Toronto, Canada, October 2019 - On World Cities Days, UN-Habitat, International City Leaders and the Urban Economy Forum Association hosted the inaugural Urban Economy Forum, the first global platform on urban economy and finance bringing together city leaders, academics, civil society and the private sector.
The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, sent a statement opening the Forum saying the “event brings together community leaders and financial stakeholders to discuss ways in which to build a sustainable urban economy. I am certain that delegates will benefit from this opportunity to share their experiences and network with their peers.”
The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif sent her greeting and highlighted importance of cities and of World Cities Day, and the need to work with cities on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The co-chairs of the Urban Economy Forum, Marco Kamiya, Coordinator, Urban Economy and Finance Branch of UN-Habitat, Reza Pourvaziry. President of International City Leaders, and Subramonian Anantha Krishnan, World Bank consultant and former head of the Partners and Youth Section of UN-Habitat opened the event. They emphasized the overall theme of World Cities Day, “A Better City, Better Life” and introduced Toronto as a hub of inclusive urban economy and municipal finance.
The participants from over 20 countries at the New Student Centre at York University in Toronto discussed complex topics including inclusiveness, sustainable development, urban economy, climate change, municipal finance, human settlements, housing policies, among others.
The morning was filled with notable keynote speakers from diverse backgrounds including Dr. Jose Etcheverry and Governor of York University; the Mayor of Kitchener Berry Vrbanovic; Julie Ward British Member of the European Parliament; Megan Reddick from Habitat for Humanity; Patricia L. McCartney, President, and CEO of the World Council on City Data; and Mitchell Cohen President of The Daniels Corporation and Douglas Ragan from UN-Habitat’s Youth and Livelihood Unit Head.
The morning was bursting with exciting announcements of Urban Economy Forum’s collaborations, including the highly anticipated Regent Park UN Urban Pavilion, a partnership between The Daniels Corporation and UN-Habitat; World Art House in collaboration with Arts Help; SDG Global Pioneer UniverCity with York University and the Global Re-Thinking Housing Pilot Project with developer Mr Ghandchi. The rest of the day was dedicated to four sessions on the issues of (i) Financial Governance of Municipalities, (ii) Financing Local Government and the Role of Commercial Banks, (iii) Infrastructure & Capital Budgeting, and (iv) Urban Development: Real Estate and Municipal Finance. Among the speakers were city councillors from cities in Ontario, the Real Estate sector, academia, commercial banking, etc.
The second day was at the main convention centre of the Arcadian Loft, was opened by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Ontario and former Executive Director of UN-Habitat. She highlighted the issues of sustainable development and the need to work with cities, emphasizing the strategic support from Ontario and other provinces in Canada. This message was followed by the Mayor of Collingwood, Ontario, Brian Saunderson, who signed the Letter of Intent on their collaboration “Collingwood: Urban SDG Pioneer,” with the Urban Economy Forum Association and UN-Habitat.
From China, Professor Ni Pengfei announced the launching of the new Global Urban Competitiveness Report, done in collaboration with UN-Habitat. The report presents a ranking of more than 1000 cities across the world, and a thematic section, this year dedicated to the topic of municipal finance.
The day concluded with resolution drafting from all the participants of the Forum followed by a field visit to the Regent Park neighbourhood, an urban revitalization project in Toronto, led by the Daniels Corporation and home to the future of the UN Urban Pavilion. Guests were invited on a tour where they had the opportunity to interact with residents and observe the public spaces and facilities that were created for the residents as part of the revitalization project.
The next Urban Economy Forum takes place in the city of Toronto in October 2020.