Mayors and city leaders from the UNECE region exchanged innovative ideas and efforts to address the COVID-19 emergency and, simultaneously, combat climate change and move towards achieving the SDGs.
The Geneva Declaration of Mayors outlines aspirational commitments to: strengthen cities’ resilience; take ambitious climate action; make cities greener; accelerate the transition to sustainable energy; ensure urban transport is sustainable; ensure housing is affordable, healthy, and adequate; make cities more equitable and inclusive; and turn these aspirations into reality.
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) convened the Forum of Mayors 2020 to share best practices and develop a shared vision for sustainable urban development. Participants endorsed the Geneva Declaration of Mayors, which aligns city leaders’ efforts with the initiative of UN Secretary-General António Guterres to “build back better” and turn the COVID-19 recovery into a real opportunity for shaping a healthy and resilient future.
The Forum, the first of its kind, took place on 6 October 2020 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, and virtually. It convened under the theme, ‘City Action for a Resilient Future: Strengthening Local Government Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and the Impact of Disasters and Climate Change.’
Mayors and city leaders from the UNECE region (Europe, North America, Central Asia, and Caucasus) exchanged innovative ideas and efforts to address the COVID-19 emergency and, simultaneously, combat climate change and move towards achieving the SDGs. They highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since implementation takes place at the local level.
Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as “an unprecedented emergency,” the Geneva Declaration of Mayors indicates that the pandemic has taught us that rapid change of urban reality is possible, behavior patterns can be adapted, and humans can stand in solidarity for a common cause. The Mayors of the UNECE region aspire to:
- strengthen the resilience of cities, by increasing the ability to anticipate, manage, and recover from any future emergency, and by creating environments that improve the physical, mental, and environmental health of communities;
- take ambitious climate action, accelerating the transition to carbon neutrality and focusing on climate change adaptation;
- make cities greener by promoting urban biodiversity, creating opportunities for urban micro-farming, and tackling food waste;
- accelerate the transition to sustainable energy while improving the energy efficiency of cities and promoting high-performance buildings;
- ensure that urban transport is sustainable through the design of appropriate transport systems that enhances their resilience and preparedness, and the promotion of safe, secure, green, healthy, and affordable smart mobility solutions;
- ensure that housing is affordable, healthy, and adequate, actively tackling the undersupply of affordable housing, mounting urban poverty, and homelessness, as well as improving access to healthy and good quality housing;
- make cities more equitable and inclusive by guaranteeing equal rights and participation for all, ensuring that women fully participate in political decision making, and ensuring that contingency plans respond to the needs of different population groups; and
- turn these aspirations into reality using the Forum of Mayors as a platform for mutual learning, spreading the word, tracking progress, and achieving a multiplier effect through urban networks.
The Forum convened as part of the UNECE Sustainable Cities Week, a series of events aiming to strengthen cooperation between national and local governments. Running from 5-9 October, the Week also includes a day devoted to SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), the 81st Session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, and the fifth annual meeting of the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (UN4CC) Initiative, which brings together 17 UN agencies and programmes to achieve SDG 11.
Following the successful conclusion of the first ever Forum of Mayors, the second Forum meeting will take place in 2021. [ENB coverage]