Cites are ‘Living Laboratories’ for SDGs, Climate Action: Civil Society Conference
Photo Credit: Mauro Mora/Unsplash
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The Conference’s Outcome Document highlights the need for collaboration and partnership to create humane cities in which people can flourish.

Youth participants drafted and adopted a stand-alone climate compact, by which they pledge to take action in 25 areas.

28 August 2019: Civil society representatives and UN officials discussed solutions to sustainability challenges posed by urban life, at the 68th session of the UN Civil Society Conference. The Conference focused on the theme, ‘Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities.’

The UN Civil Society Conference convened from 28-28 August 2019, in Salt Lake City, Utah, US. It was organized by the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC), the NGO Executive Committee and Salt Lake City, which was selected for its track record of inclusion and sustainability, including taking climate action. Youth participants contributed by the planning by holding co-chair roles on most sub-committees for the Conference, and by developing a thematic session on youth employment and opportunity.

In a video message to the Conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “well-planned and managed cities can steer us towards inclusive growth” and serve as models of harmony among diverse people. He highlighted the role of cities in addressing global challenges, including climate change, saying they can support a path towards low-emission development.

Alison Smale, DGC head, emphasized that making cities inclusive, sustainable, resilient and safe is critical to achieving the SDGs by 2030. Maruxa Cardama, Secretary General of the Partnership for Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), described cities as “living laboratories” where the challenges and opportunities that are central to the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change become tangible.

The Conference adopted an Outcome Document that presents a global vision for achieving inclusive and sustainable cities by 2030, and stresses the “urgent need for climate action.” The Outcome Document notes that cities and communities are central to the achievement of “all SDGs and not only SDG 11.” It highlights the importance of inclusivity, peace, family, education, youth, and empowerment of women and girls.

The Outcome Document calls for addressing the specific conditions of mountainous areas and small island developing States (SIDS), and the interdependence of rural and urban prosperity. It also cites the need for collaboration and partnership to create humane cities in which “people can flourish and enhance the quality of life and dignity for all.” UN General Assembly (UNGA) President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés welcomed the Outcome Document at the closing plenary session, telling participants, “you can count on me to be your advocate.”

Taking place ahead of the September 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, the Conference also yielded a stand-alone climate compact drafted and adopted by youth participants. The compact identifies specific actions to reduce the impacts of climate change and adapt mindsets and structures. The text urges everyone to “incite climate action in their own communities” to grow a network of motivated and concerned youth.

By the compact, youth participants make a range of pledges, such as educating themselves and their networks on the impact of individuals on climate change through daily lifestyle choices, avoiding single-use plastic products and packaging, reducing waste, protecting forests and rainforests, using renewable sources of energy, and divesting from fossil fuels and mining. [UN News Story on Conference Opening] [UN Press Release on Conference Closing]

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