United Nations launches guidelines for eco-efficient and socially inclusive cities

The United Nations today launched guidelines for making Asia-Pacific cities environment friendly and more liveable, at the start of a regional mayors’ forum on sustainable urban infrastructure here.

Prepared jointly by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and the Urban Design Lab of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, the Guidelines for developing eco-efficient and socially inclusive infrastructure provide practical tools for city planners and decision-makers to reform urban planning and infrastructure design according to the principles of eco-efficiency and social inclusiveness.

Asia-Pacific city mayors, top government officials and decision-makers attending the Third Asia-Pacific Mayors’ Forum on Environmentally Sustainable Urban Infrastructure in Suncheon from 30 to 31 August are discussing key challenges, sharing experiences and identifying priority areas for making urban infrastructure more sustainable. Organized by ESCAP, the forum is also showcasing innovative practices for promoting sustainable infrastructure and developing competitive and liveable Asia-Pacific cities.

“Cities in Asia-Pacific already suffer from severe environmental problems, while the basic needs of millions of citizens are yet to be met. The rapid urbanization of the region poses an even greater challenge for providing services to all,” says United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Noeleen Heyzer in her foreword to the Guidelines. “We need to urgently promote eco-efficiency and social inclusiveness to make our cities competitive, vibrant and liveable.”

Addressing the Mayors’ forum, Rae Kwon Chung, Director, ESCAP Environment and Development Division said choices made in urban infrastructure development today will be critical for the future sustainability of cities. “Cities in Asia-Pacific are at a crossroads: the region needs to invest US$ 10 trillion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. Such investments will lock Asia-Pacific economies into patterns of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come.”

Investing in sustainable infrastructure will be a key driver for economic growth and employment, Mr Chung noted. “This also represents a unique opportunity for green growth.”

According to ECLAC, there is need for “a thoroughgoing change in the way cities function and develop” in order to maker them eco-efficient. “This will hinge upon cohesive decision-making which takes into account urban growth as a whole and the long-term implications of both public and private decision-making,” Ricardo Jordán, Economic Affairs Officer, Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, ECLAC told the Mayors’ forum.

Adopting eco-efficiency and social inclusiveness principles will also require strengthening governance and adopting a strategic planning approach to urban infrastructure development. “Sustainable urban infrastructure can only be built if we reconsider our strategic view of urbanization – if we rethink the future of cities,” says Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Dr. Joan Clos in his Guidelines foreword. “A new strategy based on more effective urban planning, strengthened local institutions and governance processes as well as enhanced economic contribution of cities is needed.”