7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Towards a territorial approach to economic development

Towards a territorial approach to economic development

How to foster inclusive partnerships that can support the implementation of the SDGs?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 14:00 to 15:15

Key points

  • The focus of implementing the Sustainable Goals for Development (SDGs) is moving towards a territorial approach that emphasises economic development at the local level.
  • Local policymakers are in a key position to develop measures that ultimately should bring about the SDGs by 2030.
  • Decentralised cooperation should be the new key concept.
  • Despite an enhanced focus on the territorial approach, there should not be a shift from decision-making at the national level, as problems cannot be solved only locally.  


The territorial approach aims to bring together different regions and local communities to enhance the potential for development. The challenge is to connect the work of the national government to the local level to ensure inclusive development.

The European Committee of Regions (CoR), an EU body made up of regional representatives, will be closely involved in supporting EU action in the territorial context. But there was criticism of the European Commission’s development approach for not sufficiently taking local actors into account.

A new approach is needed to involve regional and local authorities in development. Action needed to achieve the SDGs is often local in nature, such as social welfare policies and improved urban planning and mobility.

Applying the territorial approach requires a better understanding of which sectors should be involved. Implementation tools are key. But the real challenge is to assess the achievements at the local level, which requires better indicators. The real difficulty is that there is no single development model that could be applied across the board at the local level, although local success stories can provide valuable lessons that can then be scaled up.

Involving small and medium-sized enterprises in the implementation of the SDGs and the political process guiding it are of outmost importance. Policies that promote investment, such as education and welfare policies, must be integrated at territorial level.

Territorial development means applying multilevel governance rather than only local governance. The UN’s 2030 SDGs agenda should also imply a shared responsibility at local level. There is a need to monitor the achievements of the SDGs at local level, as the previously, the Millennium Development Goals were mainly monitored at national level. That requires work programmes on SDG indicators at regional and local level. Latin America is a good example of regional cooperation that works, e.g. between regions in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

Hunger can only be ended through addressing food security and that requires investment in agricultural production and processing, marketing and transport.

With a large increase in population, rural areas have to provide jobs with a prospect of reasonable revenue for young people.


Implementing the development goals should involve all levels of administration, as difficulties cannot only be solved locally. The territorial approach is therefore only part of a solution that focuses on a bottom-up approach and increasingly on decentralisation.

Organised by

    Johannes Krassnitzer
    International Coordinator
    United Nations Development Programme
    Marie-Cécile Thirion
    Agronomist and project coordinator
    Agence Française de Développement
    Roberta Dall’Olio
    Vice President
    European Association of Development Agencies
    Franco Iacop
    Rapporteur on SDGs
    European Committee of the Regions
    Stefano Marta
    Economist, Policy Research and Advice
    Elodie Valette
    Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement
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