First Ever G7 Ministerial for Urban Development
Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.
On September 13, 2022, Secretary Fudge attended the first-ever G7 Ministerial for Urban Development in Potsdam, Germany. Klara Geywitz, the German Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Building and host of the meeting, led the creation of the new “G7 Urban Development Track.” The track encompasses several key points, including the following:
- International cooperation in the field of climate, environment, health and urban development policy.
- Strengthening inclusive and sustainable urban planning in line with Agenda 2030.
- Livable cities as a contribution to climate and environmental protection.
- Promoting public welfare-oriented policies at the local level.
Several meeting briefs focused on pressing urban issues. One of the work sessions, “Urban Resilience for Sustainable Development and the Transformative Power of Cities,” examined how cities must address climate change and included a discussion of resilience efforts in urban development. Keynote speakers included Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Thembisile Nkadimeng, deputy minister of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in South Africa. Both Schellnhuber and Nkadimeng discussed the effects of climate change in the urban environment. Schellnhuber’s presentation examined the carbon effects of building materials — in particular, the surprisingly high levels of carbon emissions generated from concrete and steel production. Schellnhuber advocates returning to traditional methods of construction using wood and bamboo to counteract this effect.
On September 13, 2022, Germany played host to the first-ever G7 Ministerial for Urban Development, held in Potsdam. In several sessions, participants discussed pressing urban issues including inclusive sustainable development and international coordination on development policy, among other topics.
A special session, “Urban Resilience in Times of Conflict,” focused on the war in Ukraine. The guest speaker (virtual) was Oleksiy Chernyshov, Ukraine’s Minister for Communities and Territories Development. He offered a grim overview of the destruction of housing and urban spaces in his country and discussed the need to start rebuilding housing immediately, even with the war still ongoing. Following this brief, Secretary Fudge provided remarks, stating, “On behalf of President Joe Biden, let me assure you that the United States will not waver in our support of the government and people of Ukraine. We will continue to stand by Ukraine in its ongoing fight to defend its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. And we are committed to supporting the people of Ukraine, who have shown great resilience, strength, and bravery in the face of Russia’s war of choice.”
The final session was a call for the G7 nations to engage in joint action for sustainable urban development. The keynote speaker, Bruce Katz of Drexel University, discussed how to move forward with multilateral action in urban development policy. All G7 member nations have committed to continued engagement with each other in this critical area.
Secretary Fudge delivered the closing remarks for the meeting. She noted her appreciation for the convening and pledged her support to continue to engage, saying,
The discussions we have had today are of critical importance. COVID-19, the climate crisis, and conflict make it increasingly clear that, global events, changes, and shocks have local impacts.
Our individual cities and communities make up a collective global society. Although the world is off track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the United States remains committed to building sustainable communities at home and supporting the achievement of the SDGs around the world. Under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the United States is determined to combat the climate crisis while utilizing the full capacity of our government to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. At home, the department I lead plays a critical role in supporting underserved neighborhoods and promoting equitable community development for all people.
The outcome document for meeting, the G7 Urban Communique, outlined several areas of future engagement, including
- the continuation of cooperation on urban development policy within the framework of the G7 and in pursuit of the implementation of other relevant multilateral agreements;
- a stronger recognition of cities as dialogue partners within the framework of the G7, by continuing and intensifying dialogue with city associations, alliances and networks, e.g., the “Urban Seven”;
- the enhanced joint action of the international community in pursuit of sustainable urban development by continuing and aligning existing alliances and establishing new initiatives, where necessary, on international cooperation in urban development policy; and
- a particular focus on the joint development of and exchange on strategies to increase urban resilience to prevent, protect against and adapt to imminent crises and disasters threatening livelihoods on a global scale.
The next G7 Ministerial for Urban Development will be held in Japan in mid-2023.