01 October 2012, United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA – UNITAR has recently taken one more step to further expand its activities in the field of promoting global partnership-building for sustainable development. This time, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, UNITAR launched a unique kind of platform aiming to connect national and subnational actors on global scale in order to identify and to discuss forms of cooperation for ensuring sustainable development at the subnational level.

While the framework for sustainable development has been defined by national governments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known also as Rio+20, this past June in Brazil, the implementation of such framework requires the engagement of stakeholders at all levels. Local governments need to be involved as well as civil society and the private sector on the national and international level.

Sustainable development discourse at the international level, however, has not included practices and measures undertaken by actors on the subnational level, notwithstanding the important successes in implementing patterns and structures for sustainable development achieved by local governments all over the world. Therefore, UNITAR and the U.S. Department of State have undertaken a first step to close this gap and called together actors from the subnational level and representatives from national governments of more than 15 countries at the Forum on Global Partnership for Sustainable Development at the Subnational Level, held on 1 October 2012 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

During the three-hour event, moderated by Yvonne Lodico, Head of UNITAR New York Office, and Reta Jo Lewis, Special Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, actors from the subnational level had the opportunity to present their best-practices and strategies for sustainable development to delegates from national governments, and to discuss possible fields of cooperation between subnational actors, as well as between subnational actors and actors at the national and international level.

Speakers at Forum on Global partnership for sustainable developmentTravelling from Oakland California for the Forum in New York, Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, stressed the importance of putting a stronger focus on big and mega cities when talking about sustainable development, since world’s cities are expected to comprise about 5 billion people, or 60% of humanity by 2030. Thus, it is important to point out measures and strategies which enable sustainable growth, such as the banning of plastic bags, waste recycling, promotion of electric cars and investments in renewable energies – all measures currently being implemented by the city of Oakland. Tom Peterson, President and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies, identified the area of energy efficiency and sustainability as a mayor challenge and field of action for actors on the subnational level, since new technology provides the possibility for a decentralization of energy production. John Pastor, Director of the International Trade and Development Department of the State of Delaware, stressed the importance of building partnerships, not only between national governments, but also between local and regional governments of different countries as well as between the governmental and the private sector: “Governments of cities or small states in different countries often face similar problems and challenges, of which their national governments might not even be aware.” The Deputy Permanent Representative of Bulgaria, Dr. Boyan Belev, demonstrated a mechanism for coordinating the international and subnational relationship areas of cooperation, as well as best practices.  Therefore, it would be possible to trace and enhance cooperation between local and regional governments, for example in form of an exchange of best practices or trade agreements, that could be a very fruitful type of interaction “satisfying needs on both sides which otherwise could not be met.”

In the face of the huge potential embodied by the creation of new innovative types of partnership and the imperative for identifying the needs, challenges and opportunities of actors at the subnational level in order to make this knowledge usable for the further elaboration of a Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Forum on Global Partnership for Sustainable Development at the Subnational Level represented an important step in UNITAR's engagement in partnership-building for sustainable development.

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Speakers, from right to left: John Pastor, Yvonne Lodico, Reta Jo Lewis, Jean Quan, Andrew Manshel, Boyan Belev,Thomas Peterson