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Second conference Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adaptation to conditions and priorities of Russian cities and towns

On January 30, 2018, the Higher School of Economics hosted the 2nd conference SDGs Adaptation to Conditions and Priorities of Russian Cities and Towns. The conference was organized by NRU HSE and SGM Agency and supported by the Local Network of the UN Global Compact and the Union of Russian Cities.

The first conference on the issues related to the sustainable development had been organized by the NRU HSE and SGM Agency in cooperation with the partners and had taken place in May, 2017. It was devoted to the tools for external assessment of cities and towns.

The conference 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 programs.

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 (CSR), experts of leading research and scientific organizations on regional development, urban planning, representatives of educational entities, business and NGOs.

Urban development 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, Director of the Public and Municipal management Institute of NRU HSE.

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.

Session one

Within the first session of the Conference existing problems of urban development in relation to the SDGs were discussed. Reports were presented by Irina Ilyina (NRU HSE), Elena Dolgikh (SGM Agency), Larisa Ovchinnikova (Local Network of the UN Global Compact), Alexandra Ignatyeva (Union of Russian Cities) and Milana Verkhunova (Organizational Committee of FIFA-2018).

Elena Dolgikh, Director General of SGM Agency, presented results of Sustainable Cities Index for Russian cities in 2016 and analyzed dynamics for four years. The Agency has 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. Application of international methodology for assessing urban development in Russia is substantially limited, since the system of indicators of municipal statistics currently collected by Rosstat does not yet meet international standards and modern technological trends in urban development in full extent.

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 three 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.

Second session

The second session of the Conference was focused on the mechanisms of assessing SDGs in Russia. Within the session the reports were delivered by Sergey Bobylev (Economic Faculty of the LMSU), Natalya Trunova (CSR), Vladimir Skobarev (FBC Grant Thornton), Elena Feoktistova (Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs), Vera Smirnova (PwC) and Nataya Ignatova (Rosstat).

In the course of his presentation, Vladimir Skobarev analyzed the directions of work on the integration of the UN SDGs into sustainable development strategies at the regional and municipal levels. He stressed the necessity to ensure integration of the UN SDGs indicators into the cities development strategy, management and reporting systems.

Elena Feoktistova, Managing Director for Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, noted in her speech that business plays significant role in achieving the SDGs. Businesses are a powerful actors in the process of social and economic development, whose active participation is recognized as a necessary condition for achieving these goals. Commitment to goals implies a consistent and comprehensive implementation of the principles of sustainable development in the activities of companies.

In his speech, Dr. Yuri Hohlov, Head of Digital Economy Department of the Institute of the Information Society at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, drew attention to the significant impact of digital technologies on the processes of sustainable development of the cities and the need to include indicators for assessment of the factors affecting the processes of digital transformation in the monitoring system. Another factor that influences the sustainable development of cities is the presence of strong leadership and mature institutions, which should also be considered when developing a conceptual framework for monitoring.

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