ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON SDGs AND CPI: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
Scadding House, Toronto
A four hour roundtable discussion on Sustainable Development Goals: From Theory to Practice was held in Toronto and hosted by International City Leaders (ICL) and the International Centre for Urban Management (ICFUM), supported by UN-Habitat and UNDP. In attendance were Canadian Members of Parliament, and city leaders from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including directors of planning from various municipalities, urban planners, councilors, architects and academia.
In September 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development summit adopted a new framework to guide development efforts between 2015 and 2030, entitled “transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development”.
The 2030 Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. The SDGs address, in an integrated manner, the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development, their interrelations, aspects related to peaceful societies and effective institutions, as well as a means of implementation (finance technology, capacity development etc.).
By enforcing a stand-alone goal on cities (Goal 11), known as the ‘urban SDG’, - to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – the international community recognized urbanization and city growth as a transformative force for development. This first-ever international agreement on urban-specific development acknowledges sustainable urban development as a fundamental precondition for sustainable development.
SDG Goal 11 is a very important goal to lead cities towards sustainability and shared prosperity. To achieve this goal, the international community has a 15 year period up to 2030. Partnership, coordination and capacity building are now fundamental for the achievement of this agenda. National governments and local authorities require strengthening their monitoring and reporting capacities to produce sound data and statistics to make sure that no one is left behind.
The UN-Habitat City Prosperity Initiative (CPI) provides the framework of analysis of the interrelations of Goal 11 and strategic targets across the SDGs that have an urban dimension. UN-Habitat and International City Leaders (ICL) are working together to assist city leaders around the world to introduce the SDGs, and to measure the sustainability of metropolitan cities through the City Prosperity Initiative. In addition, the City Prosperity Initiative- Metropolitan Cities (CPI-MC) has been jointly created by UN-habitat and ICL to promote innovative approaches to urban governance and management, which will assist city leaders to guide their cities towards economically, socially, politically and environmentally prosperous urban futures.
The United Nations will host an International Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, named Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. Leading up to this event, it is important for urban activists around the world to be aware of the content of SDGs and their key role in the urban agenda and ICL would like to provide strong feedback from Toronto for this important Conference.
In addition, ICL will hold the International Conference on Applying CPI to achieve SDGs in February 2017 and ICL would like to involve local leaders in this process to develop a working local approach towards the SDGs and CPI. A roundtable discussion series has been designed by ICL which will help inform this conference.
Purpose of the Roundtable Discussion
The main objective of this first roundtable discussion was to start a dialogue amongst municipal authorities in the GTA and the role of SDGs within urban management. This would be the initial step in highlighting the role of city officials in Toronto and Canada on upcoming international events on topics of sustainability. The participants would consist of city leaders from Municipalities throughout the GTA.
The first aim of this roundtable was to cover topical issues that address needs and requirements of adopting the SDGs into city planning and policies.
The second aim was to create a network of key people within the GTA that can develop a working local approach towards the SDGs and CPI.
Planned discussions were to include:
1. Introducing the SDGs adopted by the United Nations
2. Overview of the role of cities towards the realization of the SDGS
3. Challenges and Opportunities of the SDG for cities
4. Applying CPI to achieve SDGs
Roundtable Discussion and Participants
The following individuals participated in roundtable discussions:
* Mr. Reza Pourvaziry, President International City Leaders
* Dr Eduardo Lopez Moreno, Head of Research and Capacity, UN-Habitat
* Mr. Ali Ehsassi, MP of Willowdale
* Mr. Adam Vaughan MP of Spadina-Fort-York and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs
* Ms. Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist, UNDP
* Ms. Kimberley Bilmer, Director CPI-MC, International City Leaders
* Ms. Marina Sheehan, Coordinator, International City Leaders
Participants in the alphabetical order
* Mr. Ali Asgary, Professor, York University
* Mr. Ali Riahi, Int’l Affairs Officer, ICL
* Mr. Fariborz Hajiseyedjavadi, Acting Coordinator, ICL
* Mr. Mani Mirsadeghi, Film-maker
* Mr. Mehdi Hamedani, Senior Programme Coordinator, ICL
* Mr. Mostafa Abbaszadegan, Associate Professor
* Mr. Paul Grenier, Regional Councilor, City of Niagara
* Ms. Alieh Marouf, Executive Director, Incfum
* Ms. Heather MacDonald, Acting Executive Director of Planning, City of Brampton
* Ms. Homa Daneshmand, Int’l Project Manager, Toronto Nobel Institute for Environmental Peace
* Ms. Karen Cilevitz, Councillor, Town of Richmond Hill
* Ms. Ms. Amitis Nouroozi, Planning and Design Consultant, Jane’s Walk
* Ms. Sharleen Bayovo, Interagency Planner, City of Mississauga
* Ms. Soudeh Ghasemi, Advisor of President, ICL
Key Themes from Presentations and Discussions
The following key themes emerged from the presentations and discussions:
* The role of the Canadian Government in achieving SDGs on a global and local level
* The application of the SDGs in Canada, nationally and locally
* The need for a tangible “toolkit” to apply the SDGs in municipalities
* The potential for the CPI to measure the SDGs
* The role of city leaders and decision makers in achieving SDGs
* The need for mayoral involvement
* The need for community buy-in
* The need for multi-stakeholder involvement
* The issues that smaller cities face with data and measuring progress
* The need for a continued dialogue
Summary of Roundtable and Key Themes
The roundtable discussion was opened by facilitator Ms. Marina Sheehan from ICL and a welcome address from Mr. Reza Pourvaziry, President of ICL.
ICL and informing the International Conference on applying CPI to SDGS
Mr. Pourvaziry outlined the function of ICL and City Prosperity Initiative- Metropolitan Cities (CPI-MC) as a secretariat that works with UN-Habitat, and highlighted the aim of this roundtable discussion as the starting point of: “creating a network of city leaders, including mayors, councilors, city leaders, urban experts and academia” to work together to achieve sustainable development and the SDGs.
ICL will hold a series of roundtable discussions to bring together different experts in the field of urban management to become informed on the application of CPI to achieve SDGs and to start a dialogue which can inform the ICL International Conference on Applying CPI to achieve SDGs in February 2017 in Toronto. Reza stated how ICL is aiming to bridge the knowledge gap for city leaders about SDGs and CPI and how ICL and UN-Habitat believe that CPI could be an effective tool to measure SDG Goal 11, and also has the potential to measure some of the other goals and targets.
He added that he believes that we need to continuously learn about sustainability, new approaches in urban management and different experiences from around the world and invited participants to bring their ideas to the table regarding “the themes, subjects which could be included in the important international conference”.
UN-Habitat and the importance of SDGs
Dr. Eduardo Lopez Moreno, Head of Research and Capacity Development UN-Habitat, spoke via live video conference.
He outlined the urban relevance of SDGs, including the fact that “20% of the 231 indicators have an urban component”. He highlighted how the CPI can be used to measure Goal 11 and the urban SDGs and targets
He noted how the international community is not yet connecting with SDGs, therefore these goals and indicators need to be put into a framework in order to understand the process and how to monitor progress, and we need to establish a system that speaks about the city in a more comprehensive manor.
“If we use city space badly, we will create more inequalities, more segregation and marginalization. UN-Habitat wants us to understand that it’s not a matter of indicators, metrics or understanding one goal and one target but its putting all this equation together and understanding that if we are capable [of looking] at cities in an integrated manner, we will be able to achieve the SDGs and to consider that sustainable cities are the only way to achieve sustainability at large”.
Canadian Government and its commitment to urban sustainable development
Mr. Ali Ehsassi, MP of Willowdale and Mr. Adam Vaughan, MP of Spadina-Fort York and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs addressed the room and their presentations were well received, as they discussed the perspective and approach from the new Liberal Government, and the positive implications the 2016 budget could have on sustainable development issues in Canada.
Mr Ehsassi, MP of Willowdale, stated that there is an interplay between global engagement, sustainable development and urban infrastructure and that work towards sustainable development will require collaboration between governments, civil society organisations, businesses and communities.
