Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Bhopal’s Voluntary Local Review: A Step towards Localizing SDG’s in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bhopal's Voluntary Local Review and other such examples around the world

Mains level: Importance of Localizing SDG's in India, Bhopal's case study


Central Idea

  • Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, has achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first city in India to join the global movement on localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The city’s Voluntary Local Review (VLR), released recently, highlights Bhopal’s commitment to implementing the SDGs at the local level. This move demonstrates India’s commendable efforts in adopting and localizing the SDGs, with various states and union territories already taking steps in this direction

What is Bhopal’s Voluntary Local Review (VLR)?

  • Bhopal’s Voluntary Local Review (VLR) is a comprehensive report released by the city of Bhopal, India, to showcase its progress and initiatives in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level.
  • It provides a detailed analysis of Bhopal’s development projects and their alignment with the SDGs across the three pillars of ‘people,’ ‘planet,’ and ‘prosperity.’
  • The report maps these projects to specific SDGs and presents an assessment of the city’s progress, achievements, and challenges in each area.

Features of Bhopal’s VLR

  • Collaboration: The VLR is a result of collaboration between the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, UN-Habitat, and a collective of over 23 local stakeholders. This collaborative approach ensures a comprehensive and inclusive representation of Bhopal’s sustainable development efforts.
  • Mapping of Developmental Projects: Bhopal’s VLR maps 56 developmental projects to the SDGs across the three pillars of ‘people,’ ‘planet,’ and ‘prosperity.’ This mapping provides a clear understanding of how the city’s initiatives align with the specific goals and targets of the SDGs.
  • Focus on Priority Areas: The VLR identifies priority areas for Bhopal, with a particular emphasis on building basic infrastructure and resilience. This highlights the city’s strategic approach in addressing crucial issues and directing efforts towards areas that require immediate attention.
  • Quantitative Assessment: Bhopal’s VLR includes an in-depth quantitative assessment of city-level indicators under SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). This assessment evaluates the city’s performance in areas such as solid waste management practices, public transportation, and per capita availability of open spaces.
  • Identification of Challenges: The VLR acknowledges the challenges faced by Bhopal in achieving certain SDG targets. It highlights areas where the city needs to work harder, such as adequate shelter provision, air pollution control, city planning capacity, and equitable distribution and accessibility of open spaces. This identification of challenges allows for targeted efforts to address these specific issues.
  • Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement: The VLR emphasizes the leadership role of Mayor and efforts in engaging the city’s residents throughout the VLR process. This demonstrates the importance of stakeholder participation and inclusivity in driving sustainable development initiatives.
  • Localized Approach: Bhopal’s VLR recognizes the unique local context and capacity constraints faced by Indian cities. It acknowledges that a comprehensive VLR covering all SDGs may be challenging for cities with limited resources and data availability. Therefore, the VLR allows for flexibility, enabling cities to choose specific SDGs for a detailed review and adapt national indicators to reflect the city’s local realities.

The Importance of Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • Contextualization: Localizing the SDGs allows cities, regions, and communities to adapt the global goals to their specific local contexts. Each locality has unique challenges, priorities, and resources. By localizing the SDGs, governments, organizations, and stakeholders can tailor strategies and interventions to address the specific needs of their communities, making them more relevant and effective.
  • Proximity to the People: Local governments and communities are closest to the people they serve. They have a better understanding of the local needs, aspirations, and realities of their residents. By localizing the SDGs, decision-making processes become more participatory and inclusive, ensuring that the voices and perspectives of the local population are taken into account.
  • Holistic Approach: The SDGs address a broad range of interconnected social, economic, and environmental challenges. Localizing the goals allows for a holistic approach to sustainable development, considering the interdependencies and synergies between different sectors and issues. It encourages integrated and comprehensive strategies that tackle multiple challenges simultaneously, leading to more sustainable and equitable outcomes.
  • Collaboration and Partnership: Localizing the SDGs fosters collaboration and partnership among various stakeholders at the local level. Governments, civil society organizations, businesses, academia, and citizens can come together to work towards common goals, leveraging their respective strengths, expertise, and resources. This multi-stakeholder approach promotes collective action, knowledge-sharing, and innovation, leading to more effective and sustainable solutions.
  • Innovation and Experimentation: Localizing the SDGs encourages innovation and experimentation. Local governments and communities can explore new approaches, policies, and practices to address complex challenges. They can pilot innovative solutions, learn from successes and failures, and share their experiences with other localities, contributing to a global knowledge exchange and learning process.
  • Monitoring and Accountability: Localizing the SDGs facilitates monitoring and accountability mechanisms at the local level. By setting local targets, indicators, and progress tracking systems, governments and stakeholders can monitor the implementation of the goals and measure their impact on the ground. This localized monitoring promotes transparency, accountability, and data-driven decision-making, ensuring that progress towards sustainable development is effectively measured and evaluated.
  • Global Impact: While the SDGs are a global agenda, their achievement ultimately depends on action at the local level. Localizing the goals is essential for aggregating local actions and initiatives to create significant impact at the global scale. When cities, regions, and communities across the world localize the SDGs, they contribute to the collective effort of achieving sustainable development globally.

