On 14 and 15 November, in Barcelona, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) took part in the Smart City Expo World Congress 2017. This event gathers together local leaders, businesses, public authorities, research centres and civil society to establish new agreements and find common solutions to achieve the Global Goals in cities. UCLG is also one of the institutions supporting this event, together with UN-Habitat, the European Commission and Barcelona Provincial Council, among others.
During the session on “Leveraging the Potential of City Networks”, which took place on 14 November, the challenges faced by local and regional governments were shared with other international organizations that also work to represent local voices at the global level, such as C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI South America, EUROCITIES and the National Front of Mayors (FNP, Brazil).
Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments, Josep Roig, highlighted the need to “ensure that the stakeholders and representatives closest to citizens have greater decision-making power and resources to deal with the issues that closely affect the population” through democratic transparency.
In the same context, Rodrigo de Oliveira, Director General of ICLEI in South America, stressed how important it is for international organizations that represent local governments to attend congresses such as the Smart City Congress since “this helps to understand the challenges that cities face in all frameworks, such as data transparency and dialogue between different stakeholders”, and that, by doing so, this will ensure that there is democracy and local decision-making in global agendas.
With the view that the key is to form connections between cities to set up projects, Pablo Oliveira from the National Front of Mayors, stated “how important examples of cooperation between Mozambique and Brazil, which produced real change in local public policies and in strategic planning, are to Brazilian mayors”.
The Director of Global Initiatives, Shannon Lawrence, also contributed to the debate by saying that “networks are key in making local governments strategic implementers of urban policies, such as those presented at congresses like this one".
Finally, EUROCITIES emphasized the importance of events for local and regional networks which provide knowledge on Smart Cities based on real experiences, in order to prepare for the new challenges of local development.
Josep Roig closed the session following a debate between participants and moderators, during which it was concluded that “Peer-to-Peer Learning” has a positive impact, that is, city-to-city learning to work by developing together even with limited resources from south to south; for example, the technical visit that Brazilian mayors made, on Monday 13 November, to public institutions in Barcelona in order to gain an insight into other local realities that they could then apply to their own context.
Wednesday 15 November began with the session on “Making Safer, Smarter and Healthier Cities”. During the session chaired by Emilia Saiz, UCLG Deputy Secretary General, participants presented different policies on air quality, noise pollution, and other urban health issues, that are being implemented in their respective cities.
Rob Meikle, Chief Information Officer at the city of Toronto, Canada, focused on the role of cities on the international stage, stressing that “cities from all over the world must be globally competitive. This creates the chance for us to rethink democracy and to see it from the citizens’ perspective”.
In addition, Karine Dognin-Sauze, Vice-President, Innovation, Smart City and Digital, of the city of Lyon, France, underscored the importance of city-to-city learning as well as cities’ potential to act as urban laboratories, and she added “for us, a digital city has three dimensions; the first is the existence of disaggregated data so that cities have access; the second involves adopting a collaborative approach to include everyone; and the third exploiting advantages such as culture and identity”.
Tri Rismaharini, Mayor of Surabaya, emphasized that “making cities safer and resilient is not only a government-level task; rather, stakeholders are key to achieving this”.
The panel also included representatives from the private sector, including Joe So, Chief Technology Officer at Huawei, who noted that “the main obstacle which cities face today is insufficient funds for innovation. We have to create a common ecosystem which works with different stakeholders”. Austin Ashe, General Manager of Intelligent Cities for Current powered by General Electric highlighted that “it is the local community which has the skills and capacity to build the smart city”.
To close the session, Emilia Saiz stated that we are at a pivotal time when the urban-rural dichotomy is becoming less distinct and emphasized that “city networks like UCLG are key to achieving sustainable development in cities. We have to work with different stakeholders, if we want to achieve the Global Goals”.
- Visit the website of Smart City Expo World Congress 2017