Solar panel on balcony (c) SMG

3 Days to the World Congress: 5 Things to Look Forward To

The World Congress 2015 is nearly upon us, with participants from all over the world ready to talk about how to build a sustainable society. Reaching this goal requires an open-minded approach and the belief that we are not bound by our previous actions or by global economic forces.

Many ICLEI Members are already forging ahead. Today, innovative solutions can be found in fields such as transportation, water consumption, emissions reduction or energy management. These examples show us the way forwards. But more needs to be done.

In order to drive sustainability in our cities, we need initiatives designed to ensure economic inclusion as well as to encourage the participation of citizens. A sustainable urban future cannot be built by leaders alone and cannot be realized outside of society. For cities to become sustainable they must be just, and they will be just only when part of fair and equitable societies. Beginning with our World Congress, we are working with local governments to create a better world – thinking global and acting local.

The ICLEI World Congress 2015 will bring together representatives of 243 local and regional governments. They will share their innovations and initiatives on a huge range of topics: the future of urban China, city-business cooperation, public procurement, urban infrastructure, and so on. Here we highlight just five topics that participants can look forward to.

1. Cooperation between local and subnational actors

One of ICLEI’s founding and ongoing goals is to improve and extend cooperation between local and subnational actors. It is increasingly acknowledged that international and national policies can be effectively implemented only with local governments serving as the main agents of change. At the same time, cities cannot work in isolation, whether from other cities or from higher levels of government. The ICLEI World Congress will analyze at what stage of the political processes sub-national and local governments can benefit the most from the cooperation.

2. Citizen engagement

Citizens are better engaged at the local level than any other. In democratic societies, solutions for many urban problems often depend as much on public acceptance as on technical capacities. As societies transition away from fossil-fuel driven lifestyles, citizens will need to be meaningfully engaged in order for sustainable behavioral changes to be adopted and mainstreamed. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015, we’ll be discussing the obstacles to deepening citizen engagement and the possibilities that it raises.

3. Role of women in urban decision making

There is a pressing need for full and effective engagement of women in decision-making structures in order to build inclusive cities that combat social exclusion and inequalities, and guarantee all inhabitants full and equal rights to the city. At our World Congress, a special panel will discuss how local governments can foster women’s leadership and participation at all levels. The panel will lead participants through a series of key issues for women city leaders, looking especially at the underrepresentation of women in urban decision making. The session will also explore how early cooperation of women city leaders within ICLEI could support and advance the work of ICLEI Members.

4. How to finance sustainable solutions

To finance urban sustainability solutions, cities are increasingly diversifying their funding sources by directly accessing private capital. In one of the sessions at the World Congress, international organizations will explain why and how they make funding available for local government, and a multi-stakeholder panel discussion will examine where private capital can be most effective in achieving urban sustainability.

5. Looking ahead

More than anything else, our World Congress 2015 is about looking to the future. We are already working with local and regional governments to make change happen. But we are situating this progress within global trends. Based on the outcomes of sustainable development negotiations since Rio+20 in 2012, the UN Post-2015 Summit (September 2015) is expected to provide guidelines for policy priorities on global sustainable development for the next two decades. Towards the end of the Congress, one plenary will identify the potential opportunities and challenges that will emerge out of the post2015 development agenda, thus allowing all participants to align their efforts with the international movement.