The Forum of Mayors bring a lot of value to the international discussion

During a side event in margin of the Forum of Mayors in Geneva, representatives from UN Regional Economic Commissions shared best practices about their work and cooperation with Mayors and local and regional governments (LRGs). They discussed which initiatives could be best adapted to their regions, how inter-regional cooperation might be enlarged, and how enhanced cooperation with Mayors could be taken up at intergovernmental level. Participants emphasized the importance of sustainable urban development policies and practices, and the successful implementation of urban-related proposals in “Our Common Agenda”. The event took place right after the UNECE Forum of Mayors. The Geneva Cities Hub’s (GCH) Co-Director, Ms. Kamelia Kemileva, mentioned in her opening remarks, that the GCH would be keen to strengthen its work with all the regional Commissions from one part, and their work in presence with international Geneva, from another.

Ms. Paola Deda, Director of Forests, Land and Housing Division at UNECE shared her first-hand impressions about the Forum of Mayors organized the previous days. She stated that “the success of the meeting can be measured by the fact that Mayors took real ownership of the event, and they deemed the Forum added value”. A high number of Mayors from the UNECE region participated and participants found it useful to exchange experiences on several aspects of sustainable urban development. Sustainable urbanization might be a common challenge in the different regions of the world and therefore an area of cooperation to be strengthened among the UN Regional Economic Commissions.

Ms. Edlam Yemeru, Chief of Urbanization and Development at UNECA explained how the work in the African context differs. The priority is clearly to advance the structural reform of societies in an economic sense. Urbanization policy needs to be aligned with development policies, including industrialization, infrastructure development, employment and cultural policies. Often these policies are driven at the national level while they happen to materialize at an urban level. Regional economic commissions might play an important role in aligning these policies and elevate the urban agenda beyond the urban sector. However, it requires ample and reliable data and an estimation of the economic weight of cities in the overall economy. The involvement of African Mayors in the Forum of Mayors this year is a clear sign of focusing on inter-regional exchange and a possible way of exploring the establishment of a similar Forum in Africa.

Ms. Sukaina Al Nasrawi, Social Affairs Expert at UNESCWA reinforced the message about the crucial importance of urban data on sustainable development. In Western Asia, data mapping is needed at the national and local levels. Based on adequate data, SDG localization projects can be developed. The necessary capacity building is realized in partnership with UN-Habitat to assist local authorities. One of the areas highest on the agenda is the promotion of digital solutions in smart sustainable city development. It is linked to but different from the Covid-19 city resilience development projects that include design, monitoring and implementation.

Mr. Curt Garrigan, Chief of Sustainable Urban Development Section for the Environment and Development Division at UNESCAP presented several ongoing initiatives with mayors and local authorities. Among others, the Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines on Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) are a key asset to help local authorities develop VLRs. Some of the VLRs have already been taken into account during the process of the Voluntary National Reviews. Further, the Asian Mayors Forum was established with the purpose of promoting constructive co-operations and enhancing friendly relations among Asian cities. It provides a platform to discuss the sustainable development of Asian cities in different economic, social and technological areas. Launched in 2019, the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy involves newly elected Mayors and offers training in planning, financing and managing the sustainable and resilient development of smart cities.

All participants agreed that different platforms for interactions among Mayors are useful. Peer-to-peer exchanges of experiences, results and challenges help the better realization of sustainable development. The different formats – open forum, closed-door thematic discussion, training academy – bring added value to the process. A high-level thematic dialogue among Mayors could lead up to the yearly organization of the Forum of Mayors. Participants also recommended to strengthen the interaction among the different regional Forums. UN Regional Economic Commissions are keen to help Mayors, who are trusted elected leaders, to also become best managers of the local challenges and the global sustainable development goals. Voluntary Local Reviews have to be given more visibility in order to make sure all relevant stakeholders are aware and take their fair share in contributing to the implementation of the SDGs.

The event constituted an important contribution by the UN Regional Commissions and the GCH towards the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda scheduled on 28 April 2022 in New York.

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