Smart and sustainable solutions for cities

Statement delivered by Haoliang Xu at the Bahrain Smart Cities Summit 2021

Posted October 11, 2021

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Your Excellency Eng. Essam bin Abdulla Khalaf, Minister of Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Development for the Government of Bahrain.

It is my great pleasure to address the 2021 Smart Cities Summit being held in Bahrain.

The Summit --- in its 5th edition this year --- has become a global forum for galvanizing knowledge and for highlighting smart and sustainable solutions for cities today and for the future. It demonstrates the great support of the Government of Bahrain for the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

In 2020, cities have been the epicenters of the pandemic and vital first responders. This is at a time when more than half of the world’s population are living in cities. By 2050, this rate will be 70%.

Cities account for about 80% of energy consumption and at least 70% of carbon emissions. At the same time, cities also generate about 80% of the global GDP and are known as hubs for innovation.

As cities recover from the pandemic, I would suggest we keep in mind three key focuses for our future action:

First, reducing urban inequalities should be the cornerstone of our efforts in order to “recover better”.

Second, let’s strengthen the capacities and financing of local governments to respond and recover.

And third, we must “nudge” countries to move towards green and sustainable infrastructure options, including nature-based solutions.

Through our Climate Promise, UNDP is supporting 120 countries to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. In many countries, cities are already partners in the identification of solutions to build urban resilience to adapt to climate change.

The Arab region is one of the most urbanized regions in the world and can help leverage sustainable urbanization as a transformative force for a green recovery. It is also a quick adopter of digital technologies.  Bahrain in fact has been ranking high in the UN e-Government Survey.

At UNDP, we believe in working with partners to help build capacities for smart city efforts that respond to their context. We are part of the Broadband Commission that helps deepen understanding of new technologies for development; we facilitate knowledge exchange and support local capacity building through our City2City Network.

We need stronger alliances and partnerships between national and local governments, civil society, communities, youth, and the private sector -- to share knowledge and drive forward ground-breaking solutions in cities.

The 11th World Urban Forum to be held in June 2022 in Katowice, Poland will provide a critical opportunity to advance the COVID-19 recovery at local level.

In conclusion, let me say we are very proud to be a knowledge partner of the Government of Bahrain, through the Ministry of Works and Municipalities, for the organization of this important Summit, and we look forward to closer collaboration through our UNDP Bahrain office.

Thank you very much.

Cities account for about 80% of energy consumption and at least 70% of carbon emissions. At the same time, cities also generate about 80% of the global GDP and are known as hubs for innovation.

Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP's Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.