High level policy session on urbanization and development
URBAN Intergroup held a high-level policy session on 11 November 2019 to explore reasons why sustainable urbanization was critical for development. It was co-organized by the European Commission and UN-Habitat.
The event brought together Members of the European Parliament, European Union Member State representatives, European Commission staff, UN agencies, development partners, think tanks and prominent thought leaders in global academia to discuss practicable recommendations and tools in using sustainable urbanization as driver of development.
Mr. Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) set the stage by introducing the background to this policy session as originating from the pilote project “Supporting the Urban Dimension of Development Cooperation: Increasing financial capacities of cities from developing countries to deliver productive and sustainable urban development”. This project was requested by the European Parliament, financed by the European Union and implemented by UN-Habitat. He highlighted the urgent need to take the SDGs seriously instead of allowing the word sustainable become meaningless terminology.
This notion was re-emphasized by Mr. Felix Fernandez-Shaw, Director, Policy, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), who reminded the audience that the urban dimension is relevant to all of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, not only the dedicated goal SDG 11. Similarly, the priorities of the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Green Deal, Digital Technologies, Sustainable Growth and Jobs, Migration, Governance, Peace and Security) were all closely linked to developments in cities. He explained that the policy session event took place at an important moment, as the European Union is currently programming its next budget in the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-27, and DG DEVCO prioritises geographical regional and country-level programmes, where sustainable urbanisation features as an important driver.
With special reference to Africa, key note speaker Sir Paul Professor Collier, CBE Fellow of the British Academy, University of Oxford, emphasized the need for effective investment in urbanization as a crucial driver for development and economic growth. “A good city puts in place physical and institutional infrastructure to attract firms,” he said, emphasizing that harnessing urbanization is the key prerequisite for African cities to become engines for productivity and livability. He underlined the urgency of investing in cities as Africa undergoes a surge of population growth and urbanization, and the need for investment is already enormous, hence if not undertaken now it will become completely unaffordable due to much higher costs of retrofitting the physical infrastructure to urban areas.
EU Research and Innovation for Cities of the Future
The joint event organised by the URBAN Intergroup and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) on “EU Research and Innovation for Cities of the Future” took place on Thursday afternoon 21st of March 2019 at the EP in Brussels.
This big event showed how EU Research and Innovation actions are driving sustainable urban development to address major urban challenges. The objectives of the event were to present the main highlights of the draft High-Level Expert Group report on “Innovating Cities” and to invite participants for comments. Moreover, the participants got the possibility to learn more about the substantial contribution of EU funded Research and Innovation projects /initiatives /actions to knowledge-base and innovative solutions for sustainable cities.
The joint event mobilised R&I communities, members of the European Parliament, city leaders and policy makers, academia, the private sector, industrials, innovation firms, NGOs, the civil society, European institutions and UN agencies representatives.