Executive Board of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme First session of 2023

Dyfed Aubrey, Inter-regional Advisor at UN-Habitat, presenting on the Sustainable Development Goals Cities Certification

March 30, 2023, Nairobi, Kenya

The Executive Board of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme held its first session for the year 2023 from 28 to 29 March 2023.

During the Executive Board, the need for and possible benefits of the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Cities certification was discussed under Agenda item 8 – Normative and operational activities of UN-Habitat.

The discussion began with an introduction from Rafael Tuts, the director of the Global Solutions Division at UN-Habitat, who highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals Cities Certification responds to the urgent need to help cities get on track with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by promoting a systematic approach, marking key milestones in the process, and recognizing efforts and achievements.
Dyfed Aubrey, Inter-regional advisor at UN-Habitat, presented the Sustainable Development Goals Cities certification. He mentioned that the SDG Cities Certification responds to the need for cities to step up the realization of their transformative potential as a positive force for sustainable development, but recognizes that not all cities are aware of the SDGs, not all cities are incentivized to engage with global agendas, and not all cities are aware of frameworks such as the New Urban Agenda to guide them in the local implementation of the SDGs.

The SDG Cities Certification would be implemented in four stages that are as follows: Cities have effective data that reflect social, economic and environmental dimensions and have evidence-based, inclusive, participatory, and strategic development frameworks for 2030; Cities have effective enablers: They have taken stock of plans, regulations, governance system, revenue system, plans and are taking action to make them fit for purpose; and Cities are generating measurable SDG impact. The SDG Cities certification has the potential to become an instrument to motivate, support and build capacities of cities and local actors to accelerate progress on the achievement of the SDGs.

The presentation was followed by testimonials from Brisbane, Costa Rica, Mafra, and Ghana. Brisbane is the first Australian city to receive the SDG Cities Silver Certification and is hoping to learn and share best practices with other sustainable cities across the globe, to make their city and the rest of the world more livable, healthier, and safer. Costa Rica has created the Network of Cities Promoting the SDGs to encourage the localization of the SDGs and recognize cities’ efforts toward sustainable actions. The representatives from Costa Rica highlighted that SDG Cities supports Costa Rica in generating new ideas and connections between local governments around the world and guaranteeing that the United Nations can work harmoniously on the national and local levels in the country.

The mayor of Mafra, Hélder Sousa Silva stated that Mafra is strongly committed to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, having the privilege of being the first European city awarded the Silver Certification. With UN Habitat's support, he hopes more municipalities will join the SDG Cities Initiative around the world. The Ghanaian Deputy Minister for Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development stated that he sees the SDG Cities Programme in Ghana as a transformative initiative to fast-track the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He stated that the value of having a systematic approach to accelerate the achievement of SDGs, accompanied by technical support mechanisms, and the importance of certification is essential.

The testimonials were followed by interventions from Executive Board Members, Member States, and Observer States, including Costa Rica, Spain, Nigeria, Egypt, Portugal, Senegal, Germany, Argentina, South Korea, United States of America, France, India, Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Botswana, Switzerland, Finland, Ethiopia, Ukraine, and League of Arab States. The SDG Cities Certification was welcomed and while there were reservations regarding the certification costing, possible sources of financing, capacity building needs, and potential risks to its implementation, further discussions on the certification were encouraged.

To access the testimonials from cities, please check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYIzkPnIrmI