German Habitat Forum for sustainable urban development: exploiting the opportunities of urbanisation
31.05.2016 – In many of its projects, GIZ is working to make urban life more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The German Government has invited experts to Berlin to discuss the future of cities.
Around half of the world’s population lives in cities, and that proportion is growing. While this trend is gaining particular momentum in developing countries and emerging economies, the authorities in these states are often unable to build sustainable infrastructure quickly enough to keep pace with the massive population growth. This frequently results in difficult living conditions and environmental damage.
It is here that the German Habitat Forum, hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the federal state of Berlin, comes in. Taking place in the German capital on 1 and 2 June, the conference will bring together pioneering thinkers and figures working around the world in the spheres of policy-making, the private sector, research and civil society to discuss ways of making cities sustainable and pleasant places to live. The forum is at the heart of Germany’s contribution to Habitat III, the United Nations’ global Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which is due to be held in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito in October 2016.
Christoph Beier, Vice-Chair of the GIZ Management Board, will also attend the German Habitat Forum in Berlin. Sustainable urban development is playing an increasingly important role in the work of GIZ. ‘Of course, urbanisation is not a new phenomenon, but the trend is accelerating, becoming more widespread and having a greater impact at global level,’ explains Beier. ‘Consequently, we may no longer look at cities in purely local terms, as they have a major impact on global public goods and trends, whether climate change, economic prosperity, social integration, democratisation or political stability.’
Commissioned by the German Government, GIZ is therefore working with its partners to find solutions that take equal account of humans and the environment, and exploit the opportunities of urbanisation. It runs numerous projects to help promote sustainable urban development, especially in the areas of water supply management and sanitation, energy and climate, and transportation, as well as in the social infrastructure sector.
For example, on behalf of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB), GIZ is supporting selected cities in Chile, India and South Africa in dealing with the challenges posed by climate change. They are working together to develop strategies on how the cities can better protect themselves from the negative impacts of climate change, such as higher risks of flooding, as well as on how they can reduce their emissions. Making inner city areas greener is one focus of the project. Along with improving air quality, this also ensures that rainwater seeps into the soil and thus reduces the chances of flooding. The partner cities are sharing their lessons learned and presenting them at international events and in debates.
Its experts worked with local people to implement a neighbourhood redevelopment in a further project in greater Cairo, Egypt on behalf of BMZ. Two thirds of the 20 million or so people currently living in the metropolitan region reside in informal, densely packed neighbourhoods, many of which are unplanned and have insufficient infrastructure. Previously, most of the waste from these districts ended up in rivers, on streets and in public squares, giving rise to considerable environmental and health risks. Integrated waste management systems have been introduced in two poor districts of the Qalyubia Governorate with financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Some 600,000 residents now benefit from an efficient refuse collection system and, as a result, clean neighbourhoods and more hygienic conditions. Reusable materials are also being extracted at a newly constructed recycling plant, contributing to resource efficiency and climate change mitigation activities. This also provides an additional way for informal refuse collectors to earn their livelihood.