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Countries to focus on harnessing smart sustainable cities as drivers for sustainable development in UNECE Commission session

The UNECE region is among the most highly urbanized regions in the world, with over 75% of the population living in cities in Europe, 80% in North America and close to 50% in Central Asia. This share is projected to continue to rise, making the issue of sustainable urban development a critical dimension for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the region.

Cities are leading engines of economic growth, generating more than 80% of global GDP and serving as dynamic hubs for innovation, trade, connectivity, learning and exchange.

But to be sustainable, cities need cleaner and greener practices, and enhanced responses and resilience to climate change, air pollution and natural and technological hazards. They need to be physically accessible, safe and socially inclusive to leave no one behind.

Responding to these challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in cities requires easy to use economic, social and environmental data, new mechanisms, policies, institutions, and technologies. It also envisages a strong role for the private sector. In other words, it requires Smart and Sustainable Cities.

Adressing these key issues for the region will be at the centre of exchanges as UNECE member States gather in Geneva next week for the  68th session of the Commission of UNECE (9-10 April 2019).

The discussions of the session’s high-level segment (9 April) will focus on national priorities and good practices related to sustainable cities in the region, UNECE initiatives aimed at supporting governments in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda, and the impact of relevant UNECE norms, standards and Conventions at the national and regional level.

This will provide the opportunity to consider action taken at different levels of government, across sectors and in cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders to foster sustainable solutions for how cities can ensure a high quality of life for inhabitants of all ages, leaving no one behind, while harnessing their roles as centres of innovation and competitiveness.

Drawing on perspectives from governments, civil society, the private sector, urban practitioners and UN partners, a roundtable discussion will focus on practical examples and success stories that demonstrate the benefits of integrated planning and comprehensive solutions for smart, sustainable and resilient cities and highlight the impact of relevant UNECE instruments that support this approach. Further, the roundtable will seek to identify emerging issues that need to be addressed to advance smart sustainable practice in urban environments.

The roundtable will feature four sessions, addressing different dimensions of sustainable urban development:

  • Session 1: Measuring Performance in the Transition to Becoming a Smart Sustainable City
  • Session 2: Towards the Circular Economy - Innovation Policies for Smart Cities
  • Session 3: Increased Road Safety and Sustainable Transport in Cities
  • Session 4: Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Cities

The second day of the Commission session will be dedicated to the general segment that covers regular agenda items including the report on the activities of the Executive Committee, the election of the Commission’s Chair and Vice-Chairpersons for the next biennium, and adoption of the report of the session.

The Commission’s decisions will define the strategic priorities for UNECE for the coming years.

Day of Cities

The Commission session will be preceded on 8 April 2019 by a Day of Cities. To inform the intergovernmental discussions of Commission session, more than 50 Mayors and Deputy Mayors from 31 UNECE member States, together with key urban actors from across the region, will discuss through two roundtables how to create smart sustainable cities, focusing on ways to improve the quality of life and the efficiency of urban operations, services and competitiveness.

Showcasing solutions via an exhibition

To complement these discussions, UNECE will host an exhibition (8-9 April) showcasing approaches to smart, sustainable and resilient cities. The exhibition will present innovative concepts, effective approaches in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the municipal, national and regional level, and offer a platform to share sustainable urban practices.

In particular, the exhibition will highlight:

  • Key urban development trends, including for smart sustainable cities, in the UNECE region
  • UNECE instruments contributing to the transformation to smart sustainable cities
  • Examples from cities of their urban planning approaches, initiatives and solutions

The detailed programme of the 68th session of the Commission, together with all related documents and details on the Day of Cities, are available at: