Revitalizing Urban Economies Globally: Empowering Urban Finance through UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Strategies 

Empowering Urban Finance through UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Strategies 

Toronto, Canada - February 2024 — The World Urban Pavilion Powered by Daniels hosted the World Summit on UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities and Urban Finance to plan urban transformations at a global scale starting in Toronto, Canada. Since its launch in October 2023, the Glocal Platform for Urban Finance (GPUF) has achieved a significant milestone, bringing together representatives from the United Nations, investors, decision-makers, and urban stakeholders. An exciting achievement was hosting UN-Habitat’s SDG Cities Initiative and its expert network. 

The Summit helped strengthen the GPUF’s mandate to facilitate alignment between finance and sustainable urban innovation and transformation, supported by data analytics. This was a historic moment for the platform as it began this conversation in Toronto as a major hub for urban innovation and transformation through urban finance. The Pavilion is contributing to this global vision for Toronto as it was selected by the United Nations as a global hub for SDG Cities. The Pavilion played a pivotal role in convening these key partners to advance sustainable urban finance initiatives.  

Co-hosted by the founders of the GPUF, the Urban Economy Forum (UEF), and Aragon, the event attracted a distinguished audience including global leaders, urban planners, investors, and innovators, all dedicated to advancing the discourse on urban innovation and practical transformative solutions in Toronto and cities worldwide. 

The event served as a critical nexus linking financing and investors with specific needs in cities.  This gathering not only reinforced the city's stature, but also showcased best practices and development efforts in fostering innovation across sectors and the possibility of presenting investment opportunities to event attendees. 

“This marks a wonderful moment for the GPUF, the first of many where the platform collaborates with cities and local organizations to create opportunities, attract, and ultimately secure investments for truly transformative urban solutions, which will revitalize urban economy globally.” said Reza Pourvaziry, Chair of the UEF & GPUF. “We are working with all partners and are looking forward to bringing these innovations to the World Urban Forum (WUF12) that will be held from November 4 - 8, 2024 in Cario, Egypt,” said Pourvaziry. 

“GPUF is filling a critical gap in the globe to ensure good urban developments have access to the financing capital they deserve. This is a transformative initiative that has high potential for economic, social, and environmental impact”, said Eduardo Moreno, Co-Director of the World Urban Pavilion. 

UN-Habitat, a main founding partner of the World Urban Pavilion, presented how its flagship programme SDG Cities is supporting cities in Canada but also globally. Dyfed Aubrey, Inter-regional Advisor and recently Head of SDG Cities at UN-Habitat, stated that “From engaging with local leaders to developing analytical frameworks, SDG Cities is committed to supporting sustainable urban development initiatives”. 

Also representing UN-Habitat, Douglas Ragan, a Programme Management Officer, explained how the SDG Cities program aims to reach 1000 cities by 2026. “Online tools and resources are provided to facilitate the localization of data, the development of strategic planning, and the implementation of sustainable practices", said Ragan. These tools and resources are foundational for platforms like the GPUF to ensure cities are well equipped and have access to technical support if required. 

Alongside UN-Habitat, major partners such as Convergence, Global CEO Alliance, CitiIQ, and EMIF Group shared valuable insights into sustainable urban development practices. A recurring theme throughout the discussions underscored the critical importance of collecting and analyzing good urban data, particularly disaggregated at local level, to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by cities. The University of Toronto’s School of Cities Urban Data Center, sharing its work with the City of Toronto to break down traditional data silos to address technical barriers of data sharing. 

Furthermore, UN-Habitat's City Investment Facility (CIF) demonstrated how it is building capacity and confidence in sustainable urban development by streamlining investment processes for urban projects, ensuring adherence to a bankable format. CIF contributes to drive progress in sustainable urban development, ultimately fostering the creation of inclusive and resilient cities, and advancing SDGs realization.  

As part of the Pavilion’s flagship initiative, Canada Frontrunner of Urban SDG, several organisations including, Noventa Energy, Vancity Community Investment Bank, Northcrest Developments, Serotiny Group, Mitrex, Parataxis Design and Development, highlighted their collaboration with Toronto, presenting unique solutions articulated to investment opportunities. Learning from these experiences, Mayor Emmanuel Serunjoji of the Kawempe Division and Mayor Paul Mugambe of the Nakawa Division from Kampala City, Uganda. Both joined the summit as representatives of the Lake Victoria Local Authorities Cooperation, an organization that represents 135 cities in East Africa. The Mayors exposed some of the challenges their city is facing and established dialogue with Canada Frontrunner participants in order to understand how to integrate Canadian innovations in their city. 

