SLU Urban Futures was invited to join the Swedish Delegation to the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York from 10 to 18 July this year. Lisa Diedrich, the Program Director of the platform, participated in a number of colorful seminars and has written a brief summary of her experiences:
‘Here we are, we cities, ready to help, talk to us!’ exclaimed Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum, held in New York this summer. Progress on the transition to a sustainable way of life was advertised, counted, compared, challenged, confirmed and refined in countless multilingual sessions attended by the colourful global microcosm of the UN’s member state representatives. All supported the 2030 Agenda, today’s sustainability bible. Listing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this ‘plan of action’ specifies pathways towards sustainable and resilient societies. Certainly, it is a masterpiece of global diplomacy in its definition of shared values, yet interpretation of the actions it calls for is left to those who are meant to translate them into concrete behaviour. This is why mayors and other local and regional-level actors gathered at a side event, the Local and Regional Governments Forum, and demanded recognition by the national and global authorities: ‘The game will have to be played on profoundly local grounds,’ argued Célestine Ketcha Courtès, mayor of Bangangté in Cameroon. ‘We need a lot of “capillarity” to land the SDGs on the ground, to embed them in cultural practices that embrace wider audiences,’ agreed Abdoulaye Mar Dieye of the UN Development Programme. And Carlos Martínez, mayor of Soria in Spain, added: ‘We do not want to be the invitees to high level politics, we want to talk as equals, that is why we claim a permanent seat at the UN table.’
The academic's rallying call
SLU Urban Futures experienced the debate about the Global Goals at this year’s UN summit, and we contributed to draft the Swedish government’s position on SDG11, concerning sustainable cities and communities, supporting Sweden’s ambition to strive for inclusive, green, and smart cities. We are convinced that with their particular knowledge, academics from SLU can support cities and other bodies from preventing to simply add a ‘green facade’ to otherwise conventional urban development, and from adopting short-term techno-fixes that counteract long-term societal benefit. ‘Here we are, we researchers, teachers, students, ready to help, talk to us!’ could equally be the academics’ rallying call. SLU Urban Futures will strive to demonstrate how academic and professional practice contributes cross-cutting thought and real-world action to SDG 11 on urban sustainability, and how the urban realm can be a ‘portal’ to engage with all other 17 SDGs.
SLU Urban Futures