United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Major Group: Local Authorities

Report of the Special event on Sustainable cities
At the High Level Political Forum first meeting
New York, 24 September 2013
Rapporteur: Dr Kadir Topbaş, Mayor of Istanbul, President of UCLG and member of the
High Level Panel for Post 2015 agenda.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and privilege to serve as rapporteur of the Special event on sustainable
cities conveyed by the President of the General Assembly, and hosted by the Turkish
mission, yesterday, 23 September.
Many relevant stakeholders and partners met on this occasion to address what they
believe to be a crucial issue for the coming centuries.
As the Mayor of Istanbul, a city of more than 15 million inhabitants and the President of
World Organization of United Cities and Local Governments, as member of the High Level
Panel to work on the post-2015 agenda, I am glad to convey to you the outcomes of the
special event on sustainable cities, sharing with you the experience of metropolitan
leaders, civil society and in particular women and Youth and their development partners
and the common vision of Local and Regional Governments organizations worldwide
gathered in the Global Taskforce for Post 2015 and towards Habitat III.
The world has changed over the last 15 years. Today, emerging economies and middleincome
countries are helping to redefine the global economy. Urbanization in its broad
sense, including metropolitan areas and regions is rapidly increasing in all continents.
Sustainable urbanization is, therefore increasingly recognized as a crucial issue for the
coming years, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
The new development agenda is one and universal, it affects the North and the South, the
East and the West. It affects low income countries but also middle and high income
countries. In all cases well managed urbanization will be key. This agenda cannot be
developed without taking into account the territory in which global urbanization will have
impacts: it must overcome the dichotomy of rural versus urban, and ensure cohesion
among territories within the important metropolisation processes that are taking place.
It must take into account all actors as well, the political leadership, civil society, the
private sector and the international community.
We all have a joint responsibility to speed up progress towards poverty eradication and
achieving more just societies. Multiple and intertwined crises have emerged coexisting
against an unsustainable depletion of the world’s natural resource base.
Putting the creativity of cities to the service of reducing inequalities
The increase of inequalities within and across countries and regions is stressed in many
international forums as one of the Achilles heel of the MDGs: 5% of the world population
use 23% of the global energy supply. Roughly 40% of the world’s population lacks access
to adequate sanitation, and another 1.2 billion people have no facilities at all. This reality
is no longer about least developed countries alone. More than 70% of the world’s poorest
people live today in middle-income countries, and primarily in cities.
In many countries, local and sub-national governments play increasing roles in economic
development and job creation especially for the youth, the provision of basic services,
infrastructures and local development strategies that are central to the reduction of
poverty and disease. It is also the case for climate change adaptation, and disaster risk
reduction, which require an integrated territorial approach and the improvement of urban
The goals and targets of the future development agenda should address these challenges,
but also provide some guidelines on how and who should act.
A large part of this discussion should focus on financial institutions that can support the
agencies, and levels of governments that have the responsibility for addressing basic
needs and managing local development. The Post 2015 agenda needs to link development
and sustainable agenda (based on the outcomes of Rio +20).
Urban governance
Good urban management needs decisions taken by local and sub-national governments to
be well articulated, to work in closer partnership with national governments and to count
on clear proceedings of communication and participation of local actors, in particular the
organised communities, the youth, the women and other stakeholders.
The post 2015 agenda needs to promote stronger support to effective
decentralization to strengthen city-region management and a new urban
partnership to develop a multilevel governance framework, based on national
urban policies.
Social Inclusion
The fundamental purpose of governance is to work towards a healthy, safe, tolerant and
creative society, ensuring the universal enjoyment of culture and its components, and
protecting and enhancing the rights of citizens.
Given the increasing diversity of their population, and on-going migrations towards cities,
local and regional authorities must commit to the promotion of culture as a vital part of
development and as an unavoidable prerequisite for a diverse and peaceful society.
Furthermore, inclusion policies should guarantee universal access to basic services and the
safeguard of citizens’ rights; guided by the values of equality, solidarity and respect for
Urban planning
This new urban partnership should contribute to promoting strategic urban planning
as a way to engage a wider platform of stakeholders in the development process of the
city. This is important especially for intermediary and peripheral cities, which are
increasingly becoming place of short-term stay, where people come to look for job
opportunities and services, frequently floating or settling informally.