Representatives of the City of Toronto showcased unique public-private partnerships that have led to the creation of innovative financing models and new technologies contributing to its long-term strategic objectives, such as the aim to decarbonize buildings by 2040. Encouraging private sector contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals, the city actively collaborates with private entities to foster innovations to drive sustainable development. 

David West, Mayor of Richmond Hill also shared his inspiring vision for the future of cities and highlighted how his city is commitment to build a sustainable tomorrow.  

The summit was also an important opportunity to recognize the involvement of Territoria, a Mexican based development organization, as a member of GPUF and sponsor of the upcoming 6th Urban Economy Forum (UEF6). Territoria is working with UEF on a global pilot in Mexico. The partnership will focus on innovative models and financing approaches to build a sustainable tourism community. 

Frank Stronach, Canadian Billionaire, Global Entrepreneur, and Founder of Magna International, shared insights during the summit's first day, advocating for the role of the private sector in improving people's quality of life through profit-sharing with employees. This approach fosters a culture of ownership, creativity, and common responsibility, boosting employee motivation and satisfaction while cultivating a sense of collective purpose and commitment to long-term success. 

Another recurring theme throughout the conference was the emphasis on technology use to achieve sustainability goals. Companies like Sparrow Living, Brickeye, and Chargelab shared important contributions to national and global sustainability agendas backed by sustainable business models. 

The summit highlighted the pivotal role of the Glocal Platform for Urban Finance to attract investors to Canada and identify transformative financial opportunities that are aligned with sustainability. “Let's recognize the interconnectedness of our cities and the global community. This summit provides a platform to showcase remarkable progress, learn from each other, and collaborate on innovative solutions for meaningful impact”, said Amir Hossein Kashfi, Managing Director of Aragon. 

This event's success underscores the importance of collective action in shaping inclusive and sustainable urban futures, setting a promising precedent for forthcoming urban finance endeavors. “This World Summit marked the first event showcasing the GPUF’s remarkable capacity to connect finance to urban innovations and developments, opening new possibilities for sustainable urban financing.” Said Alex Venuto, Deputy Director of the World Urban Pavilion.  

As the GPUF continues to expand, it collaborates with cities and organizations paving the way to identify investment opportunities with clear financial returns and social impacts. Investors can join the GPUF through a membership model, gaining access to exceptional opportunities. 

For those interested in joining the platform, you can contact: 


Urban Economy Forum: serves as a dynamic platform dedicated to addressing the complex challenges and opportunities inherent in urban development. Comprising a diverse range of stakeholders, including policymakers, urban planners, industry leaders, and academics, the UEF fosters collaborative dialogue and innovative solutions aimed at advancing sustainable urban economies worldwide. Through its conferences, forums, and initiatives, the UEF explores pressing issues such as inclusive growth, urban resilience, and equitable access to resources. With a commitment to driving positive change, the UEF facilitates knowledge sharing, capacity building, and strategic partnerships to shape urban policies and practices that promote economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability in cities around the globe. 

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.  

Aragon: At Aragon Corp, we are more than consultants – we are partners, guides, and champions of your entrepreneurial journey. Rooted in the vibrant Canadian startup ecosystem, we understand the dreams, challenges, and triumphs that come with building a business in this diverse and dynamic nation. 

Glocal Platform for Urban Finance: The Glocal Platform for Urban Finance (GPUF) represents a pioneering initiative aimed at revolutionizing the way cities access and utilize financial mechanisms for sustainable urban development. Designed to bridge the gap between global financial resources and local urban needs, the GPUF serves as a catalyst for transformative change. By connecting existing financial mechanisms with on-the-ground urban challenges, the platform empowers cities to address pressing issues such as inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change. Through innovative financial models, strategic partnerships, and technical advisory services, the GPUF facilitates the implementation of sustainable urban projects, ensuring that cities worldwide can thrive in an ever-changing landscape. 

The World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park – Powered by Daniels is a global knowledge exchange hub to share best practices, innovation and research in urban development and revitalization from countries around the world. The Pavilion envisions people centered, sustainable cities that are planned through data, driven by innovation, and informed by the SDGs. The Pavilion is working in three critical areas: urban knowledge, innovation, and transformation.  

                              © 2024 The World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park. All rights reserved.

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