High-Level Forum emphasizes importance of sustainable urbanization in the Arab region1Manama, 19 May 2015 – Sustainable urbanization has been highlighted as one of the issues central to achieving sustainable development in the Arab region at a high-level forum in Bahrain. Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister, the Second Session of the Arab High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development took place in Manama earlier this month.

The Forum was attended by high-level representatives from all Arab countries concerned with sustainable development, United Nations agencies, Arab Development Banks, the League of Arab States and its specialized organizations, civil society organizations, universities, research institutes, parliamentarians and the private sector.

The Forum deliberated the relevance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the Arab region, means of implementation, financing for sustainable development, capacity building and technology transfer. The Forum concluded with the endorsement of the high-level Bahrain Declaration addressing sustainable development concerns in the Arab region. Peace, security and stability are considered a precondition for achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Sustainable urbanization crucial to sustainable development

Among the wide range of key issues highlighted, sustainable urbanization as well as the principles of good governance are considered crucial in achieving sustainable development in the Arab region. In particular, the role of local government and civil society organizations was stressed in supporting the efforts of governments and implementation of policies.

Moreover, aspects of education and matching labor markets are crucial in addressing unemployment; overall attention is paid to gender and youth issues as well as concerns of refugee and other marginalized groups. Natural resource management, water, energy and food security in addition to resilience and disaster risk reduction were also emphasized.

Participants noted that there is a strong need for Arab economic integration, the establishment of the green economy and utilization of appropriate technologies. South-south exchange of best practices in addressing sustainable development is encouraged in addition to elaboration of an integrated approach for funding sustainable development.

Finally, the role of national statistical agencies and their ability to collect data and issuing regular reports on sustainable development indicators at regional and international levels needs to be strengthened.

SDGs and the New Urban Agenda

Within the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States and the Kuwait Office supported a side event focusing on urbanization issues, "Towards more inclusive, integrated, resilient and sustainable cities in the Arab region”. The event was organized in partnership with the Governments of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Towns Organization.

(ATO) The Saudi Deputy Minister of Municipalities chaired the event, ATO acted as rapporteur, while the Bahrain Advisor to the Prime Minister Cabinet was the moderator. The urban side event addressed challenges of Arab cities and efforts made towards achieving sustainable urbanizations in areas such as developing new national urban policies, the adoption of strategic planning approaches and revisiting the role of local authorities.

The discussions highlighted the importance of well planned, managed and financed urbanization for sustainable development while ensuring equitable social, economic and urban gains for all. The interrelation between the proposed SDGs and the New Urban Agenda was further elaborated and how the three-pronged approach can promote urbanization for prosperity in the region.

The City Prosperity Index (CPI) was elaborated as an effective tool to monitor progress in achieving sustainable urban development. Overall, it was recognized that the role of municipalities and local governments in advancing inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities in the Arab region needs to be strengthened.