UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Frode Mauring delivers his speech at the Urban Thinkers Campus UTC “Future Cities Forum” Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Oct 2, 2017

Dubai (UAE) – UN RC and UNDP RR delivers his speech during the Urban Thinkers Campus Future Cities Forum 2017 @UNDP uae/ Liga Lice da Costa.


Honourable Guests,

Distinguished Organisers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning!

It is a great honour and a pleasure to be present at the opening of the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) 2017 in the UAE. I’d like to start my talk with a funny speech from the 32-year old movie “Back to the future” when Dr Brown wondered and asked Marty: “Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” Indeed, things in the future seem to be heavier, more complicated and hard to attain.

Today, I am pleased to take part, for the second time, in this significant event in a country where development is prioritized in all agendas.  UAE’s federal and local governments work within the vision of the UAE, to put development, sustainability and future building, at the heart of their strategies.

This year, UTC will explore means for shaping the future of SDG’s. By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Monitoring urbanization’s key trends likely to unfold over the coming years is crucial to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As most of you are aware, in September 2015 the 2030 development agenda was adopted by the world’s leaders, and the Sustainable Development Goals came to life.  This agenda is the product of an inclusive, participatory process, including the voices of almost 10 million people across the globe, through innovative internet polling.

These goals are not the first of their kind. You might recall that at the turn of the twenty-first century, the Millennium Declaration was adopted by all UN member states setting 8 ambitious Millennium Development Goals.  For the first time, the world had time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions, all while promoting equality between women and men, ensuring global access to education, and promoting environmental sustainability.

Now with the SDGs, nations have vowed to build on that experience and achievements, and shift the approach from eradicating poverty to a broader scope and a more inclusive approach to promoting economic growth, social development and environmental protection.  From now until the year 2030, the world will devote its efforts to achieve the commitments made in this new global agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals take stock of the fact that development is most successful—and most sustainable—when it balances economic growth that benefits all people;

social development that enables people to take part in their own governance; and environmental protection which ensures that we have a decent world to live in.

Building “Sustainable cities and communities” is enshrined in SDG 11.  I personally believe that the fastest route to achieving that is through Green economy.  For those of you whom this term might be a bit new, it doesn’t have to do with economic benefits resulting from agricultural activities. Indeed, Green economy is a diversified knowledge-based economy that aims to reduce environmental risks and sustain the ecological system.

There is an ever-rising trend all around the world of people moving to big cities.  By 2030, 6 out of 10 people of the world will reside in urban areas.  The drive to cities and the productivity gain, has been one of the mega-drivers of poverty reduction achieved in the previous development agenda.  However, with more people reaching the middle class, more people want to live their dreams by adopting the same expenditure patterns as the middle classes before them.   This means more demand for electricity, cars, eating more beef, whatever things you can associate with the middle class.  I believe that most of us are no different.  The drive towards higher consumption in cities means obviously more consumption of the Earth’s resources and ultimately a higher carbon foot print. We end up wanting more than what our planet can offer.  We need an Earth 2.0 as in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or more realistically we need to ensure that higher standards of living are met in sustainable ways.

Herein lies the challenge we need to find solution to.  This needs a holistic approach, from planning of cities, infrastructure, and transport systems to building codes. Furthermore, it means also changing people’s habits, in particular those of the coming generations.

Therefore, discussing urban challenges is not only about SDG 11.  SDG number 12 is “Responsible consumption and production”.  For example; responsible consumption is to reduce energy intensity of economic growth; responsible production is a shift to renewable energy with zero or low carbon footprint.   Your host city Dubai has been proactive in terms of trying to promote green solutions, and solar power is in the pipeline as part of the energy mix while incentives for use of electrical vehicles were introduced in this city last week. Nevertheless, this is a huge multi-sectoral challenge that will demand a lot from the world governments as well as its citizens.

As the United Nations Country Team in the UAE, we have prioritized innovation for Sustainable Development as one of our strategic areas of intervention, and I believe it is with the lens of innovation that we need to look at the 2030 Agenda.

I would like to shed light on the crucial role that private sector plays in achieving the SDGs. Each year, the UN Private Sector Forum brings the voice of business to major inter-governmental debates. CEOs, Heads of State and Government, and leaders from the UN and civil society gather at the Forum to explore partnerships to address global challenges. This year the Forum, held 14 days ago, focused on unlocking new forms of financing 2030 Agenda.

In this regard, I wish to reiterate UN’s willingness to join hands with all stakeholders and partners to promote sustainable urbanization and build strategic Smart Cities partnerships. Let’s work together for sustainable, resilient future cities.  Good luck with the Urban Thinkers’ Campus!

Thank you.

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