Global agenda requires local implementation

The importance of cities for global development is growing as the world becomes more urbanized. Therefore, global challenges must be tackled at the local level. Today marks the start of Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Urban Development, in Ecuador's capital Quito. Nordic cities can and should take the lead in the transition to sustainable development - let the conference be the starting point for this, write Johan Hassel and Elin Andersdotter Fabre from the think tank Global Challenge.

In the next generation, at least 70 percent of the earth's population is estimated to live in cities. Already today, 1 in 7 of the cities' inhabitants live in urban slum areas. In addition, 70 percent of the world's energy consumption takes place in cities, but this is also where 70 percent of countries' GDP is generated. This means that cities play a crucial role in the pursuit of global sustainable development and in implementing the Paris Agreement (from the COP21 climate summit) and the UN's global goals for sustainable development. That is why cities must come into focus.

Global Challenge has recently completed its study Nordic Urban Ways which is launched today, in connection with the launch of Habitat III. The study is based on goal 11 in Agenda 2030 on sustainable cities and examines whether, and in what ways, leadership has been crucial in driving a number of Nordic cities in a sustainable direction. Quite simply how you went from vision to implementation.

In several areas, the Nordic cities can be seen as good examples in a global context, not least when it comes to working for a more sustainable development independent of financial resources. The report's primary conclusion is that collaboration is the main success factor for Nordic urban development, which is fully in line with goal 17 on partnership.

Cities as magnificent specimens

Cities are also particularly interesting when it comes to development new Partnership for the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement. At the local level, collaboration often takes place more naturally than at the national level because proximity and dependence are greater. Cities can therefore more easily be used to test new ideas for collaboration in practice, and thus serve as positive examples to emulate in the national implementation of global environmental and sustainability goals.

That all 17 Global Goals belong together becomes very clear in Goal 11 on sustainable cities. In cities, most energy is produced (goal 7), where production and consumption take place (goal 12), our health is taken care of (goal 3) and children and young people receive an education (goal 4). Partnership is therefore not just an opportunity, but a necessity in the implementation of Agenda 2030.

Studies Nordic Urban Ways has also identified areas where we in Sweden and the Nordic countries do not measure up. This applies above all to the social dimension of sustainability (socio-economic well-being, housing situation, civic participation and equality). In order for Agenda 2030's 'leave no one behind' commitment to become a reality, we must therefore invest especially in social sustainability - and above all in women in socio-economically disadvantaged suburbs who otherwise risk falling between the cracks.

Habitat III - an important complement to Agenda 2030

We dare say that the global sustainability agenda is local. Most of the Global Goals have clear links to sustainable cities. Global Challenge sees the UN Conference on Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, as a prerequisite for realizing the "urban dimension" of Agenda 2030. The conference provides an opportunity for knowledge and experience exchange, between cities and countries, and Global Challenge has pushed for an active Swedish participation. Therefore, it feels hopeful that Sweden is now showing clear political ownership in the issue.

It is also positive that the final document from Habitat III, negotiated by UN member states, The New Urban Agenda, is already in the current situation much more detailed than, for example, goal 11 in Agenda 2030, and that the follow-up can thus be more focused on how good urban development should take place. Even more gratifying is that The New Urban Agenda so clearly reflects the importance of inclusion of vulnerable groups, gender equality, equality and the right to housing - "the right to the city". In this way, the final document becomes an important complement to the Global Goals. Now we just hope the process to follow up The New Urban Agenda will be as inclusive as the preparation of the document.

If the world states row in port the final document from Habitat III will be a good yardstick for how a good city for everyone should look like, also for Sweden and the Nordic countries. Because despite some successes, Sweden needs a paradigm shift. We must strategically start moving from building the city for the car to developing cities that put people at the center and live up to real needs.

Johan Hassel and Elin Andersdotter Fabre

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

Do you want to respond to the debate article or is there something in the text that is incorrect? Contact us at

Share this:

Help us improve Utvecklingsmagasinet

Answer our survey so we can continue to run and develop our digital magazine. It only takes a couple of minutes to answer the survey.

Start a survey