Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals, Decentralization, and Covid-19 in Latin America: Challenges and Opportunities.
The adoption of the Agenda 2030 and the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the emphasis on the role to be played by local governments in localizing the SDGs, highlights once again, the debate about their capacity (or lack thereof) to take the lead in their implementation.
The ability of subnational levels of government to localize and implement the Agenda 2030 depends in many ways, not only on the capacity of their human resources, but also on the level of decentralization (nominal and formal) achieved in each country. In general, the overall impact and consequences of political, administrative, and fiscal decentralization in Latin America remains a matter of significant controversy (Rodriguez-Acosta & Rosenbaum, 2020). After many legislative and judicial reform initiatives, there remains a general tendency towards the preeminence of the national executive branch and relatively centralized politics. Moreover, various recent assessments have questioned both the competence and the integrity of local officials, as well as the effectiveness of municipal service delivery. Other commentators have suggested that newly empowered local governments often undermine national fiscal stability and governmental unity (Bardham & Mookherjee, 1998; Gomez Sabaini & Jimenez, 2012).
The Covid-19 pandemic adds yet another dimension to the difficulties local governments face in their ability to localize the SDGs and achieve the fulfillment of the Agenda 2030 promises. This article will briefly review the decentralization efforts of the region, explore the role local governments have played in the implementation of the SDGs as reported by the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), and – given the Covid-19 pandemic - their ability to lead in the implementation of the SDGs.