UN-Habitat's vision is to create a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world by building inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities. Its mission is to promote transformative change in cities and human settlements through knowledge, policy advice, technical assistance, and collaborative action. UN-Habitat's SDG Cities initiative facilitates global collaboration to enable cities to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improve quality of life.
UN-Habitat in partnership with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Urban Economy Forum has established the SDG Cities Global Hub in the World Urban Pavilion to facilitate the role of SDG Cities in Canada and globally. SDG Cities aims to reach 1000 cities and 1 billion lives by 2030 by providing cities with an online bank of tools for data collection and analysis, institutional capacity development, project preparation, and financial matchmaking. The Global Hub provides technical backstopping support to participating cities at each stage of the SDG City cycle, strategic partnerships with cities and investors, and recognizes the achievement of cities through SDG Cities Certification.
The SDG Cities initiative has five core pillars:
1. Data: Cities will access and use data to monitor their progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
2. Strategic planning: Cities will generate inclusive, spatially represented strategic plans for 2030 by merging city data with community and stakeholder participation.
3. Institutional capacity: The initiative aims to ensure adequate, inclusive local systems and institutional capacities in areas such as governance, urban planning and design, revenue and finance, and urban basic services.
4. Investment in impact: The Cities Investment Facility supports the financing of high-impact projects in cities.
5. SDG Cities certification: Participating cities can be awarded different levels of United Nations certification based on their efforts to accelerate inclusive progress toward meeting the SDGs.
SDG Cities Certification recognizes and certifies cities' efforts in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) by measuring, evaluating, and accelerating their performance against the SDG priorities that they have identified. The certification process encourages cities to check, evaluate, understand, and act to ensure they are on an inclusive sustainable development path. The certification process rewards the policy and resource inputs into achieving the SDGs. The performance of cities in generating inclusive, evidence-based plans, improving local systems and capacities, and ultimately driving SDG impact is recognized globally through a series of SDG Cities Certificates. The certification process includes four levels of certification: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Certificate, and it is awarded based on the progress of cities in realizing SDGs.
The Global Hub was established at the launch of the World Urban Pavilion in April of 2022. The goal of the Hub has been to develop core aspects of the SDG City, providing technical backstopping support to participating cities at each stage of the SDG City cycle, strategic partnerships with cities and investors, and recognizing the achievement of cities through SDG Cities Certification. The SDG Cities Global Hub also promotes the SDGs with cities and residents across the country, through events and educational programmes, and Government of Canada priorities related to the SDGs such as housing.
Several cities across the world have been recognized for their efforts toward sustainable development goals (SDGs). Mafra, Portugal, has become the first European city to receive the SDG Cities Silver Certificate, while Brisbane, Australia has been recognized as the first Australian city to achieve this certification. Bolivian cities such as Santa Cruz de la Sierra, El Alto, and Cochabamba have also been awarded the SDG Cities Silver Certificate during Urban October, recognizing their commitment to meeting the SDGs. In May 2022, La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia, became the first city in Latin America and the Caribbean to be awarded the Silver Certificate of SDG Cities, reaffirming the city's commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda. The city’s mayor has set his sights on achieving Gold Certification, and UN-Habitat has expressed commitment to supporting La Paz in this process.
The SDG Cities Global Initiative has welcomed several new cities to its network in recent months. Tampere, Finland and Mwanza, Tanzania signed letters of intent to join the initiative, with both cities collaborating with UN-Habitat to accelerate sustainable development and improve well-being through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tampere, Finland’s second-largest city, has already developed a mobility strategy to increase walkability and bicycle use, while Mwanza is surrounded by a rich biodiversity. Similarly, the Al-Madinah Region Development Authority in Saudi Arabia also expressed its intent to join SDG Cities, with a focus on accelerating sustainable development and improving well-being in the City of Madinah through the implementation of the SDGs. The participation of regional and city-level government institutions is seen as a key element in achieving the SDGs.
Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain launched its Local 2030 Agenda during its 2022 Local Urban Forum to align its future transformations with the SDGs, and respect the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The agenda aims to strengthen the city's engagement in implementing the New Urban Agenda and SDGs, initiating a decade of action to improve the quality of life for all. The city engaged in a participative elaboration process that included meetings with citizens, focus groups, and intergenerational sessions. Vitoria-Gasteiz has been on a journey to become net zero carbon by 2030, with actions recognized by the European Commission's European Green Capital Award in 2010 and the UN Global Forum on Human Settlements Global Green City Award in 2019.
Key to the success of the WUP and the SDG Cities programme is to leave no one and no place behind. A core partner of the WUP is Regent Park, both as the host neighbourhood of the WUP, but as well as a key partner through the Regent Park & Social Development Plan Stakeholders Table seeks to assure that the voices of marginalized urban residents in Regent Park and globally are heard and meaningfully engaged.
One programme continues this commitment of leaving no one behind is the Sister Neighbourhoods programme which has brought together Regent Park with the Mathare Informal Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Established during the Year of Creative Economy, Regent Park and the Mathare informal settlements became the first partners of this programme.
Mathare slums, located in the outskirts of the Nairobi city, is home to more than 200,000 people in which children and youth aged 25 years and below constitute 41% of the total population. With the high population density of the area, inadequate basic amenities, unemployment and lack of access to quality education are some of the challenges faced by the Mathare community with youth being the most vulnerable.
Regent Park is a culturally diverse neighbourhood located in downtown Toronto, Canada, that has historically faced economic challenges resulting in a high poverty rate. Originally built in the 1940s as public housing, the community has undergone significant revitalization efforts in recent years. Regent Park is home to a large number of immigrants and is also a hub for Toronto's Indigenous community. Despite its challenges, the community has a strong sense of identity and pride. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, the population of Regent Park was 10,463, with a median age of 36.4 years, a median household income of $43,912, and 45% of the population identified as a visible minority. While poverty rates are still relatively high, the community has made progress in recent years, with many residents able to access new opportunities for education, employment, and community engagement.
Some of the projects that have been done are on the creative economy and livelihoods, which led to Mathare youth being given a a special award for street art and promoting the fight against climate change through the #DigitalArt4Climatechange competition.
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