“Budget 2016 delivered on the promise to invest in the future and the struggling middle class. The budget represented the clear commitment on behalf of our government to work towards sustainable urban development. The budget had a focus on seniors, children, students, indigenous people and supporting the most vulnerable, and leads to groundwork for sustained, inclusive economic growth that will create prosperity for all Canadians. In many ways these are goals of the UN habitat programme”.
On a global level, he highlighted that ever since the first Habitat conference in Vancouver, Canada has played a key role in sustainable development. But we know there is much work to be done, as more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas and by 2030 this number is expected to swell to about 5 billion. This urbanisation will bring significant social, economic and environmental pressures, as cities already have a high concentration of poverty and inequalities where wealthy communities coexist alongside slums and informal settlements.
On a national and local level, the government is boosting investment in social infrastructure by nearly 6 billion dollars over the next 4 years, prioritizing affordable housing and seniors facilities, early learning and childcare, cultural and recreational infrastructure.
Mr Vaughan, MP of Spadina-Fort York, highlighted how the previous Government stepped away from many international organisations, but they also stepped away from direct involvement in Canadian Cities. He reaffirmed what Mr. Ehsassi mentioned regarding a new sustainable urban agenda. “Canada was affected as clearly as shown by the figures on child poverty, the wait times for affordable housing and inequity, the gap that grew between rich and poor and the social physical isolation of lower income communities. Budgetary investments are trying to reverse some of the social dynamics that emerged in the last decade. The budget includes flood protection, managing waste water and infrastructure to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. There is now a full urban agenda at the centre of the government’s domestic agenda. In addition to the focus on transforming the horrific conditions faced by first nations, aboriginals, and Inuit people in the country”
He also highlighted that a re-engagement with UN-Habitat activities by the Canadian government reinforces that idea that Canada wishes to make new steps towards working as a leader on the international stage in supporting global sustainable issues.
Discussing the Sustainable Development Goals
In the presentation made by Ms. Bahareh Seyedi, Policy Specialist UNDP, the SDGs were outlined in a comprehensive manner. She discussed the origin of the Goals (from the Millennium Development Goals to SDGs), and justification for the 17 goals and 169 targets.
All participants were invited into discussion following Ms. Seyedi’s presentation.
Discussions were based around the challenges and opportunities leaders face towards the achievement of the SDGs locally and globally by 2030.
Key issues within Canada tied with issues identified by MPs in earlier presentations. These included; homelessness including youth homelessness, youth unemployment, energy consumption, urban management, risk resilience, education and awareness, multi-stakeholder involvement, mayoral involvement etc.
Discussions began with participants Heather MacDonald, Executive Director of Planning for the city of Brampton and Ms. Karen Cilevitz, Ward 5 Councillor for the Town of Richmond Hill, both outlining current initiatives within their municipalities which are complimentary to the SDGs, including a greenfield plan, intensification and sustainable development plan, but they also highlighted the issues these areas face. Pressures include the fact that municipalities are mandated to grow their local urban corridors and this has been difficult as they are constantly behind infrastructure requirements. This idea was tied to MP information on the budget 2016 plan for significant investment in infrastructure.
However, Ms. Cilevitz acknowledged how great it is that “the United Nations wants to be interested in what is happening at the local level and I think that that is critical because we face so many pressures at the local level that are sometimes not attended to on a global basis and they really should be”.
Other topics centered around SDG priorities for Canada, resilience, conflict and disaster management, how to raise awareness and empower and educate all people and inform and involve multi-stakeholders, including Mayors, city leaders and also community groups and citizens. Ms. Seyedi noted that as “the government decides on the Canadian priorities, it is important for citizens get engaged and that our governments and representatives hear our thoughts on issues in our country”.
Application of SDGs and the CPI
Queries came into question about the application of the SDGs, and how this can happen.
It was agreed that this is not just a government–led approach. There is requirement for an integrated approach where people from all levels and backgrounds participate in the adoption of the goals. Otherwise these goals will remain on paper and will not be acted upon.
