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Audio Guide: The Next Page - Transcripts

Welcome to the UN Library and Archives Geneva's Audio Research Guide! Here you'll find episodes from our own podcast, The Next Page, as well as podcasts and audio from or on the UN system and multilateralism.

It Takes A Global Crisis - Episode 4: Sustainable Cities

by Yunshi Liang on 2022-03-30T17:47:27+02:00 in COVID-19, Development, Transport & Communication, Sustainable Development, Social Affairs, Environment, United Nations | Comments

Tiffany Verga

Hello and welcome to The Next Page, the podcast of the UN Library and Archives Geneva dedicated to conversations on multilateralism. This is, ‘It Takes a Global Crisis’, a series of four special episodes in collaboration with the SDG Lab at UN Geneva.

Edward Mishaud

Hi, I'm Edward Mishaud from the SDG Lab.

Tiffany Verga

And we're Tiffany Verga,

Natalie Alexander

And Natalie Alexander from the Library and Archives.

Edward Mishaud

Together, we'll explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways set in motion sustainable development solutions, things that were often talked about but rarely implemented before the crisis. We'll also consider the challenges, the gaps, and the limitations of progress that the pandemic has highlighted.

Natalie Alexander

We'll be talking to a range of experts and practitioners as they work both on the ground and in advancing policy on their experiences across the themes of digitalization and connectivity. The environment as a key to resilience, sustainable cities and social protection.

Tiffany Verga

At the end of each episode will also share with you a spark, an idea from a real-life project relevant to the episodes theme that is sparking change to advance the SDG's. So did it take a global crisis? Let's find out.

Edward Mishaud

Hi everyone, I'm Edward Mishaud, and welcome to the fourth episode in our podcast mini-series between the SDG Lab where I work and the UN Library and Archives Geneva.

We’re releasing an episode each month. In previous episodes we’ve introduced the series, and explored digitalization and connectivity, the environment and social resilience, as well as social protection. Today, we are looking at the impact of a crisis like the pandemic on our understanding of cities and sustainability.

Cities offer a unique opportunity to respond, recover and build long term resilience towards this compound in crises. That’s Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific.

It forced us to think how mature is our city in terms of meeting SDGs, in terms of corresponding to the values of the 2030 agenda. And that’s Dr. Agata Krause, Head of the 2030 agenda and International Relations, the Center for Sustainable Development with Trondheim Kommune in Norway.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck urban areas in a remarkable way, inviting us to rethink our relationship with the space in which most of us live. The United Nations predicts that by 2050, two out of every three people will live in cities or urban areas. How has the pandemic reshaped our understanding of the urban living environment and the quality of life in cities? What have we learned about social relationships, community building and urban planning? How can these lessons contribute to the achievement of SDGs and a better living environment for all? Our guests today, with their expertise and field experience, will help is explore these questions. Let’s go.

Dr. Agata Krause and Dr. Bernadia, I would like to get both of your perspectives on what has changed for people living in cities, particularly in urban areas since the beginning of COVID-19, which is now really more than two years ago. What has been some of the key policies or initiatives or programs that were often talked about in the past, let's say pre-COVID, but we've never really implemented or brought forward. Dr. Bernadia, can I start with you?

Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi

Thank you very much for the question. I think this is very clear that this pandemic COVID-19 started in cities. And we know the impact on the pandemic in cities has been huge, especially since most people live in cities. And this is why we see also from this experience that cities also need to make some changes. What we see clearly here is that cities also have to react, respond differently towards this pandemic. For example, we have seen more and more collaborations among the people because of this pandemic of COVID-19. And of course, the leaders made the quick actions and reactions as well as responses to this pandemic, by making very quick kind of decisions and then this includes also improving the supply chains, because we have seen also several cities I mean, have been facing this lockdown or restriction physically. So we have seen very quick movement in cities that they cannot do business as usual.

