The UN Global Compact Cities Program for Sustainable Cities
The UN Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. By doing so, business, as a primary driver of globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere. The Global Compact is a practical framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices, offering participants a wide spectrum of management tools and resources — all designed to help advance sustainable business models and markets.
The Global Compact Cities Programme launched in 2003 is dedicated to the promotion and adoption of the Global Compact’s ten principles by cities, and provides a framework for translating the principles into day-to-day urban governance and management.
The Cities Programme offers cities the opportunity to practically implement the ten principles at a city-wide level, translating these values into concrete and positive outcomes for their communities. Whilst the Global Compact focusses on engaging the business sector, the Cities Programme recognizes that government and the civil sector are equally important and active stakeholders in achieving sustainable outcomes for society and the success of the two are interlinked.
Administered by an International Secretariat based at the Global Cities Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the Global Compact Cities Programme provides unique expertise and guidance to participating cities. The Cities Programme offers three levels of engagement: Signatory, Leading and Innovating. Each successive level involves a progression in terms of the commitment by the city council. A city may choose to join at any level.
Signatory City: In a letter to the UN Secretary-General from the highest-level city leader, a Signatory City commits to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, endeavors to enact and promote those principles in city management, and encourages businesses in the city to join the UN Global Compact.
Leading City: Leading Cities generally have a dedicated city or regional sustainability plan with a holistic approach, are forward-looking in their activities and strategy. This designation is established by communicating a city’s interest directly with the Cities Programme Secretariat.
Innovating City: An Innovating City, beyond the commitments of Levels 1 and 2 above, undertakes a multi-year project to address a complex or seemingly intractable issue within the city linked to the ten principles. The development and management of the project is done using the Cities Programme methodology – which includes tools that facilitate collaborative partnerships and the establishment of rigorous monitoring and evaluation processes. Dedicated support is provided by the Cities Programme Secretariat. A fee is associated with this level of engagement which is invested into further development of research methodologies and related activities undertaken by the International Secretariat and made available to Innovating Cities.
US Cities participating in the Programme
Milwaukee and San Francisco are the only two North American cities in the UNGCCP- an elite list of only 13 cities worldwide gaining admission into the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme (UNGCCP). The City of Milwaukee joined the program in 2009. Milwaukee’s proposal focused on managing limited fresh water resources through water technology and science, a plan that prioritizes, implements, and monitors the activities of a number of integrated sub-projects that make a difference in water quality for the Milwaukee and the surrounding region. Admission into the UNGCCP is the latest evidence of Milwaukee’s emergence as a global hub for fresh water technology expertise and industry. In 2006, the City of San Francisco became the first U.S. city to join the UN Global Compact’s Cities Programme and proposed to create a UN Global Compact Center devoted to research and development related to climate change and sustainable and clean technologies.
How Can Cities Participate
Cities accepted into the program submit proposals to address complex challenges common to most urban areas. The City Council pledges to support the ten principles within their organization, and to report on engagement activities they undertake in support of the Global Compact. The following outlines eight ways in which cities can engage and participate:
- Implement and promote the ten principles of the UN Global Compact in the management and administration of the city or region;
- Support businesses and other stakeholders in establishing or implementing sustainability initiatives that are transparent and beneficial to the city, region and/or greater community;
- Have a dedicated sustainability plan that incorporates that incorporates the three dimensions (social, economic, and environmental) of sustainability;
- Acknowledge participation in the Global Compact publically and promote the initiative and the ten principles;
- Engage in Global Compact Local Network activities;
- Utilize assessment tools and methodologies developed by the Global Compact Cities Programme, and share knowledge and innovations developed with the use of these tools. This can be done in the form of annual reporting or press releases.
- Engage at the Leading level of the Global Compact Cities Programme; and/or
- Engage at the Innovating level – undertaking a multi-year project to address a complex or seemingly intractable issue(s) within the city or region.
The Future of Cities
The Cities Programme focuses on collaboration between all levels of government, business and civil society in order to enhance sustainability, resilience, diversity and adaptation within cities and in the face of complex urban challenges. The Cities Programme in April 2014 in Medellín, Colombia hosted four sessions at the UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum (WUF7): Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life which drew over 20,000 attendees from around the world, including Heads of State, governors, mayors, as well as representatives from business and civil society. WUF7 was a platform for discussions around the role of sustainable urbanization within the context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. On this occasion of WUF7, the Cities Programme announced a new partnership with the Pan American Federation of Architects (FPAA) – a non-profit organization which unites architectural organizations from all parts of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean – to help improve the quality of urban life and tackle complex challenges across economic, ecological, political and cultural spheres.
For cities tackling the challenges of sustainable development, being a signatory to this Programme will open up lines of communication and the exchange of best practices with other cities of the world. Sustainability is more about systems thinking- looking at the problem from all angles and perspective rather than from a single lens! It is understanding how to fit different parts of the puzzle to solve a problem- local or global!
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
I see the outcomes of Duke Pond as a representation of the importance of the profession of landscape architecture in today’s world. Once obscured by the glaring light and booming voice long-generated by building architects, landscape architects are steadily emerging as the designers needed to tackle complex 21st century problems. As both leaders and collaborators, their work is addressing the effects of rising sea level on coastal cities, creating multi-modal pedestrian and vehicular transportation systems to reduce carbon emissions, reimagining outdated infrastructure as great urban places, and as with the case of Duke Pond, mitigating the impacts of worsening drought.
AI has enormous potential to improve the lives of billions of people living in cities and facing a multitude of challenges. However, a blind focus on the technological issues is not sufficient. We are already starting to see a moderation of the technocentric view of algorithmic salvation in New York City, which is the first city in the world to appoint a chief algorithm officer.
There are 7 primary forces determining the success of AI, of which technology is just one. Cities must realize that AI is not the quick technological fix that vendors sell. Not everything will be improved by creating more algorithms and technical prowess. We need to develop a more holistic approach to implementing AI in cities in order to harness the immense potential. We need to create a way to consider each of the seven forces when cities plan for the use of AI.
In New Zealand, persistent, concentrated advocacy and legal cases advanced by Māori people are inspiring biocentric policies; that is, those which recognize that people and nature, including living and non-living elements, are part of an interconnected whole. Along the way, tribal leaders and advocates are successfully making the case that nature; whole systems of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, and more, deserves legal standing to ensure its protection. An early legislative “win” granted personhood status to the Te Urewera forest in 2014, which codified into law these moving lines:
“Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty … Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.”
The Te Urewera Act of 2014 did more than redefine how a forest would be managed, it pushed forward the practical expression of a new policy paradigm.