UNECE Event Recognizes Local Governments’ Role in Achieving SDGs
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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The event sought to enable the exchange of views and knowledge sharing of good practices and successful planning strategies.

UNECE Executive Olga Algayerova acknowledged the need for the UN to give mayors and local governments more space to discuss practical action and solutions to achieve the SDGs.

Urban areas comprise over 75% of the population in Europe, 80% in North America and almost 50% in Central Asia.

8 April 2019: Mayors attending the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) event titled, ‘Day of Cities,’ have reiterated the importance of cities for achieving the SDGs, emphasizing that local-level actions are closest to citizens and have the most immediate and visible impact on their lives.

The event convened on 8 April 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. It sought to enable the exchange of views and knowledge sharing of good practices and successful planning strategies. Participants discussed ways in which cities are making urban areas smarter and more sustainable, and learned about the ways digitalization and technologies can contribute to this transition. Two roundtable discussions addressed: smart sustainable cities, focusing on improving the quality of life of people; and improving the efficiency of urban operations, services and competitiveness.

According to a UNECE press release, cities generate more than 80% of global gross domestic product (GDP). The UNECE region, it notes, is one of the most highly urbanized regions in the world, with urban areas comprising over 75% of the population in Europe, 80% in North America and almost 50% in Central Asia.

More opportunities like the Day of Cities are needed to achieve resilient, low-emission, circular, nature-based, equal and healthy cities.

Addressing participants, UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova acknowledged the need for the UN to give mayors and local governments more space to discuss practical action and solutions to achieve the SDGs. Participants called on the international community to provide more opportunities like the Day of Cities in order to achieve “resilient, low-emission, circular, nature-based, equal and healthy cities.” They also said that strengthening UNECE support to local authorities could help overcome challenges faced in SDG implementation in urban areas.

UNECE acknowledges that mayors can help cities reduce emissions, make urban environments carbon neutral and increase urban resilience to disasters by taking action related to: reducing the number of cars in urban areas; increasing green spaces and green infrastructure; adding more pedestrian areas; promoting public transport and shared mobility; and enhancing urban forestry.

Participants emphasized the importance of, inter alia: safe and inclusive solutions for food security; reducing food waste; increasing the share of organic food; waste management; using sustainable local materials for construction; reducing the use of plastics; and engaging local skills and knowledge.

They stressed the need to increase public spaces to enhance the quality of life in cities and the interaction among citizens, and to provide more affordable housing. Regarding the latter, participants stressed the need for new housing management solutions, such as locally-based housing associations, a more accessible housing market, incentives for affordable housing, increasing the amount of affordable housing through more rental properties, and lowering taxes for low-income residents.

The Day of Cities brought together more than 400 participants, including over 50 mayors from 33 UNECE countries, urban managers and other municipal practitioners, and representatives of international organizations. An exhibition on ‘Smart Sustainable Cities,’ which was held from 8-9 April, showcased successful approaches to support SDG implementation at the municipal, national and regional levels. [UNECE Press Release] [Day of Cities Website] [Meeting Agenda]

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