On 29 March 2023, GCH Co-Director Anh Thu Duong took part in a peer-learning roundtable dedicated to SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) held in the framework of the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The event offered the opportunity to States to hear from cities in the European and Central Asia region (Athens, Bishkek, Bonn, London, Madrid, Tirana) what they do to localize the SDGs and achieve SDG11 in particular.
The challenges that cities have to address are numerous: climate change, biodiversity loss, waste management, increasing energy prices, access to adequate and affordable housing, social cohesion, public health, urban mobility, mass migration, etc. These all relate to the SDGs and there is significant congruence between the global 2030 Agenda and the respective local agendas of cities. Sustainability stands at the heart of the strategies, plans and programmes of cities but is adapted to each context. In London, for instance, the ultra low emission zone put in place had a drastic impact on cutting air pollution. In Bonn, the sustainability strategy is broad and touches upon 6 fields of action, but its implementation actually starts at the neighbourhood level, with small actions, to ensure good social engagement. Cities that spoke all underlined the need to be flexible and agile to effectively respond to these challenges. To do so, cities have to sometimes go way beyond their competencies or be very creative. That is the case of Albania who referred to its engagement on food and how it promoted links between local agriculture and the city, the reduction of food waste, healthier diet programmes in nurseries and kindergarten, etc.
While very different, Jose Pedro Reis from London recalled how much the challenges faced by cities were similar. He also underlined that most often, the approach taken by cities was pragmatic, effective and innovative. Hence, their contributions at international level are useful. SDG11 offers a fantastic opportunity for States to engage with cities in a sustainable manner, on concrete topics that lie at the heart of the daily lives of urban dwellers. Anh Thu Duong, therefore called upon States that would present Voluntary National Reviews at the High Level Political Forum in July in NYC, to consult with their cities on the progress made on SDG11, to include them in their national delegations or even to enable their local and regional governments to be accredited in their own capacity. “The Geneva Cities Hub is convinced that new multilateralism requires creating a new status for local and regional governments to participate in the work of the UN. This status would acknowledge their role as valuable partners in addressing global challenges and developing collective solutions that are close to the people”, she concluded.