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Global Rise of Cities Poses Challenge to Sustainable Urban Development
- The World Economic Forum releases report on Harnessing Public-Private Cooperation to Deliver the New Urban Agenda
- A-to-Z guide on the implementation of sustainable urban development and housing solutions following the adoption of the New Urban Agenda at the Habitat III conference in October 2016
- Public-private cooperation is key to addressing the issues and opportunities presented by urbanization
- The report highlights the key actions that must be taken by government, the private sector and civil society to achieve sustainable urban development, and includes best practices and innovative solutions from around the world.
Geneva, Switzerland, 1 February 2017 – The global rise of cities has been unprecedented. Every week, nearly 1.5 million people become urban dwellers. By 2050, the urban population will account for more than two-thirds of the world’s population.
“Cities are evolving faster than ever and encountering unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic and social challenges. Sustainable urban development is the current global priority; however, most cities lack the capacity and resources to ensure that the city develops in a sustainable manner. Multistakeholder cooperation is essential to fill this gap and build transformation strategies to better shape urbanization outcomes and lead cities towards growth, well-being and prosperity for all,” said Alice Charles, Community Lead, Infrastructure and Urban Development, World Economic Forum.
In recognition of the new challenges facing cities and the need to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, the UN General Assembly convened the United Nations Conferences on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, on 17-20 October 2016. The conference resulted in the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, a concise and action-oriented plan that provides a new global strategy for sustainable urban development and housing over the next two decades.
Joan Clos, Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said, “The New Urban Agenda is a set of strategies that provide concrete actions to achieve sustainable urban development, setting out clear funding mechanisms and effective means of implementation and monitoring. It is an ambitious agenda that aims at paving the way towards making cities and human settlements more inclusive and ensuring that everyone can benefit from urbanization.”
The World Economic Forum has been actively engaged with UN-HABITAT to strengthen the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. In its report on Harnessing Public-Private Cooperation to Deliver the New Urban Agenda, the Forum highlights the role of the private sector in the delivery of urban infrastructure and services in all aspects of the urban value chain, including policy-making, planning, design, implementation, operation and maintenance, monitoring and the financing of urban service delivery.
Gregory Hodkinson, Chairman of Arup Group in the United Kingdom, said, “To address city challenges and achieve positive transformation, city leaders and the private sector need to be engaged in an environment based on integrity and trust to encourage the private sector to commit its resources, skills and experience towards the development and operation of the efficient, liveable, resilient and prosperous cities that the world needs.”
The public and private sectors must create a structured engagement either through informal consultation or formal agreements to drive cities towards social, environmental and economic sustainability while enhancing urban equity, quality of life, social services, resiliency, trust, integrity, innovation, cohesion and inclusiveness, he said.
Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, Ecuador, said, “City authorities are closest to the citizens and ground-level realities and therefore play a key role in providing the impetus for progress. With the formal adoption of the New Urban Agenda, the Municipality of Quito has commenced the process of translating the principles of the New Urban Agenda into policies and actions, and looks forward to the participation of the private sector and the value they bring in terms of innovation, resources and expertise.”
The report recommends that the following actions be taken up by respective stakeholders:
|Public Sector Actions||Private Sector Actions|
Hazem Galal, Global Leader of Cities and Local Government at PwC, United Arab Emirates, said, “Urbanization dynamics have evolved over time and call for a transition from a business-as-usual approach to one that is highly collaborative, enabling the private sector to co-create and co-design sustainable urban transformation agendas. Government and the private sector must play their part by prioritizing their actions to reflect cities’ unique context, immediate and long-term priorities, and the created impact to achieve sustainable development.”
The World Economic Forum plans to continue the exchange of ideas on sustainable urban development among corporate leaders in infrastructure, engineering, construction and urban services, and senior level policy-makers and city officials with the aim of implementing the New Urban Agenda.
Working in collaboration with local partners, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative serves as a partner in transformation to cities around the world as they seek to address major urban challenges and transition towards smarter, more sustainable cities in a rapidly urbanizing world.
Habitat III Introduces the New Urban Agenda to the World. Then What?
The Habitat III conference will see more than 45,000 leaders, decision makers and urban experts sign into force the New Urban Agenda(NUA) – the outcome declaration of the global UN summit – and set a course for 20 years of urban transformation. National negotiators, key stakeholders and experts have worked to create a clear vision for a sustainable urban future and a framework for action in the NUA’s final draft, approved in September.
However, the NUA and the Habitat process do not stand alone. Going forward, they will be part of intensified efforts to achieve sustainable, equal development for all and combat climate change.
If the New Urban Agenda Is Final, What Will Happen Next Week?
With the NUA now final, look for signs of next steps towards implementation. News of important initiative launches, commitments and new research on innovative solutions to the global urban challenge will be delivered at hundreds of events hosted by stakeholder organizations from around the world, highlighting the latest ideas for transformative action, innovative financing mechanisms and new governance structures. Stakeholders will also be watching for news on reporting and monitoring frameworks as well as improvements to the Quito Implementation Plan, the proposed platform for coordinating and publicizing efforts from non-state actors and stakeholders around the globe.
What Happened at the Last Two Habitat Conferences?
The first Habitat conference in 1976 in Vancouver, Canada (formally called the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements) raised awareness about the global housing challenge and set priorities for future development. But the limited inclusion of non-governmental perspectives hindered action.
At Habitat II in 1996 in Istanbul, international leaders discussed progress and set the direction for future urban development. Learning from the first conference, Habitat II incorporated greater stakeholder input, but shifted the burden of creating solutions to the private sector. This focus reflected the mood of the world economy at the time, which was largely driven by globalization and strong trust in the free market.
As the 2014 Habitat II Progress Report argues, this shift led to significant reductions in government-provided and subsidized housing, and increased reliance on private sector solutions for the global housing challenge, contributing to growing inequality on all fronts. Though there has been progress since the Istanbul meeting, access to healthcare, sanitation, housing, and safe food and water has become more unequal over the years.
What’s Different This Time?
Habitat I and II drew criticism for lacking well-structured implementation and follow-up plans, with ambitious, visionary declarations but little to no action. Habitat III could change that legacy. The excitement around the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be seen as an opportunity for cities. Habitat III can therefore be seen as a way to implement these commitments and tap into the political and financial momentum these processes already have. Besides the official events at Habitat III on integrating the New Urban Agenda with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, many side events will try to determine how achieving the goals of the New Urban Agenda can contribute to achieving goals on climate action and sustainable development. Additionally, decision-makers can look to the recent UN-DESA Financing for Development conference, which created a new global framework for financing sustainable development and a comprehensive set of national policy actions towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This framework, which also aligns with the core tenets of the New Urban Agenda, can be leveraged to channel more international finance to the NUA commitments.
The Paris Agreement will go into effect on November 4, creating an immediate push for action. Habitat decision makers and implementers can ride this momentum by connecting new initiatives to the existing Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) – the UNFCCC’s stakeholder engagement mechanism to enhance the implementation of climate action – and related initiatives. The LPAA action brings non-state and city actors together through the Global Covenant of Mayors and the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate, two urban-focused initiatives whose activities contribute to both urban development and climate goals.
Similarly, the SDGs are highly relevant to urban decision-makers, and can’t be fully achieved without significant investment in cities. In addition to specifically acknowledging the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda makes commitments that would help achievement of at least 15 of the 17 goals. For this reason, it is imperative that actors dedicated to the SDGs make every effort to leverage the opportunity of Habitat III.
As all eyes turn to Quito next week, we look forward to seeing global and local leaders come together to strategize the best ways to make real our collective vision for the cities of the future.
By Alyssa Fischer