United Nations, May 30: If the battle to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to be won in cities, then they need to "achieve a lasting impact on communities and to ensure that no one is left behind," the head of the UN agency dealing with sustainable urban development said.
Opening the high-level session of the first UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme, UN-Habitat, explained that innovation – which she defined as "new knowledge and solutions to improve living conditions for all in cities and communities" – is the central theme of the Assembly because cities, which drive national economies by "creating prosperity, enhancing social development and providing employment," can also be breeding grounds for poverty, exclusion and environmental degradation.
Therefore, she said, cities "will have to continue to drive innovation in ground-breaking ways," for the benefit of all, as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN’s blueprint for ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring peace and prosperity for all.
Innovative and smart solutions are part of the reasons that cities and regions grow prosperous, added Ms Mohd Sharif, asking delegates to consider how to promote smart urban technologies that can handle the major systems a city requires ─ such as water, transport and clean energy ─ to improve the quality of life for all citizens; how countries should create an environment that encourages innovative solutions to poverty; and how best to make use of new knowledge to better serve communities.
UN-Habitat, said Mohd Sharif plans to become a centre of excellence and innovation that "sets the global discourse and agenda on sustainable urban development," which generates "innovative, specialized and cutting-edge knowledge."