For example, there are a lot of initiatives that happened in cities. One of them is like in Java, this is in the Central Java, there is called "look after your neighbors". In Javanese we said “Jogo Tonggo”. This programs actually encouraged residents of the Central Java to support others using this traditional community support values and activities, and this also has spread out in many, many cities, in Indonesia, particularly. In the Philippines, similar support has also been seen like community pantries that enable people to share food and other necessities. And some of the event provided this vegetable on wheels by bringing these products coming from farmers and then using this vehicle to sell to people. This kind of support mechanism had been provided by many, many cities, leaders and city governments. Just a few months, when COVID-19 happened, we produce guidelines on how local governments could respond to these pandemics. And we have collected quite a bit numbers of practices. I think in total, we have more than 200 prophecies and that also had been shared through several webinars as well as we'd call it "web series" on these actions and provide dialogues among local leaders, especially city leaders. And even we provide dialogue with the central government. So we also see what we have not seen before, like acceleration of digitalization. Some cities have already made plan initially, but because of the pandemic, because of this COVID, they made it faster. Like for example, I already mentioned earlier about providing support mechanism through this platform, using these digitals. That also had been spread out by many, many local governments.

But what we see more and more during this COVID is a solidarity spirit that we have not seen much before. Of course, when we look at the cities, we always feel that people living in cities tend to be living individualism, because this kind of feeling is always there. But during this COVID, we see that solidarity is very high. They also like to support others. And this is also quite important behaviors that we see changes in cities and urban areas.

Edward Mishaud

Thank you, Dr. Bernadia. I think it's interesting how you highlighted the solidarity element, that this is something very much that citizens themselves have come forward to support and maybe to fill gaps that were probably not being provided at the local level. So Dr. Krause, based on what you've just heard from Dr. Bernadia, and based on your experience in the Trondheim Kommune, what have you seen as well? What is your response?

Agata Krause

I think overall across the context, not only Norway, COVID reminded us about our own mortality to start from, it reminded us about the importance of social relationships. On a very practical level, it has limited access to services that in many instances we might have taken for granted, such as access to health care, access to education, and other important social services. Because as we know, especially during the peaks of COVID pandemic, municipalities had to deal with an influx of work unprecedented and unseen to a certain moment in time. That being said, COVID also forced us to move indoors, back to our spaces, back to our homes, and moved us to a digital world to which many of us haven't been really used to. It forced us to learn new skills, online skills and to really redefine our lives. And I can comfortably say that it's certainly in Trondheim, but also beyond, it really forced us to pose the question, what is the quality of life in cities in the light of COVID 19 pandemic like? And what is our expectations towards quality of life in cities in general, post COVID? In what kind of spaces we would like to live in? And why?

In terms of how Trondheim has been dealing with COVID-19, obviously there has been huge solidarity spirit among local communities. And the municipal took a range of steps basically to do two things at the same time. First of all, to address the urgency and act in the short term, but also sustain what is its legacy and what its role really to provide access to services in infrastructure, education, daycare, health services, social services, dealing with homelessness, the services haven't been still provided during COVID. Some municipalities have to manage two things at the same time, so yes, I think if that response.

But what I have observed taking place in Norway, especially in Trondheim, is that we kept an eye on SDGs in implementing 2030 agenda regardless COVID. In fact, throughout COVID, we managed, for instance, to develop voluntary local review for Trondheim kommune as a response of our kommune, of our city to the need to implement 2030 agenda, better to take stock of what we have done. So although one part of our activities was still COVID response and emergency, we continued our work on SDGs and implementing 2030 agenda.

Also, throughout COVID, in spite of COVID, we launched a range of initiatives in the field of transport and mobility, especially to support social mobility. In the light of COVID pandemic, you might have thought that may be difficult for initiative to implement. But it turned out it still can be done and implemented. For instance, I can recall a product that we are still running, which relies on providing better mobility for students in the city, create new social movement hubs in the city, for instance, connecting places in which students go to, for instance, to purchase ventures such as IKEA, to other places in the cities so that students can move comfortably at affordable price as we also support social mobility. So that's one of the initiatives.

And the other thing we've been doing in spite of COVID, what is very important from the point of view of long-term sustainability of resilience, we've been investing in energy efficiency. Specifically, we have a project titled "Positive State Exchange". It is the European Union-funded project which not only Trondheim is involved in, which relies on producing energy positive districts, taking the energy system production and use off the grid and creating the solutions that actually makes it less dependable on the context in terms of energy production. And you can see how important it is for long term sustainability. So I think I'm very proud to say that we have continued this amazing work in transport mobility, SDGs, energy throughout COVID.

