Cities and Regions together towards Rio+20
On 23 April, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and UN-Habitat, with the support of Cities Alliance, gathered local and regional governments leaders and networks together to a meeting in New York where they presented the key messages of these groups for Rio+20 to both United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations officials and the Group of Friends of Sustainable Cities.
Local and regional authorities engaged in a dialogue with the Group of Friends of Sustainable Cities on how to ensure that the views of local and subnational governments are included.
The document "Joint Messages of Local and Sub-national Governments", signed by UCLG, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), Metropolis, C40 Cities, NRG4SD, FOGAR, with the support of the Ford Foundation and UN-Habitat, put forward eight recommendations to reach a sustainable urbanization, metropolisation and regionalisation. The agreement emphasizes urbanization as a driver for economic world growth and development. Local and Regional governments highlight that it is in the cities around the world that the pressures of globalization, migration, social inequality, environmental pollution, climate change and youth unemployment are most directly felt. And, on the other hand, urban areas have for centuries been cradle of innovation and they produce currently above 75% of the worlds of GDP. In this regard, cities and regions stress the need of achieving cities that are environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and economically productive.
In the opening address of the meeting, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said to the local and regional authorities, "your support has never been more crucial to delivering practical results that will defeat poverty, protect the natural environment and improve disaster risk reduction".
Mr. Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul and UCLG President, affirmed that local and regional governance should be clearly included in the international institutional framework of Rio+20. The UCLG President also stated that Rio+20 should set the ground for the Habitat III Conference and that a clear role should be devoted to local and regional authorities in the Post 2015 development agenda.
The Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos, affirmed that "nowadays, more than half of the population is living in urban areas and we are living a unique phenomenon of urban population increase. We call to prioritize sustainable urban development through good urban design, urban legislation, economy and governance to face the challenges of the 21st Century".
Local and regional leaders from all continents attended the High-Level segment, including the President of UCLG and Mayor of Istanbul, Mayor of Lisbon and UCLG Co-President, Mayor of Kazan and UCLG Co-President, Mayor of Montreal and Metropolis Treasurer and Vice-President, the Vice President of FOGAR, the President of the Azuay Province, the Ministry of Territory and Sustainability of the Catalonia Region and Co-Chair of NRG4SD, Councillor of Vancouver and President of ICLEI as well as the Mayor of Guarulhos and Vice-President of the FMDV.
Participants acknowledged the need to go beyond the clusters and sectoral approaches on sustainability, and called for humanizing the debate and for an integrated framework to assessing sustainable development, as regards basic services, territorial cohesion, social inclusion and equity, culture and resilience. They have emphasized the need for a more inclusive, multi-level and multi-actor governance and strong need to rethink the governance of sustainable development that is not limited to the inter-governmental level. Paul Carrasco, President of Province of Azuay and 1st Vice-President of FOGAR, stated that it is essential that all subnational governments, cities, metropolises and regions, work together closely in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
The session provided the opportunity to start examining the road from Rio+20 to the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, the Habitat III Conference, in 2016.