WEBINAR: Why we need a Global Urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)

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The world needs an Urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). As you already know from this blog post, and from signing this petition (please sign if you haven't already)- this goal is crucial to make cities more livable and resilient. And now, MAS NYC invites you to join us for a webinar where we will discuss this important topic.

Tuesday, May 6th
12PM - 1PM EST
Hosted by MAS Global
Moderated by Mary Rowe, Director, Urban Resilience and Livability, Municipal Art Society of New YorkWith Presenters:

Eugene Birch
Chair, World Urban Campaign
Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research Department of City and Regional Planning
Chair, Graduate Group in City and Regional Planning, co-Director, Penn Institute for Urban Research

Maruxa Cardama
Executive Project Coordinator, Communitas, Coalition for Sustainable Cities and Regions in the new UN Development Agenda

Christina Platt
President, Commonwealth Association of Planners

Cynthia Roenzweig
Senior Research Scientist NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Use Webinar ID: 129-428-907

Cities play a critical role in the future success of our societies, economies, and the environment worldwide. As the world continues to urbanize, global targets and objectives must be seen through an urban lens. At the Millennium Summit in 2000, the United Nations adopted eight international development goals to achieve by 2015 – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS).  The MDGS provide universal guidelines to mobilize member nations to alleviate the world’s environmental, social and cultural challenges, yet they fail to address a critical habitat in which most of the world’s population lives – our cities.

The 2010 MDG Summit and the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, initiated a process of creating a new global development agenda beyond 2015 and developing a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Bridging the two together, the UN developed a series of work streams designed to deliver the most effective recommendations for the new Sustainable Development Goals.  Of critical importance in this process, is the Open Working Group (OWG) which will present a proposal recommending a series of Sustainable Development Goals at the 68th session of the General Assembly in September 2014.

The democracy of livability and resilience

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By Mary W. Rowe

The challenge to building urban livability and resilience is truly a global one. By 2050, 7 out of 10 people around the world will live in cities, reaching 6.4 billion, double what it was only four years ago. Of that, more than half will reside in cities of more than 10 million people. In many parts of the world livability is seriously challenged: by the absence of good planning, the inadequate provision of basic amenities, and resource constraints. In order to generate the economic and social innovations that drive the global economy, sustain modern civilization and the planet, the world’s most intense and dynamic cities must become simultaneously more resilient and more livable.

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is a century-old advocacy organization concerned with the role of the physical city, specifically how it is planned, designed and managed –– in ensuring a livable city for all New Yorkers. In 2010 MAS began integrating resilience outcomes with this long-time focus on livability.

We observed that urban advocacy, much like municipal government departments, had become strictly siloed, isolating resilience to the purviews of engineers and scientists, and livability to advocates for culture and economic development. The need for shared approaches that benefit both has become an imperative for 21st century city-building, a movement that increasingly includes urbanists from every profession and walk of life who are engaged in place- making and problem-solving right outside their workplaces and front doors.

Further, granular hyper-local efforts to make urban neighbourhoods more livable and resilient are often over- looked by public bureaucrats and institutional investors looking for simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. But large-scale, unitary approaches are costly, very slow to approve, and are not fool- proof. And in fact, they may often crowd out more modest but equally effective hyper-local approaches that can be designed and adjusted quickly, easily adapted to local conditions, engage local communities directly, spawn spin-off innovations and generate a myriad of local economic, social and environmental benefits.

Truly livable and resilient cities are a mix of large-scale systems, which enable the city to function ‘at scale’, and granular innovations, that underpin those systems and ensure the city continues to adapt and thrive. Whether in cities where systems are intact, or in those where an absence of planning or investment has obstructed the creation of systems, the most effective and imaginative livability and resilience approaches emerge from ‘the local’.

People who live and work in neighbourhoods ultimately know best the opportunities and constraints that are present there. And while government, institutions and the private sector may seek and promote large-scale solutions, often local artists, entrepreneurs and activists are better equipped to respond nimbly and imaginatively, developing innovations quickly that can later be ‘scaled up’.

Democratizing the urban innovation process is one of the fundamental shifts taking place globally, shaping contemporary urban life everywhere. Tech entrepreneurs, street vendors, public health practitioners, urban farmers: urban innovators are emerging from all sectors of city life to create products, services and approaches that make our lives safer, more productive and enjoyable.

Engagement between government and a robust sector of civil society participants – drawn from the community, local businesses, artists and creative entrepreneurs, academia and other local institutions – is required to ensure that local responses to pressing challenges can be developed and applied. This is as true for the artisanal food producer working in Harlem, as it is for the technology entrepreneur in Mumbai: their global cities provide them with the opportunities to develop, test, market and apply their innovative product or process.

By increasing community capacity and providing a forum for the proliferation of ideas and innovations, cities can begin to build resilience and livability from the ground up.

Mary W. Rowe is the Director of Urban Resilience and Livability at The Municipal Art Society of New York. Connect with her on Twitter @Rowemw