Edward Mishaud

Thank you, Dr. Krause, I appreciate how you gave those examples, not only looking at transportation, which has been such an important element that we've seen through COVID-19, as public transportation system shut down in cities around the world that had a massive impact on people and communities, especially maybe informal workers or people that did not have access to other forms of transportation. So I think that's an important point to highlight.

Dr. Bernadia. I just want to get your perspective because your organization, United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific, you have linkages to some more than 7000 local governments representing almost 4 billion people if I'm not mistaken, in the broader Asia Pacific region through this network. What have been some of the examples that you've been hearing, through your interactions with various local governments? How have cities stepped up really during the crisis? I mean, you cited earlier at the top of the podcasts, the solidarity part from citizens. But what about the cities themselves? Could you just give us a couple of examples there, from your perspective?

Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi

I think it's very clear that these are not only at the frontline of the responses to the pandemic, but also being called upon to radically change the approaches and the crisis of this nature, from physical layout to economic and social structures. And we see also clearly here that cities, of course, they are the first one affected by this pandemic, but they're also making new commitments to fight the spread of the diseases, and implementing new strategies, actions, rules and event providing a planning tool, with a team of for building a post-pandemic urban environment, that is, of course able to deal with the future health crisis. So cities need also to ensure a safer and healthier environment for the people. And during this COVID pandemic, we see that they have been trying all the best efforts in using whatever facilities they have in still providing good services to the people, including the health.

And of course, the other aspects, including mobility, and using public spaces effectively and efficiently. This is also true that a lot of initiatives that they have, for example, in Jakarta in Metro Manila, they have been building the longest bicycle lanes that you have never seen before. This actually changes the perspective of local governments that cities need to be redesigned for a better life on the people.

In terms of, of course, the energy sectors, we actually have also conducted these models. We developed a model for cities how to localize especially the SDG seven on the energy for all. What we see here, and I mentioned earlier, is that there are a lot of best practices that have been also compiled by us and not only compiled but being shared. Learning each other based on experiences has also been quite strong during this pandemic, and we provided the platform for interactions. This is really kind of on a regular basis. And it's really, really not much planned, but just happened because there was a need. For example, talking about solidarity, we also provided donations, I mean, local governments provided donations to others. We see also that in the first part of COVID-19. So what I like to say here is that just we saw many good practices, how the cities need to be redesigned for the people, of course, a lot of challenges with regards to this pandemic, that faced by of course, students by women with high domestic violence that occur, and local governments also provide 24/7 services for those affected by others violence. So what I would like to highlight here is that local governments are really trying their best and making efforts during these difficult times.

Edward Mishaud

Yeah, and thank you, because you earlier highlighted, I think you said something like 200 or so good practices that have been assembled and collected by your organization. Dr. Krause did you want to come in on this point?

Agata Krause

Yes. I would like to provide like complementarity perspective to that based on our experience in Trondheim. For us, as I kind of alluded to before, it's been a lot about reinforcing the values of the 2030 agenda and SDGs, building better, leaving no one behind, and really refocusing on improving the city's resilience. And it has not been maybe done in an explicit way. We didn't really know the direction in which we're going to go to, but it turned out to be the step we took forward.

For instance, throughout COVID, we actually reinforced our relationships with various groups of stakeholders. We reinforced our relationship with Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which is the hub for research innovation in Norway. It's the biggest university, technical university in Norway, with over 30,000 students in Trondheim alone. We pull students into collaboration on SDGs, specifically throughout COVID in spite of the restrictions. We managed to open SDG lab, including students, and students actually starting discussions with various groups of stakeholders, including, for instance, businesses. What do current and future generations may need in terms of sustainability? How do they understand sustainability, to enforce sustainability values? So it's been very interesting experience for us that we started during COVID and we continue until now. Similarly, we developed a range of partnerships with big and small enterprises, as I mentioned before, IKEA, Skanska, so these are the big corporations with a lot of capital, but also small and medium enterprises, but also micro enterprises and startups, including, for instance, MOBI, which is specifically working in the field of transport and mobility. So for us, it's been really eye opening in terms of how much also we can achieve throughout COVID. That is one element of it.

The other one is reinforcing the matter, the issue of resilience and creating the places and spaces that we want to live in and continuing discussions about how this can be achieved.

