“Over the past two years, the international community has adopted three ambitious agendas – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the New Urban Agenda – to achieve long-term well-being, peace and sustainability. However, for these agendas to live up to their historic potential and foster the transformation they seek to achieve, strong ownership at the local level will be essential”. With these words, the mayor of Istanbul and current president of the United Cities Local Governments, Kadir Topbas presented the fourth Global Report on Decentralisation and Globalization. This affirmation also reflects the main reasons why city workers, elected officials, global networks and experts met in the Art Nouveau Site last December.
At Sant Pau, together with resident institution, we closed the year 2016 with a specific focus on an area that both concerns and interests us: sustainable development in the urban context. On the 15th and 16th of December, the Directorate-General on Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGION) led a peer review workshop. Three days later, on the 19th, the Knowledge Centre hosted a meeting organised with the goal of communicating the results of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) to Catalan municipalities.
Although the goals and participants were different, the two events both served to reinforce the role of local governments in the new international governance framework for sustainable development. In this sense, cities that take on the challenge of working in this context must think not only about the factors that will contribute to success, but also about the obstacles they may encounter along the way. These municipal governments will most certainly benefit from the new drive, ambition, vision and territorial focus that these meetings strived to offer.
The workshop was organized by the European Commission’s Training Centre for Urban and Territorial Development (DG REGION), in collaboration with the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Sant Pau Knowledge Centre, with the aim of supporting cities in the implementation of urban development strategies under article 7 of the ERDF regulation. The event brought together more than 70 people for two days, in an environment that promoted dynamic exchanges and learning. The programme was divided into two parts: one based on the experience of for study-case cities, and the other providing analysis and revision of strategies, dialogue, and reflection among participants. Beyond the knowledge that was gained, participants benefitted from the emerging community of practice, which will surely lead to new gatherings in 2017.
The conference on the 19th, titled “Local Commitment to the New Urban Agenda” was
a natural complement to the DG REGION workshop. Thanks to the leadership of the Barcelona Provincial Council, in close cooperation with the Government of Catalunya and the Sant Pau Foundation, this event attracted more than 80 representatives of Catalan municipalities, experts, and city and regional networks to explore jointly the commitment and reach of towns and cities in Catalonia, and particularly the Province of Barcelona, to achieve the global goals established by new international agreements. To this end, speakers highlighted the importance of placing people at the centre of development, fomenting the dynamic and autonomous participation of civil society. Experts also emphasised the need for meaningful efforts to ensure that governance is based on responsibility and transparency, integrating a territorial focus on sustainable development and mobilising the financing that is crucial for cities and regions to take effective action.
Cities will continue to have a notable presence in the Knowledge Centre programme in 2017.