Why new skills and partnerships are needed for implementaton of the New Urban Agenda

18 November 2016

Over 30,000 participants descended upon Quito, Ecuador last month to take part in the Habitat III conference that celebrated the 'New Urban Agenda', the UN’s global manifesto on sustainable urbanisation for the next 20 years. The document, agreed by governments and adopted in Quito, sets out wide-ranging and ambitious challenges to all nations and cities, but it provides minimal guidance and structure on how the commitments outlined should be implemented. 
 

 
One month on from Habitat III, and capturing the momentum generated at Quito, we believe that implementation planning and actions need to occupy the minds of national and local governments, urbanists and businesses. The New Urban Agenda does include a provision for progress reporting every 4 years but places no concrete legal or governance structures that hold adopting parties to their commitments. Importantly our time in Quito highlighted that the people, institutions and skills that have got us here are indeed essential, but also that new skills and partnerships are needed for successful implementation. We see 3 priority areas:
 
1. Making urbanisation better for business: There is widespread acknowledgement of the enormous potential of the private sector to deliver against the New Urban Agenda. For example, businesses and the private sector will be investors, constructors and service providers that ensure that urban people and businesses have access to clean energy and technologies, they can generate innovative transport and develop affordable and sustainable housing. But national and city governments will need to broaden and redesign business private sector partnerships to attract their full capabilities, capacity and investment. The Global Cities Business Alliance provides one platform for businesses and city governments to collaborate on this www.gcba.org.  
 
2. Unlocking transformational finance: We have estimated that US$78 trillion is needed globally to finance sustainable infrastructure by 2025. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/capital-projects-infrastructure/publications/cpi-outlook/assets/cpi-outlook-to-2025.pdf Reaching this scale of financing will require reforms in local financial capacity, governance and regulation, but also in directing finance to the right types of investments and encouraging more private finance in urban development. PwC is currently working with the London School of Economics to support the New Climate Economy programme explore a range of national financial instruments that have untapped potential to accelerate urban investment in a range of geographical and economic development contexts including Uganda, India and Mexico. 
 
3. Harnessing digital disruption: Digital transformation could allowing developing economies an opportunity to leapfrog traditional development pathways but increasing access and engagement and reducing costs. Emerging data and technology solutions can better inform city-level policy-making, planning, design and operations. Across both developed and developing countries, rapid urban change can be underpinned by digital transformations in cities lowering investment needs and costs, providing greater access to services and engaging citizens in city planning. From 2015 and 2016 Africa’s mobile broadband growth rate was a staggering 344% providing evidence of the huge potential of increased digital engagement.  http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/issues/high-growth-markets/africa/publications/disrupting-africa--riding-the-wave-of-the-digital-revolution.html 
 
Of course implementation has to be locally driven, both through strong leadership and capable institutions. And to do this, many cities will also need to leverage the contribution of citizens, business, investors and an increased range of knowledge, technology and collaborative institutions. It is therefore with excitement and anticipation we look forward to playing our part in brokering these new relationships and supporting sustainable urban development in this fast changing, but distinctively urban, landscape. If you would like to know more, including some of the work we've been doing in this area, please visit our website or get in touch with me directly.
 
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Denise Chan | Cities and Urbanisation