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Panelists at Urban Breakfast

How to make our cities more liveable and more sustainable?  The implementation the "new urban agenda" to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was the topic of the annual Urban Breakfast event which took place at the Residence Palace in Brussels on 9 October.

The high-level panelists agreed that success would depend on a combination of increased collaboration between cities, innovation and research, dialogue with citizens and creative ways of financing innovative solutions in urban areas.

The panel discussion took place a year after the adoption of the New Urban Agenda by the international community at the Habitat III Conference in Quito and two  years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 11 which is dedicated to sustainable cities and communities.

In her opening remarks, the Deputy Director of UNRIC underlined the duality of cities: "Cities are hubs of promise, jobs, technology and economic development. But as well as being centres of promise and innovation, cities are also the epicentre of many of the challenges of sustainability".

October marks World Habitat Day, World Cities Day, and Urban October in addition to the  European Week of Regions & Cities, an opportunity for key stakeholders such as mayors and city representatives to come together and work on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. All actors engaged in the cross cutting sector of urbanisation need to re-think how to plan, manage and live in our cities.

Daniel Termont, the Mayor of Ghent

Daniel Termont, the Mayor of Ghent, shared some concrete examples of how he is making his city of 300,000 inhabitants a better place to live, where residents take an active part in the decision-making process. From a car free city-centre, to teaching all generations how to bike, or reducing meat consumption in the schools, the City of Ghent is promoting a more sustainable way of life.  The mayor announced the launch of a Festival of Democracy across Europe in May 2018 to be organised with the Eurocities network.

Alain Flausch, the Secretary General of UITP (The International Association of Public Transport) who also took an active part in the Habitat III Conference, reinforced the importance of involving citizens and how collaboration at all levels was crucial. He also stressed the need for streamlining all existing networks and is championing integration for increased efficiency.

Birgit de Boissezon, Head of Unit at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation from the European Commission, insisted on the added value of the research and innovation sectors to bring new creative solutions and how European cities are encouraged to share best practices among themselves.

The connection between citizens and nature needs to be reinvented in tomorrow’s cities. Indeed the implementation of the European urban agenda will fit into the global urban agenda and will take into account the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In conclusion, Paulius Kulikauskas , Chief of UN Habitat Office for Europe and European Institutions, reminded those present that now was the time for implementation and that this long transformative process of urbanisation required a new balanced approach with a multi-level commitment of Member States and cities. He reminded the audience that cities could achieve the SDGs by implementing the New Urban Agenda and invited them to follow the next World Urban Forum to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  in February 2018.

If sustainable urbanisation becomes a priority, it will accelerate the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the world will make a big step forward to a better future.

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Photography © UNRIC/Joseph Pallez


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