Edward Mishaud

I think that just that last point about safeguarding civic spaces, I think that's such an important point that we've seen all of the different kinds of anecdotes about the role of civic spaces and public spaces, in cities around the world. So I think keeping that aspect in mind is so relevant, as we also know that in a number of countries and regions and districts around the world, we do see also a shrinking of some of these spaces. I mean, in the broader perspective about sustainable cities, Dr. Krase, how do we ensure that what we've learned through COVID, or the last two years, goes forward, that these lessons, that these examples, that these good practices that Dr. Bernadia also spoke to, how do we keep that momentum going forward, so we don't return, we don't go in reverse?

Agata Krause

So I would like to here recall the importance of digitalization, and what we have learned about what we can achieve digitally.  I think there is a lot of excellence coming from within that, for instance, in Trondheim kommune, again during COVID, we launched a citizen platform. It's the platform of citizen engagement where citizens can express their opinion on policy initiatives. It is also designed as a tool to improve public participation. So I imagine that this type of initiative is going to be continued being successful and continue being used at in our kommune, and there is a huge potential for upscaling that in the context of Norway, as I heard other municipalities in Norway are using that.

But at the same time, those measures need to be coupled still with the broader strategic perspective on how we can implement 2030 agenda better and accelerate progress towards SDGs better, through partnerships, networks, relationships, which we know throughout COVID have proven to generate improved access to resources, for instance, human resources, knowledge, know-how. It's all through our networks. We really mobilize our networks to address COVID better. So that's the one thing.

And the other one, take a broader perspective on sustainability finance, what we have observed during COVID, obviously, is that many urban infrastructure and services projects have been put on hold, and then the access to resources at municipal level has shrunk, which forced us again to think how do we generate and what type of funding and financing are going to generate post-COVID to Building Back Better? And what type of perspective on this funding and finance we're going to take?

What I think COVID has proven us is taking a limited perspective on just generating additional financial resources and technologies is insufficient to really build resilient cities. It has really demonstrated us, it has manifested that we need a broader ecosystem network perspective, to really improve our pace towards meeting SDGs. And it really forced us to think about the interdependencies between various elements of the city, ecosystem, health care provision, education, a normal quality of life, infrastructure and so on so forth. In that sense, it forced us to think how mature is our city in terms of meeting SDGs, in terms of corresponding to the values of 2030 agenda? Because the money on their own and technologies on their own will not bring us closer to resilience if we don't have this broader perspective in mind.

Edward Mishaud

Yeah, that's this kind of integrated approach, like you've said, bringing all the different sectors and all the different actors together. That's so important that it's just not one element, but the finance part two. I think that really resonated with me, as you said that a lot of projects, large infrastructure projects, etc, have been put on hold. Dr. Bernadia, I want to bring you back into this point where I did ask Dr. Krause around the notion of sustainability, in the sense of keeping the progress and the good examples going forward. What do you think is needed to continue that momentum and that direction based on your experience where you sit with your organization?

Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi

I think these pandemics also give opportunities. What's nice about this situation is for example, in Jakarta, we managed to see very beautiful sky, which we never seen in the past because of this heavy traffics and congestion that Jakarta has faced earlier. So what I like to say here, cities offer a unique opportunity to respond, recover and build long term resilience towards this compound in crisis. So returning to business as usual would mean missing a vital opportunity to tackle and underline this interconnected environmental, economic, social and relational challenges that happened before, that predate COVID-19. So we need to have a well-being approach that can guide the process as Agata mentioned building, but better. Cities need to have ability to adapt to the new situation and this new normal. And what we see here, despite the challenges with the decrease of financial resources, I think this also has been experienced by many cities outside Asia Pacific. But city-making, what I call it, is an important step here, that sustainability and responses to COVID pandemic and building. That can be done together. So we have actually organization of SDG programs that have started couple of years ago, and these also have been adjusted with this situation and opportunities that COVID-19 has brought.

