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The annual Cities Conference seeks be a strategic platform for dialogue which supports the implementation and monitoring of the New Urban Agenda, and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Objectives (SDGs), particularly SDG 11, in Latin America and the Caribbean, while also contributing to fulfillment the Paris Agreement, and the Sendai Framework, among others global agendas.
This year’s conference addressed the need to better integrate urban planning, management and financing with mobility and transport systems in Latin America and the Caribbean to achieve sustainable urban development. As a clear objective, it aimed to enhance the understanding and importance of safe, affordable and sustainable urban mobility and transport as part of the Regional Action Plan for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean (RAP), the New Urban Agenda, the SDGs, and the Paris Agreement, among others.
Throughout the diverse sessions and activities, the conference sought to facilitate the exchange of good practices and policy recommendations to strengthen the institutional framework for sustainable urban mobility and explore the roles and responsibilities of different actors who can facilitate a sustainable transport agenda at both the national and subnational levels (development banks, the private sector, cooperation agencies, etc.). The sessions focused on critical topics such as: national urban mobility policies (NUMPs); sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs); equality and gender issues with special attention to women in mobility; health and active mobility; improving access to international and local financing; public-private partnerships; smart urban mobility; and monitoring urban mobility, among others. Additional to these strategic and thematic discussions, the Community of Regional Practice for Sustainable, Low Carbon Urban Mobility was launched at the conference.
The Cities Conference II was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Assembly of Ministers and High Authorities on Housing and Urban Development of Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) in conjunction with the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), and Despacio, with the support and collaboration of EUROCLIMA+, the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the French Regional Cooperation for South America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, GIZ-BMZ in the framework of the “Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative”, the Women in Movement Initiative (IMEM), the Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and Associations of Local Governments (FLACMA), and the SALURBAL, “Salud Urbana en America Latina” (Urban Health in Latin America) project.
Regional Action Plan and Urban Mobility
The Regional Action Plan for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean (RAP) seeks to be the regional expression of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the SDGs. It promotes evidence-based policy making, setting out potential actions and interventions as well as relevant and priority policy guidance for all Latin American and Caribbean countries towards the achievement of sustainable urban development. The RAP supports a shift towards a new urban paradigm that recognizes the city as a macro-level public good, where the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of all are guaranteed. Importantly, the RAP recognizes the need for major changes in many areas of urban and territorial planning and management and other relevant sectors, and it promotes new policies, programs and projects to achieve sustainable urban and territorial development.
The RAP provides a roadmap for widespread action that supports sustainable urban and territorial development and the establishment of a new, more equitable urban paradigm in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is intended as a regional guide, both adaptable to local conditions and needs, and capable of building synergies with existing global agreements and agendas beyond the NUA, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction, the Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, and the Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway for Small Island Developing States.
Urban mobility and transport systems are critical components of sustainable development and are recognized by the NUA as central for achieving sustainable urban development. The way we move people and freight has significant implications for our sustainable development path and is a particular challenge facing Latin America and the Caribbean. The transport sector is a primary consumer of fossil-fuel energy, emitter of greenhouse gases and significantly contributes to premature deaths related to air pollution, most of which are attributed to motorized vehicles.
The general configuration of cities in terms of form, structure and function has been highly influenced by the dominance of private motorized transport infrastructure, facilities and services. Such a development model has seen economic, social and environmental inequalities exasperated by inefficient transport systems and limited mobility options in the region. For example, spatial segregation and public transport systems that favors higher income sectors are two factors that see bus commutes in the region taking 50% – 220% longer than car journeys (CAF 2016). Additionally, such inequalities in urban mobility disproportionally affect women. A recent ECLAC study (2017) shows that there are gender differences in the modal split of urban mobility in the region: public transport and walking represent a larger share of women’s journeys compared to men, while private mobility options like automobile and motorcycle are more frequent in men than women. Providing safe, affordable and quality public transport is therefore, a means to achieve to greater equality, in particular for women.
However, without concerted and coordinated action, this pattern will only continue to escalate. Motorized vehicle ownership is growing exponentially in the region, and estimates suggest that the region’s total motor vehicle fleet could triple in the next 25 years (UNEP, 2017). This has serious implications for land consumption, urban sprawl, gender equality and overall sustainability. Additionally, unhealthy air and noise pollution levels, increasing commute times, congestion and traffic related deaths and injuries resulting from urban transport and inadequate infrastructure pose serious environmental and public health concerns across the region and affect efficiency and cost of doing business. Public transport availability and affordability and the need to better incentivize active mobility such as walking and cycling, as well as shared transport and multimodal options, among others, are key issues. There is an important need for more safe and inclusive urban mobility, which includes road safety, as well as safety when using public transports systems. Public transport stations and stops and their surrounding public spaces are often places of insecurity, particularly for women and girls in the region, which affects their equal access and enjoyment of the city.
Greater coherence is necessary across the multitude of actors and sectors that influence and drive urban development in order to transform urban mobility. Coordinated action from the public and private sectors in Latin America and the Caribbean is key to solving mobility challenges, automobile dependency and appropriate regulatory environments. The policy decisions we make today will determine the state of urban mobility and transport over the next 10 to 20 years, and as such are fundamental for achieving the goals associated with the New Urban Agenda, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, among other global agreements.
The overall objectives for the Cities Conference II were:
To support the widespread, systematic and accelerated implementation of safe, affordable and sustainable urban mobility in the LAC region, specifically related to the development of sustainable urban mobility plans, management and financing mechanisms.
Key objectives and desired outcomes:
- Support the implementation and providing follow up and review for the NUA y and the urban dimension of the SDGs in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on achieving safe, affordable and sustainable urban mobility
- Consolidate the importance of achieving sustainable urban mobility for the national and subnational implementation of the Regional Action Plan.
- Deepen knowledge and understanding of the importance of sustainable urban mobility and transport systems for all, for gender equality and healthy cities in the wider framework of the NUA
- Increased attention to the role of National Urban Mobility Policies (NUMPs) and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) and their importance for sustainable urban development in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Exchange and dissemination of methodologies, concepts and strategies to develop NUMPs and SUMPs and associated projects in the LAC region;
- Exchange and dialogue on mobilizing financial resources at the international, national and subnational scales, as well as the role of the private sector for the implementation of NUMPs and SUMPs and associated projects in the LAC region
- Exchange and dialogue on the need for smart urban mobility and how to monitor urban mobility in the region
- Strengthen the Community of Regional Practice for Sustainable, Low Carbon Urban Mobility
- Shared understanding of the EUROCLIMA+ Program activities and next steps
- Advance the regional contribution to the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue and the expansion of Global Climate Action Transport Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Cities Conference brought together diverse actors from the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, including sub-national and national government representatives, civil society actors, NGO´s, private sector and academia, among other stakeholders. It invited international agencies and organizations whose work relates to dimensions of sustainable urban development, experts and academics on mobility and transport issues, representatives of the private sector and international cooperation, and others to participate in this event.
The Cities Conference II was conducted in Spanish and English.
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