Instruments enabling local governments to undertake long term planning and
control of critical land resources for agriculture (Food security) and environment
(health and natural resources), but also to finance urban development as well as for
efficient organization of urban services, should be explored.
Access to basic services
Support to ‘slum’ upgrading must remain a priority to build inclusive cities and improve
the living conditions of the billion people living in informal settlements, lacking basic
infrastructure and services.
Financial viability is the mayor challenge to service improvement and provision, not only
because of the significant investments needed but also because of maintenance costs.
However, the public service agenda is not limited to partnership and access for the urban
poor, as much investment is expected in improving, for example waste management,
energy use and transport systems. Indeed the agenda of public services is highly dynamic,
due to advancing evolution in demography, regular technological progress and the need to
ensure disaster prevention.
Prevent climate change impacts and disaster risks
Addressing the urgent need to limit greenhouse gas emissions, prevent disasters and
unlink development from rising environment degradation requires leadership, support and
action from local governments.
Successful climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction – which itself needs the
ability to change and adapt as risks change – depends on local and subnational
governments and their capacity to launch coordinated responses with full involvement of
the citizenship.
A very large part of building more resilient cities involves addressing the large
deficits confronting many urban governments in basic infrastructure and
services (lack of piped water, sewers, drains, all-weather roads, solid waste collection,
emergency services and building standards) but also of having full involvement from
Revising international governance mechanisms
The success of alternative development strategies depends on a fundamental revision of
the global partnership, the institutional and financial framework that should underpin the
goals and targets. The new framework should be supported by a stronger and more
democratic international governance structure that includes new stakeholders and covers
issues and regulations not being addressed at present.
An agenda of all levels of governance, focusing on the needs of the people
All participants have agreed that the Post-2015 process success can only be guaranteed if
we develop a sense of ownership and accountability at all levels, international, national
sub-national and local.
It should promote a high degree of policy coherence and active participation of citizens in
decision making.
Our hope is that this agenda will further be rooted in the needs of the people and
communities at the local level. We strongly believe that this global agenda should be
applicable to all, both developing and developed countries.
A stand-alone goal and targets for Sustainable cities
We believe that urbanization should be considered as a cross-cutting issue and that those
goals and targets will be much more efficient and successful if “localized”. We further
suggest to adopt a stand-alone goal on sustainable cities with the following components:
 Developing strong and accountable institutions: through improved democratic local
governance, participation of the poor and other marginalised groups in decision
making, increase capacity of local and regional authorities to lead pro-poor policies,
including participative strategic planning; better intergovernmental coordination,
harmonisation processes and effective decentralisation
 Adressing inequalities: Through quality universal access to basic and social services,
improving the quality of life of slum dwellers, reducing gender inequalities, ensuring
food security, fostering inclusive societies that provide opportunities for youth;
 Safer and more resilient communities: well-planned, designed and governed cities,
including a territorial approach and cohesion, improving environmental health and
reducing disaster risk and violence, creating resilience to climate change,
 Fostering environmental sustainability: in transport, mobility and building standards,
water and sanitation, waste management and support for renewable energy and
greenhouse gas emission reduction, conservation and sustainable management of the
biodiversity and natural resources;
 Promoting local economic development: with a focus on pro-poor policies and decent
job creation in a green urban economy which promotes sustainable consumption and
 Culture as driver and enabler of development and people-centered societies.
 Conservation and sustainable management of the biodiversity and natural resources
 Local Government Development Cooperation (Decentralized Cooperation) as
instrument to promote solidarity and peer learning.
Linking all the Agendas
Last but not least, we believe the new Habitat Urban Agenda need to be an integral part of
our discussions, linking the MDGs, Sustainable and Habitat Agendas.
In this regard, we would like to recall the outcomes of Rio+20, acknowledging the work
done at the sub- national and local levels and the need strengthen all the role of all Major
We are fully convinced this is our common agenda with shared responsibilities and we
offer our commitment to work hand in hand for a world of dignity for all.