What is U20?

More than half the world lives in urban areas presently, and cities will be home to about two thirds of the world population by 2050. As primary engines of growth across the globe, the influence cities can exert on the global development agenda is obvious. However, with millions of people living in dense urban areas, cities are also most vulnerable to impacts of climate change, disasters, environmental degradation, resources depletion, chaotic growth and socio-economic inequality. It is therefore the right time to utilize the potential of urbanisation as a catalyst to drive the ‘right’ kind of growth that is sustainable, inclusive and equitable.

India’s Presidency of the G20 is an opportunity to demonstrate that policies and practices adopted and propagated by cities indeed have powerful implications to achieve global agendas of development. Resonating with the G20 theme of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’, The Urban20 (U20) engagement group will emphasize that actions at the city level can drive lasting positive outcomes for the world.

U20 is a group of cities from the G20 countries and was first convened in Buenos Aires in 2018. Previous U20 cycles have brought forth the unique perspective of cities to the G20 and foregrounded vital urban issues through their purpose-driven Communiques drafted collectively by the participating cities. The past Communiques have explicitly underscored the urgency with which the cities have to act to ensure sustainable environments, healthy communities and social cohesion. The most recent Jakarta Communique called for stronger post-pandemic recovery that is sustainable, resilient and just. The present U20 cycle will build upon the legacy created by the preceding presidencies.

The effort of the sixth U20 is to move from intention to action and to draft a roadmap for global change that will be driven by cities by closing the gaps between policy and practice at all levels of governance. For this, cities have to be empowered to achieve the right balance between economic prosperity and environmental impact; increasing densities and sprawl; diversity and social cohesion; technological advancements and digital divide, and multiple other contradictions faced by urban areas. The UNSDG recognizes this decade as the ‘Decade for Action’ to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This decade is also witness that global issues of economy, climate, human settlements, health and multiple other crises are also issues of urban areas. Given the contribution of cities to the productivity of nations and the world, it is crucial that they play a pivotal role in developing effective solutions to pressing and interlinked global issues.

Ahmedabad as the Chair city for the sixth U20, invokes the solidarity of cities with the objective to deepen their collaboration amongst to collectively find common solutions that are in sync with the overall objectives of the G20. U20 highlights six priority areas that are critical for inspiring city level actions to respond to global agendas. These can be further developed by collaborative deliberations among Sherpas and leaders of U20 cities to finalize the Communique.

Some Priorities have been proposed to be foregrounded by the 6th U20 cycle. ‘Encouraging Environmentally Responsible Behaviors’ has been proposed for the realization of international treaties and protocols such as COP and SDGs. Achieving results on ground will require concerted action and behavioral change across the urban ecosystem i.e., in actions/policies of governments and in technological decisions made by industry. ‘Ensuring Water Security’ has been proposed as a priority area to reduce the vulnerability of water ecosystems. Water resource management is a top priority to ensure water security for future generations. ‘Accelerating Climate Finance’ is critical to support large-scale investments required to adopt measures to significantly reduce emissions and mitigate adverse effects of climate change. Cities lack the capacities for accessing such financing instruments and for these instruments to be impactful, the readiness of cities for attracting climate financing has to be accelerated.

‘Leveraging Local Potential and Identity’ works on the premise that thinking locally can help leverage traditional place-specific knowledge about sustainable building design, resource conservation practices, approaches to disaster management and other challenges. The push for local will have to be made on several fronts such as local economic development, boost to cultural and creative economies, protection of historic city fabrics and socio-economic networks, etc. ‘Reinventing Frameworks for Urban Governance and Planning’ is critical to explore innovative frameworks for planning and hybrid governance to develop shared infrastructures (airports, landfills, water supply, regional transit, etc.) and facilitate regional economic clusters. Promoting feasible models for implementing and financing renewal of different areas in the city, creating opportunities of plugging in principles of placemaking, sustainable mobility, circular economy, green buildings, disaster preparedness etc. can help combat the various externalities of urban. Finally, via ‘Catalyzing Digital Urban Futures’, digital platforms can connect citizens directly to governments thereby enhancing transparency and accountability and enabling evidence-based policies, programs, and projects. This provides the impetus to bring about transformational changes in governance, service provision and almost all aspects of urban living.

More on information on the legacy of Urban 20 can be found on this
website: https://www.urban20.org/
(managed by U20 global conveners - C40 Cities and UCLG)