An urban alliance
Mayors from cities ranging from Vatican City to New York have launched an urban alliance for sustainable development. The official inauguration will take place at the United Nations this coming 24 September, the first day of the Pope’s visit. This was decided at a conference, organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and held at the Vatican on 22 and 23 July.
After Tuesday’s meeting on human trafficking and care for the environment which culminated with a visit from the Pope in the New Synod Hall, attended by more than 60 mayors from around the world, a second smaller symposium was held on Wednesday and Thursday in the Casina Pio iv. The symposium’s theme was “Sustainable Cities: Empowering People, Enabling Prosperity and Protecting the Planet”. the meeting culminated with the signing a joint declaration, in which participants pledged to “work towards the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (sdgs) in our own cities and respective areas of endeavour, and to partner with others across the globe to help all cities to achieve the new sdgs with success”. To this end, they pledged to “work together cooperatively and actively across cities and across sectors to coalesce in an Urban sdg Alliance”, that “will be open, voluntary, participatory”. In practice, it means formulating a “common plan” so as to reach “global consensus” on development goals, above all, to end extreme poverty and hunger.
The conference was opened by the mayors of Rome and New York, Ignazio Marino and Bill De Blasio, after an introduction by us economist Jeffrey Sachs, with speeches from the mayors of, among others, Seoul, South Korea; Bogotá, Colombia; Gaborone, Botswana; Stockholm, Sweden; Johannesburg, South Africa; San Francisco, usa; New Orleans, usa; and Porto Alegre, Brazil.
These municipal leaders all described grave environmental and social problems which are occurring around the globe. According to Park Won-soon, Mayor of Seoul, in 2014 almost 20 million people were forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have displaced 1.7 million people. On Thursday, Kagiso Thutlwe, Mayor of Gaborone, said that the likelihood of a person being displaced is 60 percent higher than it was in 1970. He also described how climate change will cause ever more extreme events.
This situation won’t spare more developed regions either: In August 2014 in Japan, Typhoon Halong forced half a million people to abandon their homes.
“Pope Francis called upon the mayors to take leadership in overcoming the growing crises of social exclusion, marginalization, and climate disruption”. the declaration states. And, it continues, “we, the mayors and others assembled in this symposium, have heard this call from Pope Francis and from our own citizens. We recognize the dire threats to future generations. We must act now”.
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