The Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) held its 10th World Congress in Montreal, Canada from 19 – 22 June 2018.
Five main discussion topics were summarised in the statements titled: 1) The future of humanity is urban 2) Cities are driving the change 3) Cities are going international getting more and more involved in the Global Agendas 4) If cities fail, the Global Agendas will fail, the world will fail 5) The right mobility concepts play a very relevant role in this process and 6) Multi- stakeholder coalitions are required.
While these statements are not new, the participants strongly echoed the spirit of the Conference, which encourages the power and the empowerment of cities as they move ahead as well as their becoming visible on the international level in seeking sustainable solutions.
A very interesting side aspect of the Conference was the discussion on the ongoing successful reconciliation process with the indigenous population of Canada. This is concentrating on land issues and is also a cultural “revolution” as both sides attempt to understand each other’s values and integrate them without losing their own identities, thus creating an atmosphere for common and hence resilient development.
Gender issues ranked high on the Agenda with Mayor Valerie Plante calling for a 50% participation rate for female candidates in elections and supporting “she for she”, meaning women who have succeeded should support their “sisters”. Up to now, she said, women have lacked proper role models.
Several metropolitan cities (C 40) worldwide intend to become CO2 neutral by 2050 serving as catalysts for other cities with a concentration on transport and buildings.
In his statement, the ICLEI President Ashok Sridharan, Lord Mayor of Bonn, committed “to proudly carry forward the ICLEI Montreal Commitment and Strategic Vision 2018-2024 to transform urban areas across the world and secure a sustainable future”. He continued: “This demonstrates ICLEI’s commitment to low-emission, nature-based, circular, resilient and equitable and people-centered development.”
The Mayor of Montreal, Valerie Plante, focused on “citizen’s involvement, reduction of pollution and adaptation to climate change”.
GIZ’s project “Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: the Urban NEXUS” facilitated the following two events and promoted the urban nexus approach.
Ruth Erlbeck, the Director of the Urban Nexus Project, introduced the session on Thirsty cities by saying: “Water is life, contaminated water might mean death”. She emphasised that water supply must always take account of waste water management as a consequence of water consumption. Water supply and waste water management including sanitation are intrinsically interlinked. Unfortunately, this is often neglected by policy makers and development organisations, causing severe problems in the aftermaths of water supply projects that increase the amount of water supplied without offering respective solutions for discharge or reuse of waste water.
Huge water leakages amounting to 50% and more in some of the piped water supply networks of cities (Mexico D.F., Lagos, etc.) aggravate the increasing water crisis caused by the more frequent droughts.
The careless usage of ground water without adequate recharging and knowledge of existing ground water reserves leads to sinking cities (e.g. Jakarta) and salt water seepage in coastal areas, as well as to cities running out of water followed by desertification (e.g. Beijing, Ulaanbaatar) due to reduced rainfall because of climate change. The reasons for these phenomena come from poor water and waste water management.
The second session on “Applying the urban Nexus: Localising global agendas and promoting vertical integration, experiences from Asian cities”, facilitated by Ruth Erlbeck, drew lessons and insights from the regional Urban Nexus Project.
The urban nexus approach, implemented in secondary cities across seven countries in Asia, namely China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, looks at synergies and trade-offs in the water, food, and energy sectors. The project collaborates with relevant national ministries to secure water supply and sanitation systems, energy security and efficiency, land use, physical planning, and food security. Moreover, employing the urban nexus approach contributes to the realisation and localisation of various global agendas including the New Urban Agenda, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Different concrete pilot projects implementing the urban nexus approach in Nagpur, India and Naga City, Philippines were shared with participants. These demonstrate innovative waste water management with reuse of waste water, 24/7 water supply saving water and energy, affordable and resilient housing technologies, solid waste management concentrating on reduce, reuse, recycling and interactive sustainable urban development planning.
Various challenges being faced by cities in the pursuit of integrated resource management (urban nexus) were discussed (access to finance, lack of support from national governments for integrated, innovative approaches) as well as how national–local dialogues contribute towards strengthening vertical integration.
In a final discussion, the general consensus was that cities strongly contribute to the Global Agendas. However, they might not always be aware of the fact that their infrastructure projects to improve urban services are a relevant contribution in the localisation of these Agendas. In the end, what matters is the improvement of urban services including pro-active citizens’ involvement, integrated resource management approaches (cross sectorial infrastructure projects), and thinking out of the box.
The Congress was inaugurated by the recently elected Mayor of Montreal, Valerie Plante, and the president of ICLEI, Ashok Sridharan, Lord Mayor of Bonn. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and the Park Won-soon, Mayor of Seoul in Korea, the former president of ICLEI, participated via video recordings. More than 1,000 people from all over the world – mainly mayors and city representatives – attended the Congress.
GIZ’s Urban Nexus Project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is an international association of cities, established in 1989 and today boasting more than 1,500 members.