The City Prosperity Initiative was presented to the audience by Kimberley Bilmer, Director CPI-MC, at International City Leaders and her presentation on CPI was warmly received as it was seen that the initiative has clear potential to be a successful tool for measuring the SDGs by cities, and as a tool that can be applied easily into municipalities, with the right framework and backing.
Concerns were expressed about the application of the CPI in smaller cities, in addition to the idea that permission/instruction to use the CPI would have to come from the Provincial level and this would involve a lengthy, arduous and complicated process. This idea was later corrected by Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Paul Grenier, Region Councilor of the City of Niagara and it was agreed by them that the implementation is possible, and relatively easy, and has the potential to qualify for federal funding. This again was well received by the participants as it was highlighted that cities often faced difficulties justifying funding applications.
Concerns also included the potential cost and time needed for data collection and the CPI, budgeting and prioritizing needs of cities; knowing which goals and targets are most important and when.
Opportunities that emerged from discussion included the identification that the applying CPI to achieve SDGs was a real and positive move towards sustainable development. Participants acknowledged that unified data collection analysis and output (via a tool such as CPI), was a useful way of measuring the prosperity of cities, and the SDGs, however it was noted that other initiatives exist within Canada and cities have been slow to adopt them. The advantages of the CPI, in comparison to other indexes, were thus highlighted by ICL; it is a UN-Habitat led initiative, complimentary to the SDGs, and with the potential for support and action plans after data collection and analysis.
Ms. Cilevitz complimented the CPI framework and Mr. Grenier expressed his delight at its vision and potential to bring the global agenda to a local level. He noted however the challenges this would have for smaller cities. Ms. MacDonald stressed the need for an integrated, multi-stakeholder approach in the process and the table agreed that engaging city leaders, in particular mayors in discussions and implementation is imperative.
It was outlined from the beginning that ICL hopes to hold a series of roundtable discussions in order to start a dialogue amongst municipal authorities in the GTA on the role of SDGs in urban management. This would be the first step in the collection of a strong feedback from Toronto and the GTA on SDGs to be used to prepare the agenda in international conferences on the Canadian perspective in general; and particularly at the international conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III in Oct 2016; and the February 2017 International City Leaders International Conference on Applying the CPI to achieve SDGs.
The roundtable was the first of a series of discussions on SDGs and CPI in Toronto.
It was concluded that a continued dialogue on SDGs, their importance, application and the use of CPI as a measuring tool, amongst city leaders, was needed going forward.
Engaging in a way that involves multi-stakeholders was key, as this should not be just a government-led initiative. Multi-stakeholder involvement is imperative. Dialogue should involve city leaders (including and in particular mayors), councilors, municipal decision makers, academics, and it was noted that it was important that members of the public are involved also.
Engagement can be done in many ways, and some suggestions included:
* Continued roundtable discussions with key people
* Discussions with mayors
* Increased awareness campaigns
* Increased education for empowerment in the long run (for example at schools)
* Celebrity endorsements (which have worked in the past).
Following discussions, ICL recognized that when you are creating strategies for urban development, there are certain priorities in cities, and they differ from city to city, and across time. But it was clear from remarks made at the roundtable that we need to continue to create the space for discussions on how to balance urban development priorities. We need to know how to include SDGs in city plans and policy-making, how to balance city priorities, and how to know which priorities are the most important, and when.
ICL recognized that this is a complex matrix as every element, goal or target is important for cities. E.g. you cannot ignore poverty or homelessness over the environmental protection, or water management. The discussions from this roundtable reinforced this. However ICL believes that many solutions exist to successfully implement SDGs and balance priorities, and there is a way that we can create an approach that is progressive, holistic, which will evaluate all elements of city priorities together, so that we can make informed, sustainable decisions. The use of the CPI is one such tool that can be applied to achieve this.
ICL sees the creation of a strong network within the GTA as essential to develop a working local approach towards the SDGs and CPI and the hosting of an International Conference on applying CPI to SDGs, with mayoral involvement is key to this success.
YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON APPLYING CPI TO ACHIEVE SDGs IN TORONTO, FEBRUARY 2017