Officials from New York City, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles discussed how the SDGs can help US cities to address local economic, social and environmental challenges.
Panelists stressed the role of cities in delivering services to their residents and the importance of setting targets and assessing progress against those targets in order to be held accountable.
29 November 2018: Officials from New York City, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles participated in a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution to consider how the SDGs can help US cities to address local economic, social and environmental challenges.
Amy Liu, Brookings Institution, opened the event and noted that cities are well placed to bring bold action that breaks historic norms to achieve progress on equity, growth and the environment. In this regard, she cited the need for ensuring that regional authorities and responsibilities complement municipal efforts and objectives. She also highlighted the role that cities can play in a conversation on race, and in acknowledging that the future workforce will be multiracial and multicultural.
Tony Pipa, Brookings Institution, moderated the panel discussion, and noted that the event was co-hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. In an article published prior to the event, Pipa highlighted that the SDGs provide a “blueprint and useful metrics” that city leaders can use to advance local economic, civic, and environmental objectives. In addition, he writes that the SDGs give US cities “an incentive to play a prominent role in solving the world’s problems while solving their own.”
Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner for International Affairs, Mayor’s Office, City of New York, noted that New York City’s engagement with the SDGs followed its experience with Hurricane Sandy and a recognition of its need for a development agenda with an equity lens. New York City created OneNYC as a result, and has since mapped this plan to the SDGs. She highlighted that the SDGs provide local authorities with a common language to address challenges within New York as well as to engage with actors outside the city.
Nina Hachigian, Deputy Mayor, City of Los Angeles (LA), highlighted that the Mayor of LA is passionate about using metrics in the city’s efforts to deliver services to its residents. She noted that local universities helped the city to map the SDG targets and think about the localization of the SDGs. She also said that LA county authorities are in charge of health policy, making it necessary to engage regional actors to ensure that the city is able to deliver a coherent approach on related issues.
Grant Ervin, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Pittsburgh, noted that the city has not yet officially committed to the SDGs, but its mayor has learned about them from other mayors and is looking at the SDGs as a framework and common language that could help pull together Pittsburgh’s efforts to address risk, integration and inequality.
Karen Lightman, Executive Director, Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College Metro21 Smart Cities Institute, noted that “smart city” work on transportation flows will not improve residents’ quality of life if related issues, such as road maintenance and availability of public transportation, are not also addressed, highlighting the need for integrated approaches. She also stressed the importance of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals, as well as good and open data.
During the discussion, panelists stressed the role of cities in delivering services to residents, and the importance of setting targets and assessing progress against those targets in order to be held accountable. Abeywardena noted that New York launched a Voluntary Local Review during the July 2018 meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), containing its plans to implement the SDGs. Panelists discussed how technology can be used to help with equitable delivery of services, such as by tracking potholes using photos sent by city residents. They also noted that globalization, climate change and urbanization are driving the need for cities to be proactive, and said the SDGs provide a framework for continuous adaptation and improvement. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Brookings article][Brookings event webpage including webcast]