Key Themes

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, defining 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to be reached in 15 years.

Out of the ongoing debate on ways to implement the SDGs, Local Economic Development (LED) stands out for the prospect it represents as a strategic and operational approach to localize the SDGs. With a large corpus of practical experiences and tools, widely applied in diverse countries, LED can play an important role in making the global goals a reality in the territories- by tackling poverty, generating employment and decent work, supporting sustainable entrepreneurship and creating multi-stakeholder partnerships.

LED is understood as a strategically planned and locally driven partnership approach, which aims at generating sustainable local economic opportunities and quality of life gains through improved economic governance.

Unlike conventional economic development, LED strategies reflect upon the need to articulate responses adapted to the global context, yet their primary aim is geared towards local, human, inclusive and sustainable development. This view of development indicates a territorial core: it is based on the area’s endogenous resources, observing environmental sustainability criteria. Furthermore, it prioritizes local social and cultural realities.

Therefore, LED is a comprehensive framework of territorial planning. It constitutes today a consolidated set of diverse and widely applied practices and tools, directed at enlarging equal opportunities for income and decent work. Sustainable LED strategies enable local people to build upon local resources and make use of their advantages and specific knowledge endemic to their territory. These strategies manage consumption and production patterns, in a way that is supportable for the region.

In this manner, LED addresses rising inequalities. It allows for a more geographically dispersed economic development and generates sustainable economic opportunities for all people, including women, indigenous people, youth, ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups.

The 2030 Agenda specifically recognizes that in an increasingly global economy, cities and regions come to the fore and are important channels for the transformation at play. The pursuit of LED has now changed from a low-priority function of local governments to a central concern that encompasses the interests of all actors at the local level. It is now regarded as central to the public policy in local and national government agendas.

Thus, LED has the potential to land global partnerships and strategies at the local level, wherein all-local stakeholders work together to define priorities, and plan and implement development strategies. This outcome must be constructed through public participation. Participatory territorial planning requires the sharing of experiences, tools and strategies for the application of a territorial focus.

In the 4th World Forum of LED, the discussions and experiences shared will emanate from the different territories. They will deepen the analysis of LED as a vehicle to implement the SDGs at the local level, towards more sustainable, inclusive and equal societies. The forum will delve into three main thematic areas:

LED as a foundation for...

Integrated and Cohesive Territories

The forum will cast a spotlight on enabling policies and frameworks for socio-economic and territorial cohesion. It will pursue inclusive growth, by promoting decent work opportunities for all and the economic empowerment of youth and women. To support this, it will consider information generation, knowledge management and skills development. It will explore territorial mechanisms that coordinate among actors across society, by incorporating their specific knowledge and practical know-how within policymaking and planning.

Further, there will be a focus on integrated rural development as a means for regional competitiveness and territorial equality. The drivers of rural development and rural-urban integration will be examined, keeping in mind connectivity, participation, environmental sustainability and integrated local production and consumption systems. Regional integration will be studied through the lens of related LED policies and practices. The role of territorial cooperation in scaling-up LED processes and promoting cohesion will also be considered from a global perspective.

Resilient and Peaceful Societies

Within fragile contexts and post-conflict scenarios, the forum focusses on peacebuilding. It hopes to renew a ‘social contract’ through dialogue and participation, and empower disrupted communities through the LED dynamics of employment and income generation. It explores methods to restore institutional and economic infrastructure.

The forum also probes enabling policies and the role of local and regional governments in building integrative and cohesive societies through LED. It reviews inclusive service provision strategies. It considers LED and migrations within and across territories. It also assesses environmental sustainability criteria and natural resources management.

Sustainable and Inclusive Economies

The forum examines enabling frameworks for Social and Solidarity economy (SSE) and other alternative economic paradigms. It explores the potential of SSE as a localised circuit, leveraging the economic potential of territories and reinvesting value for local wellbeing. In doing so, the forum aims to break the barriers of sectorial approaches by examining the value, ‘efficiency of proximity’ and the specific potential of alternative/complementary paradigms, e.g. fair trade, sharing economy, circular economy, etc.

There is also a study of inclusive and sustainable urbanisation patterns, exploring new paradigms for private sector engagement. The forum promotes the gradual regularisation of the urban informal economy, and it aims to strengthen access in the transition phases. Other policies and instruments are explored, such as sustainable investment and service delivery in urban contexts. The forum also deliberates the role of SMEs and their networks: Entrepreneurship and decent employment creation; the challenge of cooperation and new forms of partnership with local authorities; social responsibility and the territorial impact of enterprises; investment and services’ financing models and tools.