The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mr. Achim Steiner, emphasized the importance of partnerships and localization in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at an official side event of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) co-organized by UNDP and Japan’s Kanagawa Prefectural Government.

“The SDGs may have their origin in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, but they are not meant to be goals that we talk about in an abstract sense. The closer we come to the reality of where people live, where decisions are made, where local governance takes place; that is when the SDGs come alive.”

The event, titled “Driving Multi-Sectoral Partnerships for the SDGs: Unleashing the Power of Localization and Innovation”, examined the potential of cross-sector partnerships to accelerate progress on the SDGs in Africa and Japan, featuring prominent speakers from public, private and civil sectors. One of the highlights was the launch of a partnership between UNDP and Kanagawa Prefecture to accelerate engagement of local governments in Japan towards achieving the SDGs.

Kanagawa Prefecture has been a pioneer in promoting and acting on the SDGs. Governor Yuji Kuroiwa issued the Declaration on “SDGs Japan Model” and garnered the support of over 140 local authorities across Japan. it was shared at the High-level Political Forum last month at UN Headquarters in New York.

The UNDP Administrator affirmed that the partnership with Kanagawa Prefecture would create a powerful synergy to strengthen SDG localization efforts. “UNDP’s mission is to connect innovation, best practices, and success stories; in this spirit, I am very proud to commit to working together with Kanagawa Prefecture more actively over the coming years and to demonstrate that taking SDGs to the local level is a true test of their relevance and their effectiveness,” said Mr. Steiner. Furthermore, the Japanese government has encouraged this kind of ownership of the SDGs at a local level by recognizing several municipalities and local governments for their remarkable efforts. Ms. Toshiko Abe, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, spoke of how the Government is recognizing the many efforts of Japanese cities to enhance actions for the SDGs through their selection of “SDGs Future Cities”. The national government also runs the “Japan SDGs Awards”, which recognize role model companies, local governments and civil society groups making outstanding efforts, either domestically or internationally, to achieve the Goals.

Ms. Rohey Malick Lowe, Mayor of Banjul City and Gambia’s first female mayor, provided insights from the African context and introduced the Fundamental 5 “P”s of achieving sustainable development - people, prosperity, planet, peace and partnership. Ms. Lowe discussed how these principles help to guide decision-making at a local level for inclusive and equitable growth, and summed up the resounding message from the session: “The implementation and achievement of the SDGs is not meant for national government alone, but to involve each and every citizen. This ensures that citizens are empowered and, most importantly, that no one is left behind,” she said.

The following session, “Unlocking innovative solutions for the SDGs" showcased some innovative practices and ideas to achieve the SDGs. Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of the Nigeria-based Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), kick-started the panel discussion by sharing its new program, a 100 million USD commitment to train 10,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years. An alumna of the program, Dr. Shamim  Nabuuma Kaliisa, Founder of CHIL A.I Lab (Uganda), presented her endeavors to reduce cancers in Africa by providing AI-enabled home screening test kit. Ms. Patu Ndango Fen, the founder of Closed-Loop System Ventures (Cameroon), discussed how the partnership with TEF and UNDP’s YAS! Program helped to accelerate her venture, which turns waste into valuable consumer goods and promote circular economy.   

Mr. Mitsuru Izumo, CEO of euglena, emphasized that the driving force of innovative entrepreneurs is “Passion”.  His venture, the world’s first biotechnology company that succeeded in the outdoor mass cultivation of microalgae Euglena for food use, has been growing and contributed to solving nutrition problems in the world. Another Japanese entrepreneur, Mr. Ryo Yamada from WOTA Corp, shared a story of development of a new and sustainable form of water infrastructure, which helped communities in disaster affected areas in Japan. Now he is expanding his business to tackle global problems of water.

After listening about these cutting-edge initiatives towards the achievement of the SDGs, Mr. Hiro Nishiguchi, Executive Managing Director of Japan Innovation Network, presented his activities co-managed with UNDP to build an ecosystem of business incubation and innovation for the achievement of the SDGs, and encouraged participating youth to take actions to make a sustainable future. The panel presented success stories of entrepreneurship, a key to meeting the Goals and to transform the African continent.

Local governments and communities, the private sector, entrepreneurs and youth play a key role in achieving the SDGs. The event gathered 450 participants and examined some of the leading practices to meet the local needs and to tackle challenges by unleashing the power of localization and innovation. UNDP promotes those innovative solutions, serving as an integrator to connect innovation and to leverage multi-sectoral partnerships to address complex development challenges.

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