Toronto, Canada 22 October 2022 – The second “Urban Economy Forum 2020” (UEF 2020) was held virtually 5-6 October 2020 on occasion of World Habitat Day and the 75th  anniversary of the United Nations. The Forum was inaugurated with a message from the Prime Minister of Canada Mr. Justin Trudeau highlighting the importance of the Forum to “bring together community leaders and financial stakeholders to monitor, assess and improve the sustainable development of urban economies”.

Over 160 speakers and 100 participants, including UN-Habitat, UNESCO, UNEP and UNICEF -, joined the forum to debate on the urban economy factors needed to achieve the urban SDG. Mayors, city leaders, urban practitioners, and academics  also provided their perspectives and practical approaches.

The Secretary General of the UN Mr. Antonio Guteres and the Executive Director of UN-Habitat Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif opened the Forum via video celebrating the World Habitat Day theme “Housing for All: A Better Urban Future”. The theme was a major topic of discussion concerning challenges and opportunities in a world impacted by COVID-19.

Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell recognized that adequate, safe and affordable housing is critical for the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities from around the world”. The Canadian Federal Minister of Youth, Families and Social Development, Mr. Ahmed Hussen, highlighted that in a Covid world it is time for everyone to come together to build a stronger and more resilient country and world. 

Reinforcing housing as a crucial urban resource at the centre of cities and communities, Rafael Tuts, Director of Global Solutions Division, UN-Habitat, emphasised the importance of reflecting on the moral aspects of humanity to create positive economic impacts for housing and sustainability.

Mayor Don Iveson of City of Edmonton, Canada, advocated to end homelessness in his city and called for other cities to join this goal to build a better urban future.

COVID-19 and the negative impacts it has had on the financial sustainability of cities was examined closely, including how these impacts have affected the most vulnerable populations disproportionately.  Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, called on everyone to “make the cities of the future work better for the people”. Juliano De Oliveira, Research and Policy Specialist at UNICEF, emphasized the importance of strengthening the capacity of local governments to deliver results for children and youth based on rights, inclusion and participation”.

To achieve this, creativity and innovation will play a crucial role, said Eduardo Moreno, Head of Knowledge and Innovation, UN-Habitat and Honorary Chair of UEF 2020. Professor Jyoti Hosagrahar, Deputy Director, World Heritage Centre, UNESCO, called for support to the leveraging of cultural heritage, including those of the Indigenous Peoples, for Sustainable urban development and recognise its role in stimulating participation and responsibility.

Participants emphasised the need to build back better and work toward low carbon growth. Investments in affordable and sustainable housing, civil society participation, low carbon transportation, local and circular economies, making cities food secure and expanding sustainable urban farming are just some key elements discussed.  

Chris Williams, Head of New York Office, UN-Habitat encouraged all participants to interact with the New Urban Agenda Platform, as an important tool for academics and practitioners to exchange knowledge and track progress towards achieving the SDGs.

Mayor Jan Vapaavuori share his vision of a more sustainable urban future and highlights the important roles cities play for the wellbeing of society
Mayor Jan Vapaavuori shared his vision of a more sustainable urban future and highlighted the important roles cities play for the wellbeing of society

The forum closed with participants drafting the UEF 2020 Resolution, including:

“Financing the growth of cities and their inhabitants' livelihoods are among the most significant challenges facing leaders worldwide. Creative approaches are required to build awareness across finance and government sectors to better design, build, and finance our cities' agents of development regarding the urban SDGs, such as encouraging cooperatives and circular economies.”

UEF 2020 continues to provide an interactive platform for city leaders, urban development organisations, financial institutes, and academics to exchange best practices to achieve the NUA and SDGs, and aims to establish Toronto, Canada, as a global hub for sustainable urbanism. Municipalities are encouraged to join the SDGs Cities Initiative as they work toward the SDGs.

Look out for for the 3rd “Urban Economy Forum 2021”, which will again be held in conjunction with World Habitat Day on 4-5 October 2021.

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