SDGs adaptation to conditions and priorities of Russian cities

On 30 January 2018 the Moscow campus of the Higher School of Economics hosted the II conference “SDGs adaptation to conditions and priorities of Russian cities and towns”. The conference was organized by NRU HSE and SGM Agency supported by the Local Network of the UN Global Compact and the Union of Russian Cities.

The event organizers aimed at bringing together representatives of key stakeholders and discussing opportunities to integrate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to strategic documents of cities and regions, prospects of forming a system of statistical data to monitor SDGs and their implementation in Russian educational programmes. Alexander Bychkov, Chair of the SGM Agency Board of Directors, highlighted the particular relevance of bringing such an expert community to a single platform, considering that SDGs implementation at a national level in Russia are still being elaborated and that broad discussions on the topic would help to prioritize SDGs use while doing strategic planning of cities and regions and widen a dialogue on sustainable development.

SDGs discussion in such context was supported by the representatives of RSPP, Rosstat, Department of Natural Resources of Moscow, Union of Russian Cities, Center for Strategic Research, experts of leading research and scientific organizations on regional development, urban planning, representatives of educational entities, business and NGOs. ‘Urban development topic is a component of a wide range of issues of public and municipal management. Extent of success in urban development will depend on the attention paid to SDGs, our economic development will depend on it significantly’, noted Andrey Klimenko, the Director of the Public and Municipal management Institute of NRU HSE,

Larisa Ovchinnikova, Chair of the Steering Committee of the UN GC Local Network in Russia highlighted that the trend to broader integration of sustainability principles leads to transformation of world economy, formation of national sustainability strategies, adjustment to business philosophy and overall approaches to managing socio-economic systems, resources and capital at all the levels. In this regard, Russia needs more intense integration to global sustainability processes. The biggest and the most successful international programmes in this area are open for cooperation, including the universal platform of the UN Global Compact – the largest UN initiative for business, to which the UN allocates an important place in SDGs enforcement. The role of responsible business is evident in such areas as economic development, socio-cultural, infrastructure and other spheres of live and increasing its quality in Russian regions and cities, that’s why more intense involvement of responsible business to sustainability processes is required at the platform of the UN Global Compact.

‘Business-organizations are influential actors of socio-economic system, active participation of which in achieving SDGs is a necessary condition of UN Goals”, commented Elena Feoktistova, Managing Director of the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility and Non-Financial Reporting of the RSPP. ‘Involvement into SDGs means concise and overwhelming integration of sustainability principles into companies’ activities, de-facto change of business-models to more sustainable ones. This process is actively happening all over the world, it is involving at a first place large companies, and Russian companies, the most advanced ones, are not left behind. Business leaders demonstrate an example of such movement, partly or in a more complete way integrating goals and targets of sustainable development to their action plans on corporate responsibility directions. Later we can expect more visible integration of key strategic goals of companies and the SDGs.

Vera Smirnova, Senior Manager of PwC Corporate Governance and Sustainability group, presented some examples of business obligations disclosure related to SDGs among Russian and international companies, most popular SDGs and priorities in achieving them for business and population of different countries, including Russian.

During the conference there were also published the results of Russian cities sustainable development rating for 2016, as well as the analysis of its dynamics for four years. In spite the fact that applying in Russia international development assessment methods is very limited due to the fact that the system of indicators of municipal statistics that are currently by Rosstat, does not fully correspond to international standards and current technological trends of urban development, SGM Agency guided by Elena Dolgikh has already published five issues of sustainable development of Russian cities. Methodology of the rating is formed according to the principles of territorial sustainable development, defined by international organizations and scientific community, considers transparency of statistical data, completeness of information, maximum relevance of indicators and suggests compulsory discussion of rating results with the wide range of stakeholders.

Rating for 2016 was composed for 185 cities of the Russian Federation, population of which exceeds 100 thousand people (overall Russia comprises 1112 cities and towns). Positions in the ratings are determined based on 42 indicators, assessing 3 key areas of sustainable development - economic, environmental and social (including a demographic one). This year the composition of rating indicators was extended by 11 indicators due to regional statistics data.

Monitoring of sustainability indicators is playing an increasingly high role in the context of achieving SDGs. Discussing assessment means for SDGs achievement in Russia considering the necessity to provide integration of SDGs indicators suggested by the UN into strategies, management and reporting systems of cities, conference participants discussed strategic tools which help making right decisions and adjust development direction on time.

Russia was an active participant in preparation of international documents related to the SDGs, including a list of global sustainability indicators which was in its final version approved by the UN Statistical Commission in March 2017. In September 2017, 90 SDG indicators out of the global list were included into the Federal plan of statistical works if Russia. Mostly they touched the social sphere, in such areas and poverty and well-being, decent work and economic growth, health and education.

Natalia Ignatova, Head of the Department of Statistical Methodology Harmonization of Rosstat reported that currently Rosstat jointly with federal authorities supported by an expert community is working on preparing a national set of sustainable development indicators, which would reflect national peculiarities and consider targets determined in strategic documents of the Russian Government.

The conference participants also discussed the topicality of adopting federal laws on urban regulations and strategic planning, doctrines in project management principles, specific features of law-making on creating favourable environment for a person and society, prospects of integrating SDGs into current approaches and educational programmes of Russia, specific examples, practices and prospects of applying sustainable development principles in Russian cities and regions. 

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