UN and EU dialogue on sustainable urban development
The latest event of the URBAN Intergroup on 26 October was dedicated to creating a platform for the EU Institutions to discuss how our cooperation with the UN in the field of sustainable urban development can be fostered: in the spirit of the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism of 2021; the conclusions of the recent EU-UN High Level retreat in July 2022, and the EU Statement and commitments at the High-Level Meeting at UN General Assembly in April 2022.
The occasion for the meeting was also to celebrate UN-Habitat’s 2022 award of the Scroll of Honour – the most prestigious UN award for achievements in promoting sustainable urban development – to the URBAN Intergroup “For being effective in enabling European legislation, policies, and financing for sustainable urban development in cities and human settlements which can provide inspiration for parliaments and parliamentary assemblies in other regions of the world”.
Andreas Schieder MEP, Vice-President of URBAN Intergroup stressed that the topic of the meeting is currently aligned with what is discussed globally ex. how to implement the green deal, how to address climate and social challenges. “Cities and urban areas are the fields where improvement could be done and has to be done”.
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Camila Brückner, Representative of the UN to EU, set the stage on the UN and EU alignment of strategic and operational priorities. She introduced the Urban October, she underlined the importance of Joint Communication of the European Commission and EEAS to the European Parliament and the Council on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism and its drive towards alignment with the UN, referred to UN and EU High-Level Retreat, High-Level Meeting at UN General Assembly to assess progress of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA). She emphasised that NUA is a Multi-Level Governance and territorial dimension of Agenda 2030 and accelerator of attaining SDGs.
Christina Kokkinakis, Deputy Managing Director for Global and Director for Values and Multilateral Relations, European External Action Service, reconfirmed EU’s commitment to alignment with the UN. She referred to alignment of EU and UN priorities and operations and EUs support to Our Common Agenda. She also emphasized global dimension of crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wallis Goelen-Vandebrock, Senior Adviser, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission (DG REGIO), outlined the Voluntary commitments of the EU to implement New Urban Agenda: the three commitments presented at Habitat III at Quito in 2016, and the three new commitments announced at the High-Level Meeting to assess progress of Implementation of the NUA at the UN General Assembly in New York in April 2022. She introduced other relevant EU policies, and mentioned 14 EU events at the 10th World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland, in June 2022.
Paolo Ciccarelli, Head of Unit Sustainable Transport and Urban Development, Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) of the European Commission, confirmed that DG INTPA works very closely with UN-Habitat on several levels: from policy to the field.
He presented EU’s collaboration with partner countries, emphasizing 4 workstreams:
- Decentralised cooperation at country level;
- European Fund for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Cities window, blended finance and guarantees;
- Thematic programmes, such as PSUP;
- Knowledge support on SUD to EU Delegations.
He emphasised importance of working on financing sustainable urban development, and referred to Financing Sustainable Urban Development initiative, requested by European Parliament and implemented by UN-Habitat and European Institutions in partnership with other UN entities and academia.
Avenues of Cooperation: EU and UN initiatives in promoting sustainable development:
Lewis Dijkstra, Head of the Economic Analysis Sector, DG REGIO, presented the work of EU-UN-OECD partnership implementing EU Voluntary commitment on Global people-based definition of urbanisation and monitoring SDGs. He presented the rationale behind Global definition of urbanisation, and the broad partnership behind the work, led by the European Commission, and including several UN entities, World Bank and OECD. He explained the key role of UN-Habitat in securing UN Statistical Commission’s adoption of the Definition in 2020. Mr. Dijkstra explained, that the work of the partnership continues, UN-Habitat and other UN entities working at the country level, assisting partner countries to adopt and make use of the definition. The current phase will be reported to UN Statistical Commission in 2025.
Marcos Ros Sempere MEP, EP co-rapporteur for the New European Bauhaus (NEB), explained the content and objectives of the EU Voluntary Commitment on NEB. He underlined that NEB it is an invitation coming from the European Commission and European Union to think different and act different in the investment of funding for energy efficiency, sustainability and for cohesion policy. This initiative for the first time put culture, design, architecture, urban planning at the centre of the European funding policies.
Gerry Muscat, Head of Urban Advisory Division of the European Investment Bank, spoke of EIB’s role in implementing EU Voluntary commitment on EU Global Gateway strategy and other work of the EIB Global: a new institutional part of the EIB dedicated to work with partner countries outside the EU, investing billions of Euros in projects supporting infrastructure and development outside the European Union. He introduced other instruments, used by EIB in support of this commitment, and the EIB role as the “Climate Bank” such as City Climate Gap Fund, implemented together with the World Bank.
Next steps to UN-Habitat Assembly in June 2023, and other key UN meetings in 2023:
Paulius Kulikauskas, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Office for European Institutions at Brussels, set the stage for the next steps of the Dialogue, leading to key UN events in 2023: UN-Habitat Assembly in June 2023, HLPF in July 2023 – where EU will present their Voluntary Review – and the SDG Summit at UNGA in September 2023. He emphasized that the Dialogue must include all relevant entities of the UN system, with UN-Habitat playing facilitator’s role. UN-Habitat is committed to give dedicated space for UN and EU alignment in promoting sustainable urban development at the UN-Habitat Assembly and suggests seeking the same at HLPF and SDG Summit.
He said that EU Voluntary commitment on Global people-based definition of urbanisation and monitoring SDGs offers an excellent model for collaboration as under leadership of European Commission it mobilized a broad UN partnership, including the World Bank, and other IGOs such as OECD. This partnership works on both systemic level and operational level in the field, and it does not stop with classification and management of data and monitoring implementation of SDGs, as it opens the possibilities, and offers methods and tools to inform policy and decision making on sustainable urban development. He expressed hope that work on other EU Voluntary commitments may benefit from learning from this model.
He suggested next steps to include coordinating positions of UN entities on their work with EU on Sustainable Urban Development, planning the next round of the Dialogue for early February 2023.
Olgierd Roman Dziekoński, fmr. Vice-Mayor of Warsaw, former State Secretary in charge of the Chancery of the President of Poland, called for underpinning better conditions for private sector, in particular SMEs, in UN and UN collaboration in urban development. Mr Muscat, Mr, Ciccarelli, and Lars Gronvald, Head of Urban Team at DG INTPA responded, pointing out that many EU investment instruments are underpinning private sector participation, and attracting private sector finance to sustainable urban development.
Michaela Kauer, Director, City of Vienna – Brussels Liaison Office, called for better inclusion of gender issues in EU and UN collaboration on sustainable urban development.
Jan Olbrycht concluded, that many years of European Parliament’s work with UN in sustainable urban development did not stop with policy dialogue. He gave an example of the initiative of Financing Sustainable Urban Development, requested by the European Parliament, and implemented by UN-Habitat with other UN entities, European Commission, European Investment Bank, and other partners, which enabled concrete follow-up action to support cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. He closed the Dialogue with expressing concern of the future of the United Nations in the view of the war in Europe.