International delegates celebrate World Cities Day in Liverpool

World Cities Day was marked by an unprecedented 70 cities globally this year with the main event co-hosted in the British city of Liverpool by the local council, UN-Habitat and the city of Shanghai.

Ministers, mayors, national and local government officials, leading academics, journalists and representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations from more than 20 countries gathered at the imposing St. George’s Hall in Liverpool for a day of discussions, workshops and presentations on the challenges and successes on this year’s theme – “Building Resilient and Sustainable Cities”.

World Cities Day which was first celebrated five years ago in Shanghai aims to raise international awareness about sustainable urbanization and has received strong support from the Government of China. This was the first time it has been celebrated in the UK – and the second time in Europe.

In her keynote speech Ms Mainumah Mohd Sharif, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat stated that building resilience was not only a necessity but also a wise investment. UN-Habitat was calling for clear and concrete action to “protect urban populations today, tomorrow and in the future,” she said.

During the meeting, the fourth edition of the Shanghai Manual, a resource for decision makers on sustainable urban development was launched by the Mayor of Liverpool, the UN-Habitat Executive Director and leader of the Chinese delegation Ms Tian Sainan, Deputy Secretary General, Party Committee of Urban-Rural Construction and Communication Work of Shanghai Municipality who said they hoped the manual would be widely useful. Professor Zhu Dajin of Tonghai University and the Mayor of the city of Xuzhou which this year won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour, also made presentations to the conference.

Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, said progress often left people behind and it was important that in talking about sustainability and economic regeneration we remember the need to regenerate and create communities that make people feel included in growth. Shaik Hussam bin Khalifa Al Khalifa President of the Court of HRH the Prime Minister of Bahrain said his country was recognized as a pioneering nation in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and creating a conducive environment for effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Abdelwahid Temmar the Minister of Housing, Urban Planning and Cities of Algeria said his country was directing all its efforts towards accomplishing resilience within all cities nationally.

For the first time ever, there were live links to some of the events taking place in other cities. In the morning, the Liverpool conference linked to Glasgow where over 60 of the region’s leaders and decision makers were meeting and in the afternoon to the UNESCO event in Paris. There were also breakout sessions on various forms of resilience – Economic, Social, Environmental and Disaster Mitigation.

The Economic resilience session with panelist from the UK, Ghana and US discussed poverty reduction, the informal economy, job creation and attracting investment; the Environmental resilience session with representatives from UK, Bahrain, China, India covered bringing nature into the city, green infrastructure, changing planning and policies and engagement with private sector.

The social resilience workshop with panelists from Brazil and Nigeria among others looked at the key role of local authorities and national governments, high cost of living, need for urban solutions including employment and investing in the poor, while in the workshop on disaster and mitigation participants from Japan, Lebanon and Nepal spoke about the challenges of migration and refugee influx, earthquake humanitarian response and reconstruction, and the difference between resilience in urban and rural areas.

At the end of the conference the UN-Habitat Executive Director encouraged potential host cities for 2019 World Cities Day to express their interest saying more details will shortly be available on the UN-Habitat website.