Vancouver + 30: The Changing Role of Cities and Global Sustainable Development
Organized in cooperation with the Government of Canada
Mr. John Pombe Magufuli, Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, Co-Chair, Third Session of the World Urban Forum, and Mr. Ted Menzies, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, on behalf of Mr. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Government of Canada, co-chaired the round-table discussions. Ms. Huguette Labelle, Chair, Transparency International and Chancellor, University of Ottawa, served as moderator.
Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, made introductory remarks in which she emphasized the important role of government in promoting sustainable urban development. Governments needed to assume a leading role in working with other key stakeholders in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly targets 10 and 11 on water and sanitation and on slum upgrading and prevention. Governments needed also to consolidate development regulatory frameworks and assist civil society and the private sector in scaling up the various initiatives for promoting sustainable urban development.
Over 25 ministers from all regions of the world addressed the three thematic issues of the round table: the role and responsibility of central governments in supporting sustainable cities and communities; collaboration between different spheres of government in promoting sustainable development; and how national governments led their international agenda within the local context.
In the context of the role and responsibility of central governments, Co-Chair Magufuli cited the example of his own country, the United Republic of Tanzania, where the main challenges of rapid urbanization without the provision of services included urban poverty, urban sprawl, urban and housing finance, and urban management.
Throughout, the leading role of national governments was reiterated and the need to promote sustainable urban development was underscored. Through citing national experiences and initiatives, ministers illustrated different approaches applied in different countries in confronting the challenges encountered and in fostering sustainability in its broader scope.
An issue raised by all speakers was that both developed and developing countries faced a myriad of challenges which necessitated the adoption of innovative approaches and the building of new types of relationships between spheres of government and stakeholders. Different initiatives on providing adequate and affordable housing in urban areas, particularly for those who were less endowed financially, were described. Examples of infrastructural development, energy conservation, sustainable communities and neighbourhoods, and overcoming challenges of post-conflict reconstruction were given.
Ministers shared their country experiences on modalities of mobilizing financial resources for sustainable development. Attention was drawn to paragraph 56 (m) of the 2005 World Summit Outcome on the need to capitalize the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation. It was recognized that private-sector investment was required to supply the enormous amount of resources needed for infrastructure development. A call was made for changes to allow for investments to be depreciated over extended periods so as to reduce the impact on fiscal balances. Similarly, the need to include issues relating to sustainable urban development within international cooperation, and particularly in poverty reduction strategies, was underscored.
Emphasis was placed on the development of dynamic intergovernmental relationships that would foster partnerships, promote subsidiarity and local engagement, and ensure efficiency and effectiveness. A number of speakers emphasized the importance of capacity-building at all levels and the need to include a pro-poor bias in policy formulation and implementation. One speaker emphasized the need to focus sharply on extending the “right to the city” to all the citizens, and the need to consider social inclusion as an essential part of urban planning and management.
All participants expressed appreciation for the usefulness of the round table, which was described as serving as a catalyst for further collaboration in transforming ideas into action.