The Inaugural High-Level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development was successfully held

The Inaugural High-Level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development was Successfully Held

On July 21, 2017, the first High-Level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development was held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China. This forum was guided by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), co-organised by United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and China Center for Urban Development (CCUD), and implemented by the Chengdu Municipal government. The Forum is the first practical project to implement the “Belt and Road” cooperation documents signed between the Chinese government and UN-Habitat.

In the Forum’s opening ceremony held in the morning of July 21, Vice Governor of Sichuan Province Yang Hongbo and Mayor of Chengdu Luo Qiang delivered welcome remarks. Yang stressed the Forum would have a profound and far-reaching impact on the flourishing Belt and Road Initiative, the new type of urbanization, faster shift in the model of urban development and growing urban sustainability. He promised Sichuan Province would make the best use of the Forum outcomes and bring its urban development onto a higher level in order to realize comprehensive sustainable development.

In his address, Mayor Luo said Chengdu is committed to people-centered sustainable urban development which has been recognized by governments around the world. On behalf of Chengdu municipal government and people, he expressed warm welcome to all the delegates and wished the Forum a complete success.

Mr. Peng Sen, Vice Chairman of Financial and Economic Affairs Committee, National People’s Congress and former NDRC Vice Chairman, and Xu Lin, Director-General of the Development Planning Department, NDRC also made speeches in the opening ceremony.

In his speech, Vice Chairman Peng gave an analysis of important challenges facing urban development in China and offered his solutions. He argued that China’s urban development was over-reliant on input of production factors and resources, leading to serious urban malaise. Urban sustainable development has become essential to the transformation of Chinese cities. Peng believed that, globally speaking, sustainable development has also become an effective way for cities around the world to address challenges and win the future. New demands will come up as Chinese cities put more emphasis on sustainable development and science and technology makes further progress.

Director-General Xu pointed out countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” are in different stages of urbanization, which provides broad space of cooperation. In particular, developed countries and regions in advanced stages of urbanization have made pioneering and active explorations and developed some good technologies and institutional arrangements, which can serve as good reference for late-comer countries and regions in urbanization. At the same time, cultural diversity in different regions provides basis and space for mutual learning and exchanges among cities. Xu argued that, guided by the new Silk Road Spirit and on the basis of openness and inclusiveness, we need to work together for cities along the “Belt and Road” to carry on traditions and make innovations, realize sustainable development and win-win outcomes.

In his keynote speech, Dr Joan Clos, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, stressed that China’s urbanization is unique and important, providing valuable experience to sustainable development in the world. The United Nations pays close attention to the opportunities in the Belt and Road Initiative and hopes this initiative will share China’s experience and lessons with the rest of the world, contributing to peace and improvement of livelihood in the world.

The Forum also launched Pilot Cities of International Sustainable Development and released
The Chengdu Declaration. The CCUD and UN-Habitat agreed to jointly build five pilot cities of international sustainable development in China, namely Chengdu of Sichuan Province, Nanhu District of Jiaxing of Zhejiang Province, Langzhong of Sichuan Province, Libo County of Guizhou Province, and Chibei District, Changbaishan of Jilin Province. On behalf of the Forum, Yang Rong, UN-Habitat Inter-regional Adviser, announced The Chengdu Declaration on sustainable urban development. This declaration calls for building an inclusive and open environment for urban development, promoting sustained and steady urban economic development, practicing green and low-carbon urban development concepts, developing viable approaches to urban construction, explore a new urban governance model that is smart and sharing, and creating an international cooperation platform for sustainable development among cities.

In the following Mayors Dialogue on the New Urban Agenda, Long Yongtu, Chief Negotiator for China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and former Secretary General of Boao Forum for Asia, chaired panel discussion attended by distinguished delegates including Dr. Joan Clos, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director; Qiu Baoxing, Counsellor of the State Council, former Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-rural Development and Chairman of CSUS; Li Tie, CCUD Chairman and Chief Economist; Luo Qiang, Mayor of Chengdu; and Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of South Africa.

In the panel discussion, CCUD Chairman and Chief Economist Li Tie stressed the significance of the proposal on building featured towns in China given the large population in China’s urbanization, its different development system, and the important role of large and central cities. Li believed that featured towns meet the requirement of market in automatically cutting cost and divert population from big cities. Therefore, it is a market-correction process. Li pointed out many challenges facing town, small and medium-sized cities in their development, including policy constraints and inadequate infrastructure. Only after resolving institutional and infrastructure investment challenges can we clear the way for small and medium-sized Chinese cities to develop and create a pattern in which large, medium and small cities develop in synergy in urban agglomeration.

The panel discussion was followed by the High-level Dialogue: Sustainable Urban Development under the Belt and Road Initiative attended by Shen Chi, CCUD Deputy Director General, Mayor of Deyang Zhao Hui, UNIDO Senior Coordinator for South-South and Triangular Industrial Cooperation Gong Weixi, Chilean Ambassador to China Jorge Sievert Heine Lorenzen, Peruvian Ambassador to China Juan Carlos Capunay Chavez, Minister-Counselor of the EU Delegation to China Laurent Bochereau and Vice President of EU Chamber of Commerce Massimo Bagnasco. The dialogue was also chaired by Long Yongtu, Chief Negotiator for China’s accession to the WTO and former Secretary General of Boao Forum for Asia.

