Live from Habitat III: Innovative Financing, New Mobility Initiatives, the Importance of Core Urban Service and More

Simón Gaviria, Chief Director, National Planning Department of Colombia, Ani Dasgupta, Enrique García, Executive President and CEO, CAF, Rémy Rioux, CEO, AFD, Koki Hirota, Chief Economist, JICA at today’s WRI and International Development Finance Club’s side event. Photo by Giulia Christianson/WRI.

Habitat III officially launched today, and TheCityFix was on the ground in Quito to report on the urgent messages and announcements to emerge from Day One. Follow here for coverage of WRI’s presence.

Making the New Urban Agenda Work for All

What do people do when they can’t access the services they need from formal providers? In many cases, they self-provide and end up paying exorbitant amounts for unsafe or substandard services. This often occurs in rapidly growing cities with little capacity to meet the needs of residents—many of whom have moved from rural to urban conditions of poverty.

As the Framing Paper of the World Resources Report (WRR) examines, providing core services—like safe and affordable access to housing, energy and transport—may be the essential starting point for creating cities that are prosperous and sustainable for all people. While there may not be universally best practices, transformative change is possible, as many cities have shown. The question is: how do we support the broader process to create transformative change?

At a side-event called “Transformative Actions for Post-Quito Implementation” co-hosted by WRI and ICLEI, participants commented on the current ability of the New Urban Agenda to adequately address the challenges outlined in the WRR. Some voiced concern that the Agenda brings together a variety of issues and ideas, but may not fully respond to the challenges outlined in the WRR. Going forward, the international community will need to further refine this vision and link it to other processes—like the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals—and tie it to national legislative frameworks in order to make it actionable. Additionally, local leaders will need to embrace the vision, build capacity and form partnerships with civil society and the private sector. Core urban services like housing, energy and transport may be the essential to making cities more prosperous and sustainable, but a broad coalition of stakeholders across sectors is key.

A New Initiative Launches to Support Mobility Projects Worldwide

Sustainable urban mobility is about much more than just new, innovative types of transport. Cities need transit systems that work for everyone and that provide safe, accessible connections to all parts of the city. But often these ideas aren’t implemented on the ground due to financing challenges, institutional and capacity constraints as well as technological barriers.

Today, the BMZ (Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) launched TUMI (Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative) with partners—a three-pillared initiative that will aim to overcome these barriers. The first pillar of the initiative will focus on unlocking financing for infrastructure. Starting next year, Germany will dramatically shift its investment in partner countries, providing 1 Billion Euros in financing next year for sustainable mobility projects around the world. The second component of the initiative will focus on supporting technical experts worldwide with badly-needed capacity building. Third, the initiative will help implement pilot projects in 15 small and medium countries to demonstrate the potential of sustainable mobility with model solutions.

Unlocking Innovative Finance: What’s Needed?

A panel featuring International Development Finance Club (IDFC) members and government representatives discussed a core issue of the New Urban Agenda: finance and the role of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). Panelist agreed that in order to build sustainable cities, there needs to be financial innovation and a long term agenda, one that works across multiple sectors.

The CEO of CAF-Development Bank of Latin America highlighted that these issues are more than purely economic; they are political as well. In order to produce strong, resilient cities, residents’ needs must be met. When planning future cities, Minister of National Planning for Colombia said, it is imperative to put citizens first. Economically competitive cities are derived from their human capital. When a local government has a strong relationship with its people, city planning integrates with citizen needs and expectations. Due to the dynamic nature of the political process, however, it is essential for cities to invest in finance innovation and work with actors from all parties, private and public, to ensure financial stability and high quality of life. Chief Economist of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) noted that many local governments lack the capacity to support city planning and programs, as they rely heavily on financial transfers from the national government. Here, JICA drew attention to the necessary role of the private sector in innovative finance.

Panelists concluded by looking down the road to COP22 in Marrakesh. CEO of Agence Française de Développement (AFD) believes that project preparation is a main challenge for cities and that there is a currently lack of bankable projects to strengthen local capacity. However, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership, which will provide resources at the local level and target capacity building, will launch at COP22. It is a multi-institutional, multi-country partnership with developed and developing countries, and World Resources Institute is leading the support unit.

A Global Resource Team to Facilitate City-to-city Learning

Led by the World Bank and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) serves as a knowledge-sharing forum for connecting cities around the world to develop a common, holistic approach for improving urban sustainability. Today, the GPSC announced the launch of a resource team—a global network that will consist of experts from WRI, C40, ICLEI and other partners. This resource team will work with the World Bank to build a platform that cities and partners can tap into to learn from each other’s experiences. The team will also be critical for identifying connections between linking international, national and local commitments and processes, so that cities can maximize their resources and impact.

Follow our daily coverage of Habitat III on TheCityFix.

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