Can we make our cities work? Implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in Europe

In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and one year later the New Urban Agenda, a global milestone agreement to guide worldwide efforts towards sustainable urbanisation. In the same year, the Pact of Amsterdam was adopted and the European Union agreed upon the Urban Agenda for the EU. The question of the discussion was: Which possibilities do cities and regions in Europe have to get engaged and how can we ensure that all levels of governments and relevant stakeholders are effectively engaged in the implementation of these frameworks?

On Monday 9 October 2017, The EUKN visited the UN-Habitat Urban breakfast, a side event of the European Week of Regions and cities in Brussels. The event elaborated on how European cities and regions can work on the implementation of the Urban Agendas, and what is the state of national urban policies in Europe. Moreover, the panellists reflect on the measurement tools of the implementation and how to make sure that the achievements of the SDGs are sustainable.


See below the discussion highlights of the UN-Habitat Urban breakfast panellists:

Birgit de Boissezon, Head, Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission

DG Research and Innovation research work in the spirit of participatory approaches by co-designing, co-implementation and co-evaluation of the solutions. The multi-level commitment of Europe in a holistic way is crucial. Birgit explained the setting up of the Urban Agenda for the EU and the mechanisms of the implementations-Partnerships and stressed the cross-cutting edge of the urbanisation across all Europe. On the research part, there is another set of opportunities that can support the Urban Agenda for the EU-these are projects where not only on cities but with cities. Such a project is the Smart Cities project and Nature-Based Solutions project where participating cities are asked to commit to implementing the plan which is co-designed with the DG Research and Innovation.


Alain Flausch, Secretary General, International Association of Public Transport (UITP)

 As a representative of the public transport and urban mobility, Mr Flausch summarised the challenges of the transport community is facing. Firstly he focused on the integration of all transport mode. Cities need a new mobility urban ecosystem for the sake of long-term urban planning. Secondly, in the fast-changing digitalised world, innovation became more important. Innovation, whether it is technological, behavioural or marketing-wise, needs to be ingrained in public transportation. And finally, the last challenge is how to finance such mobility urban ecosystems.


Paulius Kulikauskas, Chief, Office for Europe and European Institutions, United Nations Settlements Programme  (UN-Habitat)

"One of the interesting debates that started after the adoption of the New Urban Agenda was the sudden realisation that not everything is about the Sustainable Development Goal No. 11 but about the urban dimension of the Sustainable Development Agenda." The New Urban Agenda is one of the mechanisms to implement the 2030 Agenda, its urban dimension and to attains Sustainable Development Goals. Mr Kalkauskas noted that the Urban Agenda for the EU is surely aligned to the New Urban Agenda on many formal levels, mentioning the European Commission commitment towards implementing the New Urban Agenda in the EU. But he also stressed the importance of finding the way guiding the implementation in a much simpler framework.


Daniƫl Termont, Mayor of Ghent

The city of Ghent, as a very proactive city, represents a firm example on how a city can contribute not only to the 11th but all Sustainable Development Goals. The successful strategy lays firstly in informing, incentivising, and mobilising the people (fostering the competition with other cities), secondly in setting up the concrete projects with the relevant stakeholders (Ghent Mobility Plan), and thirdly in anchoring the SDGs within the city policy structure (a Road map towards the new local government). As a EUROCITIES representative, Mr Termont announced a Festival of Democracy coming up in May 2018 to be organised in more than 60 cities in Europe on the theme Future of Europe. The time has come when not only the voice of Member States is to be heard on the European or UN level, but of cities as well. The cities and mayors must be stronger involved in urban policy. That is why the Pact of Amsterdam with the Urban Agenda for the EU is a very important step for the EU policy-making.