Toronto, Canada, 8 October 2021 – Experts from more than 100 countries attending the third Urban Economy Forum (UEF 2021), run in collaboration with UN-Habitat, discussed how cities can deal with converging crises such as climate change at a time of increasing inequalities and a global pandemic. 

The UEF 2021, held virtually from October 4-6 on the occasion of UN-Habitat’s World Habitat Day, saw the participation of nearly 250 speakers from various disciplines, including Ministers, Mayors, City Leaders, Academics, Private Sector Representatives, and Civil Society.  

“This event brings participants together to discuss and develop urban economic models that are sustainable, inclusionary, and equitable,” Prime Minister of Canada Justine Trudeau shared in his message to the participants in the city of Brampton, Ontario.

“Cities are the foundation to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and are a space for interaction and collaboration, a place where new ideas can emerge and grow,” said Reza Pourvaziry, Chair of the Urban Economy Forum.

Participants exchanged ideas, models, and examples to achieve sustainable housing and a pathway toward urban recovery.

During the opening session, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown encouraged all participants to engage meaningfully and debate critically. “The forum is a place for city-to-city learning and moves forward good ideas collectively,” Brown said.

As speakers and participants discussed and debated on the way forward, the emerging theme on collaboration and collective action emerged as a way forward.

Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School University for Oxford, emphasised, “There is a need for businesses to do net positive change, take responsibility for the environment and drive transformational change.” Tufano pointed out that businesses are increasingly part of the conversation and are needed for sustainable urban development.

Toronto Mayor John Tory reaffirmed the call for cross sector collaboration for sustainable urban recovery. The mayor added: “Together, the private and public sectors hold a collective responsibility to ensure that our recovery leaves no one behind. Through solidarity, we can achieve sustainable urban recovery that is aligned with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.”

Participants also emphasised that urban recovery must also include the lived experience of those facing poverty and inequality. Albie Sachs, former Justice Constitutional Court of South Africa and anti-Apartheid activist, reminded participants that behind all the titles, ethnicity, gender, and features of a person is a human being. Ideas that are built on collaboration and humanity is something that can be owned by everyone.

City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps stated that cities around the world have faced significant challenges due to the pandemic, particularly in regards to housing and the increase in homelessness and the vulnerabilities of the homeless population, indigenous peoples, people of color, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two Spirited (refers to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit) community, youth and seniors. 

While collaboration is a necessary part of the equation for realising sustainable housing and urban recovery, cities also require data, knowledge, and tools.

Mr. Eduardo Moreno, Head of Knowledge and Innovation of UN-Habitat, highlighted SDG Cities as a global programme that provides the necessary contextual framework, tools, and resources that are already supporting 100s of cities across the globe in addressing growing urban challenges and housing investments.