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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Session 3. Think global, act local – people and community led innovation and tech infrastructures for “smarter” and inclusive cities

Wed 03 May 2023, 4.30 pm
Trusteeship Council Chamber


6 7 9 11 17


This session will explore people-led innovation and tech infrastructures in cities. The ongoing rapid urbanization has the potential of enhancing the lives of billions of people around the world, especially when coupled with rapid technological advances. However, it is crucial to ensure that our cities do not only get “smarter” but also more inclusive and that technological innovations are used to enhance the lives of all, not just of a few. In this decade, the majority of innovation and tech infrastructure will be concentrated in cities and urban areas. It is in cities where most materials and resources will be used, where most pollution will be created and also where the largest inequalities exist. It is clear that the world’s success in achieving SDGs will be largely decided in cities, by a myriad of local actions that need to add up at the global level. “Think global and act local“ has long been a unifying call by sustainability practitioners and policy makers concerned with prioritizing the most effective local actions that equally contribute to the global goals and perspective. This session will showcase this principle by exploring people-led innovation systems and related high-impact tech infrastructures that serve local needs yet contribute effectively to the world SDG aspirations.

Chaired by H.E. Ms. Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations

  •  Moderator:
    •  Mr. Tālis Juhna, Rector for Research and Professor; Chairman of Advisory Board of the Latvian Council of Science, Riga Technical University
  • Panelists:
    •  Mr. Axel Grael, Mayor. City of Niterói, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    • Ms.Louise Bedsworth, Former chair of the Council on Strategic Growth,Executive Director,Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, UC Berkeley Law School, USA
      • Louise Bedsworth is the Executive Director at the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment (CLEE) at the University of California, Berkeley where she also serves as a Senior Advisor to the California China Climate Institute. Before joining CLEE, Louise spent nearly a decade working for the State of California, most recently as the Executive Director of the Strategic Growth Council, a Cabinet-level State institution that brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity, and environmental stewardship. While with the State, Louise also served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Planning and Research in Governor Jerry Brown’s office. Louise is a Commissioner on the California100 Commission and served as an inaugural Policy Fellow at Elemental Excelerator’s Policy Lab. Louise received a Science in Public Science Award from the California Council on Science and Technology in 2020. Prior to her work with the State, Dr. Bedsworth was a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, where her work focused on climate change adaptation, local government action on climate change, and transportation.  She has also held positions at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Redefining Progress, and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis.   

        Louise received a B.S. in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources, both from the University of California at Berkeley.    

    • Ms. Nzambi Matee, Founder, Gjenge Makers,Kenya
  • Interactive discussion:
    • Mr.TaikanOki,Professor,UniversityofTokyo,Japan
      • Mr. Taikan Oki is a Special Advisor to the President and a Professor at Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Tokyo. Professor Oki demonstrated the connections between the global hydrologic cycle, renewable freshwater resources, climate change, the global economy, and sustainability in his 2006 paper in Science. He was one of the coordinating lead authors for Chapter 3 “Freshwater Resources” of the IPCC WGII AR5, and the Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University, Japan, and an Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations for 2016-2021. He is a full member of the Club of Rome since 2021, AGU Fellow in 2014, the winner of 2021 International Hydrology Prize (Dooge medal), and the 2023 John Dalton Meal (EGU) winner. 


    • Ms. Shulang Fei, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS),Member of the Young Scientist Group of the World Food Forum
    • Mr. Jason Cheng, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth Local Pathways Fellow
      • Mr. Cheng is an urban planner committed to building regenerative cities where all people can thrive and live with dignity and autonomy. With a background in transportation and climate planning, he currently works at Vicus, where he focuses on developing transit and first/last mile infrastructure throughout Southern California. He has advised city and regional governments, Fortune 500 companies, startups, and foundations around the US on smart cities and new mobility. He is originally from Hong Kong. 
    • Ms. Gabriela Alvarado, Country Director for the Dominican Republic, World Food Programme


Please check the concept note here 

Concept Note


Related Goals


Related Goals