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New Urban Agenda acknowledges the role of cities in achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Nieuwsbericht | 08-12-2017

The New Urban Agenda acknowledges the role of cities in achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). A recent PBL analysis shows that local urban planning can be used for this purpose. Aside from pointing out the increase in social and ecological problems, the New Urban Agenda also focuses particularly on the possibilities of cities themselves, in dealing with these problems and, thus, contributing to their own sustainable development. This also means that more attention should be paid to the cities’ financial, legal and organisational leverage.

One of the largest problems facing cities in Africa, but also in parts of Asia and South and Central America, is the fact that increasing numbers of their inhabitants are not acknowledged as official citizens. In addition, an estimated billion people, worldwide, are living and working in areas that lack the basic infrastructure, such as clean drinking water and sewage systems. Moreover, these informal settlements are often located in ecologically vulnerable areas that are prone to flooding and pollution.Increasing climate risks (e.g. flooding events) disproportionately affect these vulnerable groups; especially in cities, where the increasing demand for space is all but insurmountable. The informal communities not only lead to the exclusion and marginalisation of vulnerable groups, but, indirectly, also undermine every attempt to combat the deterioration and exhaustion of vulnerable ecosystems.

Urban planning is key to success

Many cities in developing countries take planning methods from developed countries as an example, not rarely because of foreign involvement and/or national or international policy regulations. However, this does not automatically lead to effective and coherent spatial planning. Often these cities lack sufficient financial, legal and organisational leverage. In the physical sense, formal urbanisation involves land elevation and paving, which increases problems in lower ‘wet’ areas, where the prevalence of informal urbanisation is growing. Informal settlements on slopes and riverbanks and in parks and buffer zones, in turn, lead to a decrease in water and buffer capacity, which may pose a risk to formal areas.Informal urbanisation must be included as a starting point for more coherent urban planning. ‘Planning’ here means especially the early inclusion of informal communities, often found in the lower lying areas of the city, in finding solutions for their problems. The New Urban Agenda pushes such an inclusive and participative approach. It provides new perspectives and solutions to urban problems while creating support for the related implementation measures, and enhances awareness, empowerment and capacity building.

New Urban Agenda endorses Dutch policy

The New Urban Agenda endorses the Dutch approach to foreign policy on inclusive green growth in developing countries. This approach is focused on collaboration between local parties and Dutch experts from knowledge institutes, companies and NGOs. Examples are the Delta Coalition and Delta Alliance, as well as projects set up by the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and NGOs such as Cordaid. These projects often use methods and instruments that focus on combining and mutually strengthening expert and local knowledge.Such instruments may be developed further and improved on, to be applied in situations of informal urbanisation. Policy may enhance the degree of learning between the various projects, with the use of systematic monitoring and evaluation of projects in developing countries playing an important role. Such monitoring and evaluation may also help to identify which projects, methods and instruments would contribute most effectively to achieving the SDGs. 


More information, email Mieke Berkers (PBL spokesperson) at persvoorlichting@pbl.nl