Facts for prelims

India’s progress towards achieving SDGs so far

  • SDG 1 (No Poverty): India has made significant progress in reducing poverty, with the poverty rate declining from 21.9% in 2011-12 to 4.4% in 2020. The government’s efforts to provide financial inclusion and social protection schemes have contributed to this progress.
  • SDG 2 (Zero Hunger): India has made progress in reducing hunger, with the prevalence of undernourishment declining from 17.3% in 2004-06 to 14% in 2017-19.
  • SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being): India has made progress in improving maternal and child health, with maternal mortality ratio declining from 167 per 100,000 live births in 2011-13 to 113 in 2016-18.
  • SDG 4 (Quality Education): India has made progress in improving access to education, with the gross enrolment ratio for primary education increasing from 93.4% in 2014-15 to 94.3% in 2019-20.
  • SDG 5 (Gender Equality): India has made progress in improving gender equality, with the sex ratio at birth increasing from 918 in 2011 to 934 in 2020.

Notable examples where cities and local governments have successfully localized the SDGs

  • New York City, United States: New York City developed an SDG framework called “OneNYC” to align its local goals and initiatives with the SDGs. The framework focuses on various areas, including reducing poverty, promoting sustainability, addressing climate change, and improving quality of life.
  • Bristol, United Kingdom: Bristol was one of the first cities to create a localized SDG plan known as the “Bristol One City Plan.” The plan integrates the SDGs into the city’s strategic priorities, such as reducing inequality, promoting sustainable economic growth, and addressing climate change.
  • Kitakyushu, Japan: Kitakyushu, a city in Japan, has implemented the “Kitakyushu SDGs City Vision” to align its local strategies with the SDGs. The vision focuses on areas such as resource efficiency, waste management, renewable energy, and sustainable urban development. Kitakyushu’s successful experience in environmental sustainability has made it a global leader in eco-industrial development.
  • Medellín, Colombia: Medellín has embraced the SDGs through its “Medellín Sustainable Development Goals 2030” strategy. The city has aligned its policies, programs, and projects with the SDGs, focusing on social inclusion, education, public transportation, urban development, and reducing violence. Medellín’s approach highlights the importance of social innovation and participatory governance in achieving sustainable development.
  • Barcelona, Spain: Barcelona has integrated the SDGs into its urban development strategy known as “Barcelona City Council 2030 Agenda.” The city’s approach emphasizes social justice, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and inclusive economic growth.

Opportunities for Indian cities in localizing the SDGs

  • Tailoring to Local Context: Localizing the SDGs allows Indian cities to adapt the global goals to their specific needs and realities. By identifying local priorities and strategies, cities can address issues such as poverty, education, healthcare, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and urban planning in a manner that is most relevant to their local populations.
  • Leveraging Local Innovation: Localizing the SDGs provides an opportunity for cities to leverage their local innovation ecosystems to develop creative solutions to sustainable development challenges. By fostering collaboration between local businesses, startups, research institutions, and communities, cities can drive innovation and implement sustainable practices that can have a transformative impact.
  • Enhancing Local Governance and Participation: Localizing the SDGs empowers local governments to strengthen their governance systems and promote participatory decision-making. It encourages local authorities to engage citizens, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of sustainable development initiatives. This participatory approach can lead to more inclusive and effective governance, as well as increased accountability and transparency.
  • Sharing Best Practices and Learning: By sharing successful initiatives, innovative approaches, and lessons learned, cities can create a knowledge-sharing network, fostering collaboration and replication of effective strategies. This knowledge exchange can lead to improved policy-making, enhanced capacity-building, and accelerated progress towards the SDGs.
  • Attracting Investments and Partnerships: Localizing the SDGs can help Indian cities attract investments, forge partnerships, and access funding opportunities. By demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development and showcasing their achievements, cities can attract investors, businesses, and development organizations that are aligned with the SDGs. Collaborative partnerships can bring in resources, expertise, and technical assistance to support the implementation of sustainable projects and initiatives.
  • Global Recognition and Collaboration: Localizing the SDGs positions Indian cities as active participants in the global sustainable development agenda. It offers an opportunity to gain global recognition for their efforts and innovations. By actively engaging with international platforms, networks, and initiatives focused on sustainable urban development, Indian cities can collaborate with other cities, share experiences, and contribute to global efforts in achieving the SDGs


  • Bhopal’s pioneering VLR sets an inspiring precedent for other Indian cities to embrace localisation and actively contribute to the SDGs. Localizing the SDGs provides Indian cities with an invaluable opportunity to address local challenges, tailor strategies to their specific contexts, and engage stakeholders in decision-making processes. By following Bhopal’s lead Indian cities can create a more inclusive, resilient, and prosperous future for their residents and leave a lasting impact on the global map of sustainable development.

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Also read:

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): India’s Progress Analysis


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