Shanghai, China, 4 November 2021 –The first Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Cities Conference co-hosted by UN-Habitat and the Municipality of Shanghai aimed at supporting 1000 cities become economically, socially and environmentally sustainable by 2030, announced seven new pilot projects.

Conference participants including international and local leaders, academics, business leaders, investors and civil society activists discussed how to make cities engines of sustainable development and improve life for their residents through data analysis, strategic planning, institutional capacity development, impact project development and financing.

New pilot SDG Citieswere announced. They included Shanghai; La Paz, Bolivia; Vitoria Gasteiz, Basque, Spain; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Penang Bay, Malaysia; Menzel Ennour in Tunisia; and Kuwait City. They will be joined by ten more by the end of the year and will test an array of SDG Cities digital tools being availed by UN-Habitat and partners in areas of urban data, institutional capacity assessment and development and project preparation and financing.

Opening the event, Harvard Professor Ed Glaeser said, “the path from poverty to prosperity runs through city streets,” and while the pandemic has affected the way that people can interact in cities, cities must, more than ever, “be enablers of economic, social and environmental sustainability, and must empower and protect their residents.”

The Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments, Emilia Saiz, reiterated that “the crisis of cities is not just pandemic, but a convergence of health, climate and inequality.”

Responding to concerns over the high cost of making cities sustainable, Marcos Troyjo, President of the New Development Bank (NDB), spoke of the need to empower financial ecosystems to impact at the most local level.

Technical sessions tackled topics such as the Global Urban Monitoring Framework, Voluntary Local Reviews, SDG Cities Collaborative Action, Investing in Urban Impact, Digital Transformation, SDG Project Assessment and city health innovation.

A side event organised by the  Global Future Cities Programme (GFCP) showcased UN-Habitat's SDG Project Assessment Tool which it has used to guide development of 30 transformative urban development projects in 19 fast-growing cities in emerging economies.

Tom Eveson, Founding Partner at the Emerging Markets Infrastructure Fund Group, told participants that SDGs are becoming an "umbrella language for all aspects of financial investments. The innovation being applied to sustainable-themed financing is incredible and inspiring.”

At the Expert Group Meeting, panellists highlighted the value of the tool for bringing stakeholders together to discuss urban development projects, build capacity, and evaluate the bankability and long term viability of projects.

“Making sure we make the right choices about how infrastructure is developed across its lifecycle, is absolutely key,” said Scott Thacker, Infrastructure and Project Management Specialist at the United Nations Office for Project Services.

Experts noted that developing world cities have constrained debt capacity and restricted access to capital while local development projects often lack financing opportunities. The SDG tool can unlock financing opportunities by backstopping smaller projects by improving the ability to access impact and Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) financing.

The SDG Tool is a “collective exercise to get the best possible, the most catalytic, impactful and bankable investments ready for cities,” said moderator Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Urban Practices Branch.

The Conference provided the opportunity for UN-Habitat, to announce progress on key SDG Cities Partnerships. This includes the City Investment Facility partnership initiative that supports the financial preparation of projects and matchmaking with sources of finance; partnership with Global CEO Alliance in developing digital tools; the World Urban Pavilion in mobilizing SDG Cites in Canada, and the Global Sustainability Index Institute’s 25+5 SDG Cities Leadership Platform, including its intended merger with SDG Cities Global Initiative.

New partnerships were also announced with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) which will focus on the joint implementation of SDG Cities in Africa, and the  Sustainable Infrastructure Foundation, SOURCE platform , which will provide  a cost effective, systematic approach to enable cities to generate, assess and present investment related information to prospective investors. City Networks, including Commonwealth local Government Forum, Sister Cities International and UCLG MEWA also expressed their support and interest to collaborate.

More about SDG Cities is available here;