“We have 77 years in which we’ll have to change completely,” said Greg Clark moderating the closing session of the Brussels Urban Summit. “Cities are hubs and centres of massive flows of ideas, people, economy, and they don’t know any borders. This is a moment of radical changes.”
City leaders, decision-makers, and urban experts from around the world spent the last three days discussing the pressing issues faced by cities and forging collaborations for positive change. “We heard so many ideas in the room; it’s motivating,” said Burkhard Jung, Mayor of Leipzig and President of Eurocities.
The summit underscored the commitment of cities to empower local communities and enhance the quality of urban life. “Each city brings its challenges and solutions, yet, when we meet, we identify more or less the same problems. To know that we are not alone in the world is important,” said Carolina Cosse, Mayor of Montevideo (Uruguay) and Co-President of Metropolis.
Discussions and takeaways
Eurocities, Metropolis, and the OECD Champion Mayors initiative pledged to work together in supporting cities’ efforts to address challenges and foster inclusivity and sustainability. Recognising the central role of cities in the 21st century, these alliances aim to amplify urban voices to resonate even further.
In the future, the gathered cities will continue collaborating, reinforcing city diplomacy, driving urban transformation, supporting Ukraine, and navigating the new EU mandate. “As Eurocities President, I’ll defend European values, particularly democracy,” said Jung. “I’ll continue to support Ukraine and take a strong position against populism. We have a responsibility to defend these values, particularly in view of the European elections.”
To know that we are not alone in the world is important
Cities across different regions face diverse realities; however, the summit helped emphasise the universality of levers for change, including good multi-level governance, access to finance, and an enabling regulatory framework. While Jung stressed the growing need for collaboration across different government levels and borders, Cosse pointed out, “International financial institutions should help cities get direct access to funding.”
Empowered cities can build resilience, drive innovation, and enact policies to tackle global challenges effectively. “We need more systematic involvement of cities in decision-making at the European level. Policy-making will not be effective without cities,” said Jung.
Policy-making will not be effective without cities
The Brussels Urban Summit also highlighted the interdependence of sustainable development between urban and rural areas. It stressed the importance of good governance solutions that offer value to all stakeholders and recognise the mutual dependencies for strategic solutions to shared challenges. City-to-city collaboration emerged as a crucial investment in accessing effective urban solutions, promoting global solidarity, and harnessing collective power.
“Whether you are a large or a small city, in Asia or elsewhere, our challenges are the same: migration, inclusion, social equality, and of course, climate change. We need to work together to complete the reorganisation of our cities,” summarised Pascal Smet, Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region for Urbanism and European & International Relations.
What empowered cities can do
The summit also underscored the need for cities to sit at the decision-making table. City representatives should be involved in dialogues and effective multilateralism to ensure that the objectives agreed upon in global agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the New Urban Agenda, are effectively implemented. By actively engaging cities, ownership of global and European political agendas can be achieved, leading to effective policy-making that addresses critical aspects from the outset.
As the top priority for mayors in 2023, as backed up by the recent Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey 2023, the discussion on implementing measures for climate adaptation and a sustainable transition to low-carbon energy sources was central. By activating cities’ potential, investing in prevention, and fostering urban water security policies, cities can protect people from climate breakdown and weather extremes. “Cities are the answer to many of the pressing problems and challenges of the world,” said Dagur B. Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik and Chair of the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative.
Cities are the answer to many of the pressing problems and challenges of the world
In the plenaries, cities shared challenges and solutions to “the same pressing issues that are discussed on the streets,” as phrased by Eggertsson. Cities tackle rising housing prices through investments in social housing and clear urban planning, prioritise education and skills training for inclusive urban economies, make use of digital tools, leaving no one behind, emphasise transparency and participation to restore trust in democracy and local governments, secure a more decisive say in migration policies, develop economic ones that create job opportunities and integrate the labour market, promote sustainability not only in traditional sectors such as energy and mobility but also in cross-sectoral areas such as culture and food.
The Brussels Urban Summit concluded with a firm commitment from cities worldwide to tackle global challenges together. “We will continue our collaboration, and we should apply in our policies what we discussed to make our cities future-proof. This is only the beginning,” said Smet.
“Don’t fear resistance,” added Jung, citing the intervention from the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, earlier in the day. “Because there’s resistance to move towards new change. But city-to-city collaboration is an investment in effective global solutions.”
city-to-city collaboration is an investment in effective global solutions
As cities reinvent themselves in a world troubled by crises, the lessons learned from this summit will guide their efforts to create sustainable, inclusive, and well-managed cities that improve the lives of billions of people now and for future generations.
The Brussels Urban Summit was an initiative of the Brussels Capital Region, Eurocities, Metropolis and the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative. It took place from 12-15 June 2023 in Brussels.