Practices is the result of the many workshops and capacity building activities that CityNet has carried out throughout the years. The toolkit was developed to assist city government officials in assessing the relevance of best practices, policies, and case studies that have been regularly introduced to them by CityNet for their own cities.

The Toolkit is designed to identify and assess challenges that may arise in the process of localization in order to facilitate success. As a city government official, you are often exposed to a variety of best practices of other cities during workshops, trainings, seminars, etc.

When faced with an interesting project, you likely reflect about how you could develop an action plan to illustrate how to implement these ideas in your city. However, not all best practices you are exposed to will be suitable for your city, and many will create implementation challenges in their localization.

This Toolkit will be used to identify the potential development challenges and to develop solutions on how to address those delivery challenges. It can assess the feasibility of a best practice regardless of the type of project or theme.

5 Key Dimensions

The Toolkit assess a best practice along 5 key dimensions to measure the feasibility of localizing a project from one city to another.


The Toolkit can be performed on any case study located in the case study database of the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform. After accessing the case study database, select a best practice that you would be interested in localizing to your city.

On the case study page, click the tab on the right that reads: Toolkit on Localization of Urban Practices.

Scroll down and click on the Toolkit icon to begin the Toolkit on Localization of Best Practices.

Now, complete the test along each of the 5 key dimensions. Answer each question with one of the following responses: very likely, likely, unlikely, or very unlikely. Be sure to click “save and proceed” at the bottom to move to the next page. On the last page, click “result” to see your result. If you are not logged in, you will need to enter some details before viewing your result.

Interpreting your Result

The Toolkit allows you to obtain two main results:

  • 1) A total score that informs you on the relative probability of successfully localizing the selected practice in your city.
  • 2) A sectional score that informs your more specifically on certain areas of project implementation & localization. This allows you to identify dimensions of strengths and weaknesses for your city if it attempts to localize the selected practice.

The higher your percentage in the rating, the greater the likelihood of successful localization of the selected practice in your city. As a rule of thumb, a best practice is considered to be successful if the total score is above 60%. Under this threshold, the weaker aspects of the rating should be seriously reconsidered before moving forward with the implementation of the project. A strong toolkit result will provide rationale and support in your decision to localize your chosen project.

SHORT_Toolkit on Localization of Urban Practices.pdf Toolkit on Localization of Urban Practices.pdf ESCAP VLR Presentation_202208