Global Forum Recommends Harnessing Digital Revolution for Green, Smart, Sustainable Cities
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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The Forum focused on: connecting global sustainability agendas and private sector local actions; smart planning and design and sustainable human settlements; financing for sustainable urban infrastructure; and renewable energy, climate actions and urban resilience, among other themes.

The ‘Addis Ababa Declaration,’ adopted at the closing of the Forum, will provide inputs to World Urban Campaign activities and to the tenth session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in February 2020.

7 September 2019: The 14th Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS 2019) explored ways to harness opportunities from the digital revolution to upgrade the planning, construction and management of cities and human settlements and make them greener, smarter and more sustainable.

The Forum, which convened from 5-6 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme, ‘Sustainable Development of Cities and Human Settlements in the Digital Era,’ enabled participants to share innovative policies, strategies, technologies and examples on sustainable cities and human settlements. It sought to, inter alia: strengthen advocacy and capacity building; foster new partnerships; boost urban innovation; and support African and other countries in developing inclusive green economies, promoting cooperation in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and driving progress towards achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA).

Addressing the Forum, Oliver Chinganya, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), lamented that 60-70% of urban households live in slums, and close to 90% of Africa’s population lives in informal housing, often lacking clean and safe water, a decent toilet, title deeds or rental agreements. He said only one third of Africans are on the Internet, and digital infrastructures are not up to the same standards as the rest of the world, with estimates suggesting that Africa requires about USD 5 billion a year for information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure.

Africa requires about USD 5 billion a year for ICT infrastructure.

Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele, said modern and digital technology can help improve efficiency, citing his country’s use of digital applications and systems in the utility sector.

Among other themes, the Forum focused on: connecting global sustainability agendas and private sector local actions; smart planning and design and sustainable human settlements; financing for sustainable urban infrastructure; renewable energy, climate actions and urban resilience; urban innovation, green economy and the International Green Model City Initiative; blockchain technology and smart city governance; prefabricated, smart and green building; and family values and happiness in cities.

Speakers underscored the need for infrastructure development, including transportation, energy, housing, digital facilities, and the need to turn resources into product exports. Ten delegates representing cities, businesses, academia and civil society announced commitments to support implementation of the SDGs by scaling local SDG efforts.

The outcome document, the ‘Addis Ababa Declaration,’ will provide inputs to World Urban Campaign activities and to the tenth session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), in February 2020. The Declaration calls for, inter alia:

  • developing digital technology that adopts a people-oriented approach and prioritizes safety;
  • urban master plans that integrate green city and smart city development, promote mixed-use and more livable communities and ensure environmental efficiency through the reuse and recycling of different resources;
  • smart cities that integrate data, enable information sharing, strengthen connectivity and develop digital resources;
  • using applicable and affordable digital technologies in urban planning, construction and management to ensure their benefits are shared;
  • expanding people’s digital capacity through education, cultivating innovation, and promoting a green economy; and
  • designing and constructing communities and buildings that are “innovative, convenient, efficient, green and inclusive” and fully adapted to the digital age.

The 2019 Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards Ceremony also took place during the Forum, recognizing 26 organizations and individuals for their excellence in sustainable development practices and innovations. The Forum was co-organized by the GFHS, UNECA, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Urban Campaign (WUC). [ECA Press Release] [GFHS Press Release Announcing Forum] [GFHS Press Release on Harnessing Power of Digital Revolution] [GFHS Press Release on Opening of Forum] [GFHS Website] [UNECA GFHS Conference Webpage]


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