We come up with a (decalogue) on the post COVID-19 era, by also putting the importance of creativity on the financial mobilization, for example. This also includes guaranteeing public services, calling the adoption of financial support mechanism for crisis and recovery. And of course, that also includes fostering proximity production models that consider the informal sector and small and micro enterprises. This is only a few to name here. For your information, a small medium enterprise, most of the employees are women and their connectivity to digital platform, maybe in a big country like Indonesia, I can say that it's only less than 10%. So this is the opportunity that had a grip also by local governments, that transformation for digitalization, by also bringing this small, medium enterprises into the platform. That's also been feasible. Like Jakarta has initiated collaboration. They provide a platform for those who need help and those who can provide support. And what is nice about this kind of collaboration is that you don't rely only on one source of finance, and collaboration brings different kinds of stakeholders together. And this is time that, as I said earlier, to redesign the future of our cities, the cities that are dynamic, that are vibrant, that also have a good number of public spaces, that emphasize the importance of public transports, the cities that have much greenery areas or greenery spaces... That is also what we see as opportunity. So what I say here, we cannot go back again to what happened before COVID.

Edward Mishaud

Thanks, Dr. Bernadia. Dr. Krause, I see you want to respond.

Agata Krause

es. As a follow up to what you have said, what has been important for us is zooming in on the impact of what we have done so far. So in terms of how it allowed us to accelerate progress towards SDGs but better improve the resilience of Trondheim, it's been I think, not only the problem per se maybe in Trondheim, but also across all the contexts that many policies projects programs are too focus on immediate effects on the outputs, on the effects. Within housing programs, how many houses have we built? Is that an impact that we are trying to describe here? Or we are really trying to understand how for building housing, we're improving access to housing for various groups of stakeholders? What does it mean for housing affordability? What does it mean for the quality of life?

So for instance, what it means practically for us, for instance, we are now developing a white paper on SDG implementation, zooming in on how through our initiatives in Trondheim, we are creating sustainable value added? So value-added across various dimensions of sustainability, to focus on medium- and long-term implications of our actions and make a policymaker in Trondheim and beyond to really think about those medium- and long-term effects rather than immediate short-term effects, because we know those medium- and long-term effects are important for sustainability.

Linking to that is what COVID made us realize is the importance of sustainability leadership. And in fact, Trondheim kommune has launched their leadership development program, dedicated to municipalities within the region of Trøndelag where Trondheim is located, but also other municipalities in Norway who can participate in the program, where we are reinforcing the values of the 2030 agenda, where we are re introducing the 2030 agenda and SDGs to cities in Norway, where we are not only telling them what we know about SDGs, but we are asking them what it means for them to really prompt the thinking about in everyday life of cities, at the administrations about what else can I do for sustainability beyond what I'm asked to do in order to support this broader ecosystem transformation. The trend comes from within the institutions in Trondheim indeed.

And the last thing is, we mentioned the importance of funding and financing for development for Building Back Better. We mentioned the role of technologies, and citizen engagement, and solidarity, and people-first approaches, partnership development, and so on. I think it's important also to mention the role of data, and really improving evidence-based policy process and decision making. So what we have realized, especially throughout COVID pandemic is that although it was challenging at the beginning to get the numbers, it was easier to us as the pandemic developed because we created the mechanism to gather the data that was needed, which brings us to really the main point. We need good quality, granular data about the development of cities to be able to address challenges of post COVID. And we need to find ways to process this data in an efficient and effective manner in order to take decisions faster. What COVID has taught us is we need to act faster. For instance, what we are piloting now in Trondheim, we are using a simulation technology, which is a digital twin model of a city, which allows us to overlay data on the digital twin on the 3D interface of the city in order to create the visual effect. And as we know, actually people can take decisions through images, maybe faster, maybe more efficiently. So we're really testing it in the field of transport and mobility in Trondheim to take decisions in a more informed, faster and more efficient, effective manner.

Edward Mishaud

And that's definitely impressive, this laboratory approach that you're also embodying within Trondheim, and I think that in itself is quite exemplary. So many different thoughts that you've mentioned. And also Dr. Krause, you said an interesting expression. I think you mentioned "sustainability leadership" and ensuring that the values of the 2030 agenda are embodied and show up at all levels of government. So Dr. Bernadia, maybe can you comment on that because from your perspective with United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific, how has the COVID pandemic, from your vantage point really brought forward this notion of seeing the 2030 agenda come forward? Is this something that you've also witnessed and this notion of leadership at the level of communities, of cities to bring forward into embody the values of the 2030 agenda?

Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi

Local leaders really play a very important role when we talk about SDGs with the 17 goals almost 65% of SDGs must be done at the local level. Therefore, local government's role is crucial. You cannot achieve SDGs if you are not engaging with local governments. So we see a very promising kind of role here that local governments have been putting, especially during this pandemic. It is quite promising to see more and more interest coming from local governments that they see as a co-creation, and also kind of a social contract, in which they see that SDGs cannot be implemented only by local governments here. So it needs very strong partnerships with the different stakeholders.

I also would like to share with you when we look at the number of VNRs that submitted by central governments to the United Nations. In the beginning, very few local governments have been engaged in the process of the VNR, but it's really good sign now. I think in total, already, almost 50% of the VNRs are submitted by central governments have included the aspirations as well as the perspective of local governments. This is a very good sign that shows that central governments see the value of the local governance.

And my last message here, we also work on the VSR, maybe this is a new term for many of you, it's Voluntary Subnational Review, in which a bit different from VNRs. VNR is more on the individual local governments that looking at the progress of the SDGs at the local government level, but this VSR is a collective fuse, collective perspective of a group of local governments in the country, which have been also used as a reference for central government. So what I want to say here, this pandemic gives a kind of momentum for local governments to work together with different stakeholders to also put more attention on the importance of SDGs, especially care about health, safety and healthier environments. And it is, of course, important that people need to adapt with the use of technology for daily life. And this is also not only for work, but also for study and other activities. So these changes behavior may persist in the past-COVID19.

Edward Mishaud

Dr. Krause, you wanted to respond?

Agata Krause

About the voluntary subnational, local and national reviews, in 2021 a Voluntary National Review of Norway has been produced in collaboration with Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, the KS, and in fact, the 21 VNR is integrated already with VSR and includes VLR as well. So in the document itself, you can see the extract of the VLRs. And I think this is a very interesting dynamic that emerged throughout COVID. And another thing that pops into my mind in terms of this multi-level governance collaboration is also in relation to data, specifically. So what we realized in Trondheim and also beyond Trondheim is currently something that is known especially among the statisticians working on SDG goals and targets and indicators, that the indicator set is not perfect. So in fact, the statistics Norway together with the Association of Local and Regional Authorities, the KS as I mentioned, together with ourselves Trondheim kommune and Asker kommune developed a taxonomy for SDG indicators. This is a quality assurance tool. It is a tool which tells you how internally consistent SDG indicator set is. So we have a project now being run with ourselves obviously with KS is assessing the SDG indicator set, telling how good and reliable it is, what needs to be changed within the maybe the indicators set in order to better reflect various issues at hand. We applied this, we call it a taxonomy to various indicator set, not only SDG indicator set, the United Nations one, but also our national indicator set. And also another UN standard that was developed to address the key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities. So we take this very informed approach trying to think okay, once we have data what we can do, that's the one thing, but how can we get the data that we really need? We really need to improve the methodologies themselves.

Edward Mishaud

You've mentioned data a number of times. I think that's something that is central to this topic, to sustainability, to cities. And it's one that we've also seen come out in the other topics that we've discussed so far on this podcast series. We're almost out of time before we close. Very much in the spirit of what we've been trying to achieve together, the SDG lab with the UN Library and Archives Geneva, is to ask our guests to wrap up by ending this sentence, "it took a global crisis to..." so Dr. Krause, over to you.

Agata Krause

It took a global crisis to make us think about what is important in life, our values and our relationships, but also to reconsider what is good quality of life in cities and in small development areas like and what places in spaces we would like to live in.

Edward Mishaud

Dr. Bernadia, it took a global crisis to?

Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi

It took a global crisis to rebuild and reset the city towards resiliency and sustainability. Cities need to be vibrant and dynamic, and the most important thing is the happiness of the people. Thank you.

Edward Mishaud

Thank you, Dr Bernardia and Dr Krause. There are so many topics we touched upon today and we could have an entire conversation on each one of them, points such as the importance of good governance or that the SDGs cannot be achieved or tackled in just one way or by one single actor. You both stressed the need for better data, in fact granular data at the community and district level, and of financing to implement sustainable policies and programs. And of course, we started off our discussion by underscoring how solidarity has been a key ingredient to help cities around the world have coped and in fact thrived in responding to the effects of this global pandemic. And I think that's an important takeaway for all of us. 

Thank you again, Dr. Agata Krause, Head of the 2030 agenda and International Relations, the Center for Sustainable Development with Trondheim Kommune in Norway, and Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, the Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Take care. 

