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    Will 2015 be the year of urban opportunity?

    By Matthew A Wood-Hill, on 16 January 2015

    Here at the DPU we’re bouncing out of what has been a very exciting year, celebrating our 60th anniversary, and into a particularly important one in our collective thinking about urban futures.

    We’re going to see international discussions taking place on cities and human settlements, disaster risk reduction, development finance, the post-2015 development agenda and climate change.

    Image: Matt Wood-Hill, 2014

    Habitat III

    Something I have seen dominating a lot of our conversations in the last year has been the road to the Habitat III conference. Although this won’t be held until October 2016 (in Quito, Ecuador if you already want to start planning your trip), the lobbying and agenda-building has already begun. We saw this at the 7th World Urban Forum in Medellin, and from numerous speakers at our DPU60 conference in July, including Joan Clos, the Director of UN Habitat.

    Habitat III will have a profound impact on the way cities are planned, designed and governed. Given the title of this post, however, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

     

    The Launch of the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda; September 2015

    2015 will be notable for the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), announcing a post-2015 development agenda that will supersede the Millennium Development Goals.

    There are currently 17 Goals in total, which have Ban Ki-Moon’s support, but the numerous targets are yet to be finalised. Indeed nothing is set in stone, and much could yet change in the months ahead.

    An Urban SDG

    Several staff at the DPU have been busy working as part of the lobby for ‘Goal 11: Make Cities and Human Settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.’

    Goal 11 is the essence of the ‘urban opportunity’ – the title of the position paper produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

    As urbanisation continues globally so does urban poverty. Urban economic output will grow, meanwhile new ways of providing infrastructure and services are required to cater for demand. These concentrated populations represent a vital opportunity that cannot be put off for another 15 years, and this must not become one of those Goals that ‘should have been there all along’. It is in cities that many solutions can, and will need to be found, and therefore this is the optimum moment of ‘urban opportunity’.

    I’m looking forward to sharing two blog posts in the next couple of weeks that give greater insights into formulation of Goal 11 and what it sets out to achieve.

     

    The Post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR); March 2015

    The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was the first international framework for the creation of DRR policies and plans when it was conceived to cover a 10-year period in 2005. There won’t be a stand-alone DRR goal in the SDGs, but of particular note to us is the proposed Target 4 within Goal 11 for cities to “incorporate climate and disaster risk considerations in their zoning, building codes, and infrastructure investment decisions”.

    DPU staff have been very active in UN-ISDR discussions on updating the HFA, look out for more on this soon. I’m sure that many of us will be following the World Conference on DRR in Sendai closely to see how it relates to discussions on urban resilience.

     

    The Third International Conference on Financing for Development; July 2015

    While this isn’t a topic I can claim much familiarity with, it is pretty clear that the post-2015 development agenda is going to require a renegotiation of financing commitments. When we look at the unconfirmed SDGs as they stand, the 17 Goals and 169 targets are necessarily ambitious if they truly hope to “end poverty, transform all lives, and protect the planet.” But how these will be implemented is far less easy to understand, and I’ll be looking for a few clues in July.

     

    COP21 in Paris; December 2015

    COP20 in Lima might be quite fresh in many of your minds. Personally I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu – it seems we’re always told that we’re on the cusp of an epoch-defining agreement, but it slips away.

    So could this year really be the year where a global climate deal is finally agreed? And if it is, then so what? We’ve been seeing climate responses increasingly happening at the local level. Let us not forget that the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012, and if global agreements are the way to go, then the international community has been stalling for too long.

     

    Communications in 2015

    This year I’m looking forward to seeing DPU communications give you greater insights into the key moments above. Staff here have been shaping the debates and will be responding to the outcomes. Ultimately we will continue to work with governments, community groups and other organisations on the ground to support them in implementing these agendas.

    We also have an exciting schedule planned for the DPU blog over the next few months where staff, alumni and other contributors from around the world will share their experiences in development practice.

    Stay tuned in 2015!

     

    Matthew Wood-Hill is the Media and Communications Officer at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit.