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Cities score a goal for sustainability

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Cities play a key role in translating the UN Sustainable Development Goals into relevant actions at local level and involving citizens. Many cities across Europe are already ahead of the game, making efforts to include these principles in their urban development strategies.

In addition to the urban focus of SDG 11 on ‘sustainable cities’, all of the SDGs have an inherent urban dimension. Without the engagement of the local level it is likely that the majority of the 169 targets will be missed.

In this spirit, urban experts, local, national and EU representatives gathered in Ghent on 4 June, during the European Sustainable Development Week, for a public debate to discuss the importance of localising the SDGs and working better together among all stakeholders.

Daniël Termont, president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Ghent, said:

“European cities are frontrunners in realising the SDGs. Every day cities roll out innovative and practical solutions in tackling societal challenges, such as fighting poverty, climate change, and generating greater prosperity for all their citizens. Cities work in unique coalitions of citizens, enterprises, knowledge institutions, NGOs and public authorities. EUROCITIES strongly supports these city-led coalitions. Today EUROCITIES is a clear voice on the European scene in advocating for and influencing European policy post 2020 and adapting the 17 SDGs.”

Cities face interconnected economic, social and environmental challenges, and responding to these means working together with all actors at local level. Co-creation is gaining impetus in city administrations and the key to success for the SDGs will be in recognising this, in order to localise sustainable development and impact the lives of all citizens.

The European Sustainability Award, launched today, recognises the efforts and creativity needed to achieve the SDGs and will champion inspiring initiatives that help make this happen.

Joan Clos, former UN Habitat executive director, said:

“Urbanisation is a strategic issue for a sustainable future. The role of cities is increasing as a source of value, so we need to look at urbanisation as a source of development. This changes the approach to policy-making in cities. We need national governments to support urban policies and work with cities for sustainable development.”

As the network of major European cities, EUROCITIES assists knowledge exchange between cities and runs peer-to-peer learning activities. Several of our member cities have already begun to adopt actions on the SDGs, and EUROCITIES takes part in the European Commission multi-stakeholders’ platform on SDGs, which advises the Commission on the implementation of SDGs at EU level.

The 17 SDGs can serve as a framework for cities as they move towards more sustainable development. Adding institutional support e.g. through the Urban Agenda fro the EU and financial support from cohesion policy will help boost the social innovation potential and allow cities to adapt and localise the SDGs.

Anna Lisa Boni, secretary general, EUROCITIES, said:

“Cities involvement can enrich the discussion on sustainable development and certainly make it real. Like the Urban Agenda for the EU is demonstrating, working with us helps to connect EU policies to the ground in a meaningful way. The same goes with the SDGs. We work with citizens to make sure that we are really building a sustainable future for all. This is our added value.” 

EUROCITIES politicians continued the discussion to determine the next steps in bringing the SDGs to the local level. The debates will continue this autumn, at conferences in Stuttgart and Tampere.



Notes to the editor

1. EUROCITIES is the network of major European cities, with over 140 members in more than 30 countries, representing more than 130 million people. We work in all areas of interest for cities, from culture to mobility, environment to social affairs, economic development to smart cities. We facilitate learning experiences between cities, and represent cities’ interests towards the European Union.

2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were approved in September 2015 by the United Nations, together with the related 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They provide a set of 17 principles (with 169 indicators) to integrate social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The 17 principles are comprehensive and cover all policy domains that are important for sustainable development.

3. The European Commission launched today the first ever European Sustainability Award to recognise the efforts and creativity of European people, businesses and organisations working towards reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The press announcement can be read here.


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