 

 

Tiffany Verga

Welcome to this episode's Spark. If you're unfamiliar with this edition, this is a segment of our SDG LAB series. At the end of each episode, we will explore inspirational stories related to the conversation to spark further understanding and curiosity.

Would you believe me if I told you the solution to some of the world climate issues could be sitting right under your feet?

Well, in today's case study two winning students who participated in the C40 Cities' Students Reinventing Cities competition will tell you just how soil could be used as a sustainable city solution.

Konstantina Angelopoulou

Hello, my name is Konstantina Angelopoulou and I'm coming from Greece. I'm currently on my last year of studies for my diploma in Architecture Engineering at the University of Patras.

Arissandra Egorova

And hello everyone, my name is Arissandra Egorova and I'm currently based in Geneva in Switzerland. I'm currently doing a double master degree in sustainable development with an emphasis on urban planning with Geneva University and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Tiffany Verga

Both Konstantina and Arissandra participated this year in the annual competition amongst 1000 students across 150 universities where they took out the first prize for their project on Kypseli, Athens, Greece. You'll hear from them more about their project and why their idea could turn soil into a sustainable city solution.

Arissandra Egorova

The Student Reinventing Cities Competition is a worldwide competition where students are called to reinvent existing cities now and provide a vision of how they could be in the future. We were composed of a really multidisciplinary team with students like me more focused on urban planning with other students which have a background in environmental engineering, and students from the University of Patras with a good background in architecture, so altogether we were able to provide a more comprehensive and coherent project.

Konstantina Angelopoulou

Our point of interest is Kypseli. Kypseli is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Athens which had an era of glory back in the 50s and 60s. Kypseli is currently lacking and looking for a new identity. The neighborhood is marked by high urban density with their repetitive housing model and under-used communal spaces. So what has been done is to detect Kypseli’s important points of interest and prompted by the upcoming creation of a new metro line in Athens. And more specifically, the excavations for the new metro station in the heart of Kypseli propose the use of the enormous volume of the extracted soil. So instead of leaving more than 60,000 cubic meters of soil to go to base, our project suggests multiple interventions that can be replicated and will give keep Kypseli a new look. The full project uses up to 66% of the excavation soil from the new metro station acing and it is going to turn this neighborhood into a prototype soil capital of Athens that can be replicated.

Arissandra Egorova

Our project focuses on more of a circular economy model. So what we're trying to do is reuse what we already have rather than build something new, which I think is crucial nowadays, especially when we talk about the future of sustainable cities. For example, we reuse the existing structures and buildings. We also reuse the existing characteristics of polykatoikia. Here, for example polykatoikia, its courtyards that we want to link with each other to create this green thread that we talked about. We reuse the existing public space and the streets. By transforming them rather than building something new, we want to reinvent the streets to make sure that the public spaces and the private spaces are merged together in a community space where people can freely walk and interact with each other.

Konstantina Angelopoulou

I would definitely recommend this conversation. I think like having the opportunity through my university to participate in it with such a big team, collaborating with another university, is one of the best experiences I've ever had like academically speaking. And it was like it felt a lot like I was working on an actual project because we actually visited the area. And living in Greece it was important for me to imagine it in a different way. So yes, I would definitely recommend it for other students.

Arissandra Egorova

And so for students all around the world who wants to join this competition there's a website with students reinventing cities. And when it comes to our case, our teachers reach out to us about this opportunity. So I think you should discuss with your teachers, definitely.

Tiffany Verga

To find out more about their project and the competition, check out our share notes or you'll find the C40 website and a link to their project for more information.

Natalie Alexander

It takes a global crisis is produced by the UN Library and Archives Geneva and the SDG lab. 

The production team is Edward Mishaud, Marlene Borlant, Evgeniya Altukhova, Tiffany Verga and Natalie Alexnder.  

If you'd like to give us feedback or share your comments, you can email us at SDG hyphen lab at un.org. and don't forget to subscribe, leave us a review or find us @UNOG library on Twitter and UN Library and Archives Geneva on Facebook.  

Evgeniya Altukhova

Or find us at SDGLab on Twitter, or SDG Lab at UN Geneva on LinkedIn.

Natalie Alexander

Thanks for listening. 

Bye for now.


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