No SDG implementation without local public service workers

The PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli joined the Mayors of Montevideo, Polokwane and Lima in the opening panel of the 4th Local and Regional Governments (LRG) Forum at the UN High Level Policy Forum (HLPF) 2021.

Addressing LRG and UN leaders on the connection between the achievement of health and well-being (SDG3) and local public services, Pavanelli said: “a safe and full recovery from the pandemic will remain wishful thinking unless we duly consider the workers who provide our local public services and make sure they are in decent work”.

Organised by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, UN DESA, UN Habitat and UNDP, the Forum is a flagship annual policy space showcasing the critical role played by subnational governments in the implementation of all SDGs. It calls for multi-level governance, dialogue and close collaboration across all spheres of governments to collectively achieve the 2030 Agenda and a just, green and inclusive recovery. In 2020, the OECD has estimated that 65% of the 169 targets underlying the 17 SDGs will not be reached without proper engagement of and coordination with local and regional governments.

a safe and full recovery from the pandemic will remain wishful thinking unless we duly consider the workers who provide our local public services and make sure they are in decent work.

Recalling that according to WHO estimates 115,000 health care workers have died of Covid-19 -- no global figures exist to measure the Covid toll on other frontline public service services many of which are largely outsourced - Pavanelli stressed the crucial importance of embedding decent working conditions and collective bargaining for local public service workers as cornerstones of any recovery plan aspiring to build a just, green and inclusive recovery.

Based on the experience of PSI’s membership of over 30 million, the PSI General Secretary said: “we firmly believe that public services delivered and owned by the public deliver better than those ran the private sector”.

Referring to the urgent need for LRG funding to ensure sustained local public service provision, she added: “the commitment by the G20 to impose a minimum 15% global corporate tax on multinational corporations is a start, but more is needed: in the spirit of the UCLG-PSI Joint Statement in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we can join forces and tell the G20 that a fair share of resources recovered from lost tax be allocated to LRG to fund quality local public services for all”. At this time of exceptional socio-economic strain, “resources must be channelled to our territories and communities, not centralised”, she added.

Finally she mentioned the critical role played by care services for millions of people worldwide in any territory and community. Care services are key public services largely delivered at a LRG level, yet often underfunded, undervalued and overly feminized, where women workers are often exploited and undervalued: this is why PSI has recently launched the Manifesto: Rebuilding the social organization of care.

During the Forum, world LRG leaders sent a Joint Statement to the HLPF 2021, which contains a number of key messages resonating with the PSI agenda (e.g. on adequate funding for local public service; universal access health care; vaccines as a global public good; digital literacy as a new human right; etc.).

They also released the 5th “Towards the Localization of the SDGs” Report, which says (p. 10) “it is key to create new models and framework of commitments to guarantee productive employment and decent work for all in order to address the rising inequalities that the pandemic has exacerbated. Work, and guaranteeing workers’ rights, is the most powerful lever to address inequalities and the gender and racial gap”.