RIYADH: The G20’s urban engagement group, U20, discussed its main findings and proposed recommendations during the group’s final meeting before its main summit in Riyadh in September.
Fahd Al-Rasheed, the chairman of U20 and president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh, welcomed the ideas and recommendations generated during the two-day meeting, which was organized by the cities of Riyadh and Houston. The final list of recommendations that will be submitted to the leaders of the G20 nations will be agreed during the summit, which will be attended by the mayors of the 44 participating cities.
“We conclude two important days of meetings, discussions and dialogue with city representatives, our partners and our counterparts in the G20,” said Al-Rasheed. “We are working together to draft a final statement that will be presented during the summit to the mayors of the (participating cities) in preparation for adopting it and raising it with the leaders of the G20 countries, to provide them with a clear map and to highlight the pivotal role of cities in advancing economic recovery.”
He added that the work of the U20 will help city authorities to formulate and implement strategies and plans to address urban challenges and create development plans.
“Here, in the Saudi capital, our plans are based on four main axes: the economy, transportation, sustainability, and arts and culture,” said Al-Rasheed. “We aspire to Riyadh becoming a world-leading city in all of these areas.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said: “The COVID-19 public-health crisis has further highlighted the central role of cities as drivers of the global economy and social change.”
The participants also stressed the vital role cities will play in the recovery of the global economy after the pandemic.
Dr. Fahd Al-Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s G20 sherpa, chaired a session during the U20 meeting that focused on ensuring compatibility between the agendas of the G20 and the U20, based on shared basic principles such as sustainability, inclusiveness, carbon neutrality, and the implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This year, in a first for the U20, three working groups were set up and tasked with researching and developing evidence-based recommendations on a number of issues. During the meeting, 100 people from 31 cities discussed their findings.
One of the groups highlighted the potential global benefits if the pandemic marks a turning point that accelerates the adoption of a global carbon-neutral economy. This will require efforts to improve energy efficiency, restructure transportation, increase the focus on carbon-neutral buildings, and adopt sustainable consumption and production practices.
The second working group looked at a number of social issues, including ways in which the development of low-cost housing can be encouraged, gender equality, inclusiveness, cultural and social interdependence, the future of work, and the empowerment young people.
These issues are considered of great importance to the futures of cities and their residents, not only because of the significant challenges they present in urban areas, but also for the great opportunities they offer for change and improvements to quality of life.
The third group addressed issues of inequality in key areas such as city resilience, food security and sanitation. It stressed the need for cities to fundamentally change the way they operate by placing nature-based solutions at the heart of their economic-recovery efforts and plans in the post-COVID-19 world.
The U20 also launched a task force, consisting of representatives from 15 cities, co-chaired by Rome and the South African city of Tshwane, to identify ways to advance urban efforts to meet global climate targets.
It was noted that there is an opportunity for the U20 to play a pivotal role, and make effective contributions, during preparations for the 26th session of the UN Climate Change conference, COP26, which is due to take place in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November.
Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November. The U20 if one of several independent engagement groups, led by organizations from the host country, that focus on different sections and sectors of society and develop policy recommendations for consideration by G20 leaders.