On 5 June 2023 at the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, members of the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UN-Habitat the aim of which is to help address the capacity gaps affecting local and national governments, urban professionals and academia, as well as other urban stakeholders, with a focus on Commonwealth countries that are facing the most urgent challenges.
The members of the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative include:
- The Association of Commonwealth Universities
- The Commonwealth Association of Architects
- The Commonwealth Association of Planners
- The Commonwealth Local Government Forum
Two-thirds of the world’s population are likely to live in urban areas by the 2050s. UN-Habitat estimates that nearly 50% of the projected growth in the world’s urban population will be in Commonwealth countries, many of which are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The aim of the partnership is to increase the capacity of urban stakeholders in these Commonwealth countries to tackle such challenges.
The collaboration will focus on building the capacity of urban stakeholders, particularly in Commonwealth countries, that are facing the most urgent challenges to cope with rapid urbanisation and climate change. This aligns with Resolution 1/3 of the UN-Habitat Assembly (2019) on “Enhancing capacity-building for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan and Capacity Building Strategy, as well as the Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth, and the findings from surveys such as the Survey of the Built Environment Professions in the Commonwealth.
Unchecked and unplanned urban sprawl are universal concerns. In addition to urban poverty, today’s cities are also faced with issues such as climate change, environment pollution, lack of housing and basic services, migration and refugees, humanitarian crises and conflict, together leading to an increase in inequality, vulnerability and instability.
At the global level, significant capacity gaps affect the ability of local and national governments to cope with the demographic pressure and the ever-increasing demand for land, housing, infrastructure and basic urban services. Many local and national government institutions are inadequately equipped to manage cities and rapid urbanisation.
The collaboration endorsed by the MOU will:
- Increase capacity of urban stakeholders in the Commonwealth countries that are facing the most urgent challenges to cope with rapid urbanisation and climate change through enhanced knowledge transfer, exchange of good practice and skills development.
- Strengthen links between policy, education and practice related to sustainable urbanisation and climate change.
- Increase awareness of and access to relevant tools for urban stakeholders working on issues related to rapid urbanisation and climate change.
- Increase awareness among Commonwealth Member States and relevant stakeholders of the extent of the capacity gap and the importance of increasing commitments to address this gap.
- Improve engagement from stakeholders, combined with greater collaboration between stakeholders at all levels.
- Improve identification, definition, recognition of and engagement with key barriers and enablers both among and between key stakeholders at national, regional, and local levels.
- Improve coordination and coherence between different stakeholder groups at both policy-making and operational levels.
Published: 05 June 2023