UNRC Talking Points - World Urban Forum 2022 (WUF 11)
29 June 2022
Talking points by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, on the occassion of World Urban Forum 2022, One UN roundtable, held in Katowice, Poland.
In Serbia, and in the wider Balkan region, our urban actions aim to foster the green transformation, fight pollution, support inclusive energy transition, sustainable transport and affordable housing, and expand good practices for spatial planning and disaster risk reduction. We work on inclusive governance and infrastructure models that consider gender, youth, persons with disability, migrants and refugees in urban contexts. Recently, along with the Serbian government we used the National Urban forum to kick start new consultations and revised the national urban strategy, bringing all stakeholders together, and de facto promoting greater cross sectoral approaches both within the UN and all stakeholders.
Within this, I will focus on 4 points representative of our joint UN endeavour as outlined in the 3 strategic priorities of our CF:
1. The UN promote a people-centered approach aiming to reduce inequalities within cities: a bottom-up approach beyond the institutional planning and development of infrastructure and services.
We advocate for different priorisation of public investments towards the need of a greater number or marginalised neighborhoods, area-based development, restructuring informal settlements, supporting social housing and promote e promote the importance of public spaces. We look at urban development through the lense of Children’s and youth needs, and to promote healthy lifestyles. We shape that transformative agenda around the JUST Transition. For example, we work ensure that initiatives on energy efficiency for individual households are shaped in the way that they are accessible to all – currently, loans and subsidies are not available to the 25% of population who don’t have a bank account or people get subsidies but do not know how to find and manage the services.
Within this people approach, we also aim to build in effective consultation and partnership platforms between city leadership and the citizens. We support and help channel both the voices of citizens, grass roots organisations and activists, their ideas, needs and aspirations, towards constructive engagements, rather than confrontation. As part of a renewed social contract, we aim to strengthen the trust between stakeholders, their respective strategic intents and contributions, while embracing differences and diversity as a source of wealth rather than obstacles. On that point, we also see that Knowledge must be shared extensively so that opinions and decisions are informed and evidence based, and dialogs are nurtured for empowerment and ownership of all. Here important role of civil society and the education sector.
2.My second point – and second area where the UN is and will be increasingly involved - is on the necessity to anchor the sustainable urban agenda within the wider Green Transformation Agenda, where we can address Climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, green and decent jobs, etc.
It may sound obvious to many of us here, but the green agenda, in so many places, is still a collateral agenda, rather than a central one. Role of the UN here is to promote innovative solutions, again share and co-create knowledge and best practices, convene, bring the youth in the decision platforms, bring CC and environmental matters in economic forums in meaningful ways.
3. Our third area of focus for UN is on the combined aspects of budgeting, financing and governance, the combined role of the public and private sectors in the urban transformation. We must work faster to share, extend and create capacities and knowledge within local governments, the finance sector and private sector to turn national laws and strategies into local actions, bylaws, incentives and enforcement mechanisms. We must also prioritise and finance sustainable urban investments, which typically involves a mix of public and private money and a mix of revenue source.
In the case of Serbia, the issue is not a lack of financing. The country is increasingly shaping a dynamic financial market, with new products and regulatory frameworks, including now green bonds. The challenge is to ensure that all the existing and future financing flows are truly geared around the realisation of SDGs, including on climate change, sustainable urban development and social inclusion. And here I want to point out the critical role of budgeting at both national and local level. We have seen in the past few years how gender informed budgeting is a game changer in ensuring gender equality: that is, budgets consider different needs of women and men, girls and boys, and ensures gender-equitable distribution of resources and equal opportunities for all. We need to do this for the wider sustainability agenda, including in cities. The UN is increasingly working with IFIs such as World Bank, AFD and KfW.
4.My 4th and final point on the role of the private sector as an essential partner to co-create and share the governance of urban space. The private sector needs to take part to public debates and to policy development. It needs to be accountable for its contribution to sustainable urban development, including in the development or application of smart business solutions to reduce carbon emissions, build climate-proof private and public infrastructure, create green jobs and develop nondiscriminating digital solutions. We have initiatives from multiple UN agencies here, with chambers, and with the local chapter of the Global compact.
To conclude, through Agenda 2030 and the localization of SDGs, across the region, we work in support to the EU accession, and more recently in close cooperation with the EU Green Agenda. We see this sustainability transformation as an agenda of opportunities for all, an agenda that can bring citizens together, including the youth and elderlies, to shape a better future for all on a healthier planet.