Our Implementation Agenda: New skills and technology for implementing the New Urban Agenda

06 February 2018

As we approach the start of the 9th World Urban Forum later this week, attention turns to implementation of the New Urban Agenda. After the frenzy of Habitat 3, we highlighted that implementing the commitments made in Quito will require new skills and partnerships than the ones that created it.

This now feels urgent with the global urban population growing by 1.5 million people every week. A reformed framework for delivering sustainable urban development that connects international, national and city levels also holds important roles for new technologies that are disrupting urban development models. The private sector, for example, can bring talent, skills and finance while innovation in the finance community can give rise to new instruments for delivering much needed investment in urban development.  

Financing urban development

There is not nearly enough financing and project preparation support to promote the development of critical infrastructure needed in emerging cities. Every year over the next decade, US$ 3.7 trillion in infrastructure spending is expected.

Investment in infrastructure is vital for cities to function and prosper. Emerging cities especially will create enormous need for new infrastructure. In contrast, existing local government revenue and credit-worthiness is weak with many struggling to finance large infrastructure projects while a huge proportion of their residents live in poverty. We need to focus our attention in unlocking new ways of innovative financing for countries and cities at different levels of economic development.

Some pioneering cities are successfully experimenting with new ways of raising money, offering promising lessons for cities around the world. An interesting example is land value capture, a complex but essential tool for funding urban infrastructure while encouraging dense and compact urban growth.

One financing tool for urban infrastructure that has potential is land value capture. This has the potential to finance urbanisation by capturing the increased value of land and property through public infrastructure investments. This instrument is unique in that it leverages one key asset of land that cities hold, though applying this in a real life context successfully needs careful consideration.

Smart cities and technology for good

Harnessing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is critical for creating the next generation of sustainable emerging cities. Technology enabled people, places and cities are creating more diverse forms of growth and prosperity. 4IR technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and drones, the Internet of Things, advanced materials, 3D printing and biotechnology are particularly relevant to sustainable emerging cities. Cities can harness these pioneering technologies, combined with each other and with new business models, to not only enhance urban economic productivity but to reduce environmental impact and increase wellbeing.

Cities can benefit from the use of technology to enhance productivity, inclusion and innovation. Many are already showing promise at reshaping urban sectors - including transport, energy, waste, water, and buildings – and change will only accelerate. The 4IR, however, also presents its own set of risks. Emerging cities need to invest in the enabling technological infrastructure and skills to ensure they don’t get left behind, and to minimise unintended harmful impacts of the 4IR on people, communities and the earth.

Cities planning for the future need to make informed and resilient choices about how technology will shape their city. Those that fail to adapt and recognise these changes will fall behind.

If you want to discuss the topics above in more detail, contact:

Dan Dowling
Director, Cities & Urbanisation
Tel: 0207 212 1289
Mobile: 07715 487335
Email: [email protected]

Denise Chan 
Cities & Urbanisation specialist
Tel: 0207 804 0606
Mobile: 0770 356 3806 
Email: [email protected]