After the High-Level Dialogue, Qiu Baoxing, Counsellor of the State Council, former Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-rural Development and Chairman of CSUS, delivered a keynote speech entitled “Five Bottom Lines of Healthy Urbanization”. He argued that healthy urbanization stick to five bottom lines—balanced development of large, medium and small cities and towns, complementary and coordinated development of urban and rural areas, compact development space, no ghost city, and protection of cultural and natural heritages. Qiu believed these five bottom lines, China’s experience in urbanization, can also serve as good reference for the “Belt and Road” countries.

During the Forum, a number of thematic dialogues were held, including “Urban Drivers and Financial Innovation”, “Urban Resilience, Prosperity and Livability”, “Urban Culture and Unique Development”, “Urban Infrastructure Connectivity and Spatial Development”, “Urban Innovation and Sharing Economy”, “Urban Governance and Smart Cities”, “Featured Towns” and “City Cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative”.

In the press conference held the day before the Forum was opened, the World Health Organization announced that it would jointly launch “Sustainable Development and Health” pilot cities initiative along with the CCUD. In this initiative, the two organizations will jointly select pilot cities. In addition, they will jointly host an international summit on urbanization and health in 2018. China International Cities Development Alliance announced its alliance new media matrix. China Featured Towns Development Alliance was formally established.

Hundreds of senior representatives from international organizations, government departments, cities, academic institutes and corporations in more than 20 countries attended the Forum where Chinese and international cities’ shared concepts and models of sustainable development, exchanged development experience and practices, promoted best cases of urban development, and jointly explored cooperation models and mechanisms of urban sustainable development in the Belt and Road Initiative. As agreed by organizers of the Forum, Chengdu would be the host city of the 2018 High-Level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development.

Journalist from dozens of media organizations attended and covered the Forum, including Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television, China National Radio, Economic Daily, China Daily, Xinhuanet, Sina, Caijing, 21st Century Business Herald and Yicai.

Annex: Chengdu Decleration

In 2016, the world population reached 7.442 billion and the urbanization rate 54.3%. By 2050, the world population will hit 9.8 billion and urbanization rate 66%. Urbanization and information technology, the two defining trends in the 21st century, pose huge challenges in urban governance, human settlements, employment, infrastructure and basic public services. To build sustainable cities will be essential to sustainable development of cities and improvement of living standards around the world. Infrastructure connectivity of world cities as well as their experience sharing and cooperation on sustainable development will serve as a good example and reference to the Belt and Road international cooperation proposed by the Chinese government.

We gathered in Chengdu on July 21, 2017, for the first High-level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development. Focusing on the theme of “Sustainable Urban Development under the Belt and Road Initiative”, the forum discussed prospects and pathways of sustainable development for cities around the world. To this end, we will make efforts in the following areas:

1. Build an inclusive and open environment for urban development. Basic public services need to be provided and living conditions improved for all urban residents to ensure different groups of people to live and thrive in cities. Opportunities of skills and education need to be provided to workers to ensure equal access to economic resources for all. Equal access to development opportunities and outcomes needs to be provided for all to make cities socially more coherent.

2. Promote sustained and steady urban economic development. An enabling urban business environment need to be fostered, and pro-employment urban development policy implemented. Efforts need to be redoubled to increase employment and reduce poverty-stricken population in cities. We need to seize new development opportunities in the new industrial revolution, build new economic patterns in cities and maintain dynamic economic growth. We will improve the eco-chain of innovation and starting up business in cities so that innovation will become the main growth driver behind urban development whose potentials will be fully released.

3. Practice green and low-carbon urban development concepts. We will advocate green, low-carbon, circular economy and sustainability in the way of urban production and living as well as in the model of urban construction and administration. We will make urban development and environmental protection more balanced. We will utilize land and resources in an efficient way, promote clean energy and sustainable model of consumption, and build resilient cities. Urban transport, energy, water supply and drainage, heating, sewage, and garbage disposal will be planned and built on the basis of green, circular and low-carbon development concepts.

4. Develop scientific and sound approaches to urban planning. We need to respect urban development rules, reasonably define the boundary of urban development in order to shift urban development from physical expansion and substantive improvement. Planning and management of urban space, surface, landscape and culture need to be improved to retain a city’s unique local environment, cultural features and architectural styles. A city’s internal layout needs to be more reasonable to make it more permeable and conducive to microcirculation. We must carry on a city’s history and culture by protecting its cultural heritages.

5. Explore an urban governance model that is sharing and innovative. We will promote the application of the Internet, the Internet of Things and smart technologies in urban governance, give full play to cyberspace’s role of connectivity, improve socialized services to citizens, and step up fine management in cities. We need to promote civility in cities, respect citizens’ right to know, participate and supervise in decision making on urban development. Enterprises and citizens need to be encouraged to participate in urban construction and administration in different ways to make a city truly co-governed, co-managed, co-built and co-shared.

6. Representative cities from different countries will be chosen to build a world city network of sustainable development cooperation with priority fields and action plans. Cooperation among countries and cities needs to be encouraged to jointly promote latest concepts, technologies and financial models of sustainable development. Efforts need to be stepped up to build mechanisms for bilateral and multilateral city-to-city cooperation, conduct international pilot cities of sustainable development, and organize the international forum on sustainable urban development regularly to share latest trends and challenges in sustainable development of cities around the world. This declaration serves a purpose to implement the “New Urban Agenda”.

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