Launching soon: A way for cities to exchange ideas on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals


As Citiscope reported this week, cities are increasingly viewed as key to translating the high-level policy aims of the new Sustainable Development Goals into reality for hundreds of millions of people. So there is a growing recognition of the need for innovative local-level solutions to deal with complex problems.

Now, there’s a new initiative aimed at spreading the word about local initiatives on implementation of the SDGs. At a forum last month in South Korea, three groups — the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and CityNet (The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements) — announced the creation of a new online platform. It’s aimed at helping cities find ways in which others are responding to the urban components of the SDGs — and to share their own success stories.

The project, called the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform, will begin operating later this year. I caught up with CityNet’s Sayel Cortes by email to find out more.

Carey L. Biron: What can you tell us about when the platform will launch and how it will be structured?

Sayel Cortes: An initial “beta” opening of the platform is being considered for October 2016. Hopefully after one to two months of open testing, the platform can be officially launched. Initially CityNet, UN-ESCAP and Seoul Metropolitan Government will be working closely with our partners to add contributions before the official launch of the platform.

Once the platform is launched, cities and organizations will be invited to contribute with relevant policies. The platform will also be open for the general public to comment and learn about these policies. The contributions will be through a form in the online platform and will include the possibility to add complementary files or links so people interested in the platform can learn more about it.

Q:  Is the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform unique, or are there other such initiatives afoot as well?

A: There are a lot of knowledge platforms online. However, we believe this will be the first one focused specifically on cities and the SDGs.

This is very important because cities have been recognized as a key actor to implement the SDGs. “Localization” of the SDGs will mean coming up with policies that can readily be implemented at the local level to support the global SDGs. We think this platform can be a great contribution by helping compile and share current and future city policies that support the SDGs.

Q: Is there any prospect of expanding the platform beyond the Asia-Pacific region?

A: Technically the platform can incorporate information from cities all over the world. The reason we are focusing in Asia-Pacific is because in this way we can connect the knowledge being shared with our current programs and thus make a faster jump from knowledge sharing to implementation. However, all the organizers are OK with cities outside of Asia-Pacific also contributing information and learning from the Asian experience.

Q: Why did CityNet decide to get involved this project? What’s the long-term vision for this project?

A: CityNet’s work is based on city-to-city cooperation, more specifically on providing technical knowledge to our members to improve in terms of urban sustainable development. We usually do this through a series of workshops, technical visits, seminars and a few communication channels. This knowledge-sharing platform will be a very important tool for us to be able to put the experience of our members into an easily accessible website.

We will use this information to support our existing programs — for example, identifying interesting policies or cities that could later be invited to share them in our workshops. In this way, CityNet’s long-term vision for the knowledge-sharing platform is as a one-stop destination to find resources of city policies which will be very helpful to improve our other programs.

Q: There are many urban components of the SDGs. Why is the platform focused specifically on SDG 11?

A: This is one aspect that has been changing through the development of the platform. Actually, now the platform will accept contributions related to any SDGs. The idea to focus on SDG 11 was because of the city focus of the platform. However as you mention, there are urban elements in all the SDGs and that was the reason why we decided to let the platform be open to contributions in any SDG.

[See: Here’s the list of Sustainable Development Goals that have a role for cities]

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Carey is news editor for Citiscope.  Full bio

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