On the 17 April 2019, Puvendra Akkiah, IDP Manager of eThekwini Municipality and Technical Chair of the United Cities and Local Governments Committee on Urban Strategic Planning, presented a talk entitled Unpacking SDG implementation in eThekwini. The seminar, which forms part of African Centre for Cities year-long SDG seminar series, was held back-to-back with a session at the City of Cape Town attended by City officials from a range of different departments. More than 25 people attended the seminar at UCT, representing different departments and research centers, as well as private sector, civil society and the City of Cape Town.

Puvendra Akkiah spoke about the bottom-up approach taken by the City of eThekwini’s to aligning its Integrated Development Plan to the SDGs as part of its strategic approach to sustainability, which the United Nations considers to represent a pioneering example of best practice in the area of SDG localization.

He started by stating that sustainable development policies are not new to the city or globally, with international policies dating back to the Stockholm declaration on the Human Environment of 1972 and the Millennium Development Goals of 2000. eThekwini’s current vision for sustainable development dates back to the elaboration of its Imagine Durban plan of 2008, through a participatory process facilitated by the Sustainable Cities initiative. Development discourse in eThekwini mirrors the global shift in discourse that has taken place over the past few years, from green growth to sustainable development in its environmental, economic and social dimension requiring an ‘all-of society’ approach to implementation, as reflected in the adoption of the SDGs and New Urban Agenda.

Various examples exist at the global level of SDG localization strategies, such as the Global Goals Municipal Campaign in the Netherlands, which includes a ‘menu of Inspiration’ aimed at stimulating creative ideas for municipal actions, as well as Seoul’s Sustainable City Vision and the support of the Brazilian Confederation of Municipalities for the development of tools to monitor implementation.

In the absence of national government guidance or guidelines on SDG localization by local governments in South Africa, eThekwini has adopted a bottom-up approach to the localisation of the SDGs using capital projects as the foundation. By identifying which SDGs fall under the direct responsibility of local government and aligning the city’s Integrated Development Plan and all of its capital projects to an SDG and SDG target the city was able to get an overview of the extent to which the city is contributing to meeting the SDGs and identify gaps for where it needs to do better. eThekwini has also undertaken various advocacy and training activities on the SDGs through the Municipal Institute of Learning and the development of SDG toolkits for local governments. Factors supporting SDG localization in eThekwini include institutional reform, which includes the appointment of a dedicated Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Learning Officer who function as champions for SDG awareness raising and implementation and report directly to the City Manager.

Going forward, Akkiah stressed the importance of strengthening local awareness of the SDGs and New Urban Agenda in South Africa to ensure ownership and support to national SDG reporting, the creation of spaces for dialogue on the SDGs with all actors from society as well as the need to promote the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator for SDG implementation.

Akkiah’s presentation was followed by questions from the audience around the monitoring of the impact of policy implementation at the community level and the challenges of accounting for and embracing informality as well as urban-rural linkages in the implementation of global development agendas.

  • The next SDG seminar is scheduled to take place on the 15 May with UCT Datafirst Manager Lynn Woolfrey who will be presenting a talk called: How data-ready are African governments to monitor SDG progress? Zambia and Zimbabwe reviews.


With thanks to Mistra Urban Futures which supported Mr Akkiah’s trip to Cape Town.