The Urban Dimension of Six Global Agreements: A Critical Reflection

During 2015-16, six global agreements were reached by UN Member States that have relevance to urban sustainable development issues: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate action, the World Humanitarian Summit, and the New Urban Agenda (Table 1).

Not all enjoy the same level of commitment from the signatories, and of these, the 2030 Agenda is the most comprehensive and ambitious global agenda; its 17 SDGs and 169 targets set a clear framework for tackling the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development. The agreements have, within their texts, the details of a shared vision for inclusive cities. If all commitments were implemented, they would solve almost all urban problems, avoid dangerous climate change, and, as the SDGs promise, leave no one behind. At the same time, these agreements are very ambitious and include some internal sectoral and scalar tensions. In addition, the limited attention to operational connections among objectives weakens the ability to identify priority interventions and may undermine the overall effectiveness of these agendas.

Moreover, while all six agreements recognize the importance of local and regional government in implementation, there is little clarity on how much the achievement of goals and commitments is the responsibility of government bodies operating at the subnational level. As a result, it is unclear how the global agendas will operate in cities and other urban centres.

This brief explores how the global agreements relate to cities and reflects on the extent to which they provide a framework for action on sustainable urban development that can be bought into and implemented by governments at the national, local, and regional levels. It proposes potential ways to use the global frameworks to better engage local actors to contribute to more inclusive, sustainable cities.


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