Cities Forum 2017: working together for a sustainable future post-2020

  • cooperation
  • culture
  • economy
  • environment
  • knowledge society
  • mobility

The third cities forum took place in Rotterdam from 27-28 November, aboard the SS Rotterdam. The forum is the European Commission’s biennial event for and with cities. It brings together key stakeholders from European, national and local levels to debate the progress of the Urban Agenda for the EU.

This year, the debates also focused on investments tools for cities,  the urban dimension of cohesion policy as well as the EU response to the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda. The event saw strong support for the urban agenda for the EU and its continued implementation.

On the first day a number of workshops for the urban agenda partnerships were held all around the city.

The opening speech by EU Commissioner Corina Cretu focussed on making cities part of the solution in a post-2020 future by working together between different levels of government.

EUROCITIES has been actively involvedin the development and implementation of the urban agenda, including the 12 partnerships that are organised on different urban themes. It is important to have cities voices around the table when discussing policy outcomes that will have a tangible effect on people’s lives, and the cities forum helps to keep up the momentum.

Day 2 centred on the progress and future of the urban agenda, as well as the urban dimension of cohesion policy. 

Two videos, produced the day before, captured participants thoughts on the previous day’s debates. In the second video, Anna Lisa Boni, EUROCITIES secretary general, points out that cities need to be sitting around the table with the member states and the EU institutions to create a better Europe.

Karin Wanngård, vice president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Stockholm, took part in a panel debate on the Urban Agenda for the EU. She commented that "working with cities means working with citizens" and that, in line with the EUROCITIES campaign ‘Cities4Europe - Europe for citizens’. We need to rethink the way we are working in the EU and put citizens at the centre. The urban agenda recognises that boosting the role of cities helps to create a Europe that is ‘closer to the citizens’.

Ms Wanngård said that we need strong partnerships with broad buy-in from different partners to create sustainable actions for cities in the longer term. EUROCITIES has shown its commitment to this process and fully connected the work of the urban agenda partnerships with our working structures to allow more cities to contribute to and benefit from the outcomes.

As a reflection of the current momentum of cities, we were pleased to hear that the European Commission is planning to make urban policy a separate part of the post-2020 landscape.

The cities forum was also the occasion to launch a new platform, ‘urbis’, dedicated to helping cities get more support for urban investments. Cities of all sizes in all member states can apply for URBIS' support via a web page hosted on the European Investment and Advisory Hub.

In the afternoon, EUROCITIES organised a speednetworking session to showcase innovative urban practices, with over 100 interested participants and involvement from several cities, including: Barcelona, Bologna, Gdansk, Ghent, Lille, Madrid, Nantes and Rotterdam. 

A keynote address from Ms Daniela PATTI, co-founder and director of EUTROPIAN Urban research & action, covered many topics, including the need to design city services that are easy for people to use.

The sessions focussed on how cities can ‘innovate, inspire and exchange’ to cope with current economic and social transitions. Globalisation and technological change have profoundly transformed our economies and societies offering tremendous opportunities. The benefits and disadvantages, however, are quite unevenly spread, creating new, complex problems, the impacts of which are often concentrated in cities.

Cities are testing grounds for new, integrated and collaborative ways of designing solutions engaging and co-creating with citizens to produce better and lasting outcomes.

In a parallel session, the Covenant of Mayors, which EUROCITIES is also involved in, organsied a session on EU and global climate and energy objectives with and within cities.

The future of Europe, part and parcel of the discussions through the two days, featured more heavily with an early evening session that specifically looked at the urban dimension of cohesion policy. Stakeholders warmly welcomed the Commission’s reflections on creating a separate urban policy objective for the post-2020 programming period during the debate.

The connections between the EU and the New urban agenda as well as the Sustainable Development Goals were highlighted, and participants looked at how cities can contribute to achieve these goals. Given that 65% of the SDGS need cities’ involvement to be successful, dialogue with cities is key to delivering on the UN 2030 Agenda.

With this in mind, a key focus of the forum was on sustainable urban development through cooperation between the different levels of government. As the closest level of government to citizens, cities have a big role to play in areas, such as mainstreaming the SDGs into their local development plans, which has a direct impact on people’s lives.

A new OECD initiative for territorial measurement of SDGs at city level was mooted during one of the sessions, which EUROCITIES looks forward to finding out more about.