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 5th 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: