Since WUF10, the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative has implemented two main actions. The first was an Online Programme on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth from June-Sept 2020 in place of the postponed Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The second is a Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth which was released February 2021. Both were developed jointly by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the Commonwealth Association of Planners and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, in collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure, the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government and The Prince’s Foundation.
Outcomes and Expected Impact
The Online Programme comprised a total of 11 events, involving 106 panellists from 31 countries. The programme attracted over 2,000 individual participants from 44 Commonwealth and 44 non-Commonwealth countries, amounting to over 4,000 unique views. The Call to Action calls for: 1) A greater focus on enabling sustainable urbanisation in Commonwealth policy making, 2) A Commonwealth dialogue to define and implement a new way of working across our respective networks towards multi-level governance and sustainable urbanisation, 3) A commitment by member states to a new Commonwealth Initiative of practical action to support sustainable cities and human settlements across the Commonwealth.
Sustainability and Scalability
By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people will be living in the world’s towns and cities, with almost 50% of that growth taking place in the Commonwealth. Member states, both large and small, are facing the impacts of climate change, rapid urbanisation and COVID-19. With almost 50% of Commonwealth citizens living and working in cities and human settlements and 65% of the 169 targets underlying the 17 SDGs linked to territorial and urban development, sustainable urbanisation must be central to the Commonwealth’s agenda for delivering a common future: connecting, innovating, and transforming.
Innovative and Cultural Aspects
By supporting a multi-disciplinary partnership that reflects the commitment to multi-level governance set out in the Agenda 2030, the Commonwealth could facilitate a collaborative partnership to strengthen policy making, enhance financing, build capacity, promote learning and enable innovation in a more integrated way towards a shared commitment to sustainable urbanisation in the Commonwealth. By mobilising its network, the Commonwealth has a unique opportunity to ensure that sustainable urbanisation is at the heart of our common future, and is firmly rooted in Commonwealth values, as we work collectively to achieving the global goal of leaving no one and no place behind.
Since WUF10, and in light of COVID-19, we have learnt that sustainable cities and human settlements have never been more important socially, environmentally and economically. From the Online Programme we learnt that we were able to reach a much wider audience and as such we will be ensuring our Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Summit at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be a hybrid event. The Call to Action has been informed by an extensive consultative process drawing on the experience and expertise of contributors from all the regions of the Commonwealth.
People are at the heart of the Commonwealth. Well managed cities and human settlements are drivers of economic development, centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, and sources of trade and employment that are vital for the livelihoods of their citizens, 60% of whom are under 30. Cities and human settlements are responsible for ensuring delivery of essential services including water, sanitation, healthcare, education, public transport, and housing, upon which their citizens depend. A greater focus on sustainable urbanisation will ensure that people and improving the quality of life for all remain central to the work of the Commonwealth.