The World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty, an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme that groups more than 900 cities into a worldwide network that is committed to improving urban livelihoods, has launched an outdoor exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland on the theme of making cities cleaner and safer, more resilient and sustainable, more affordable, accessible and livable for all.
The outdoor exhibition along the Quai Wilson is taking place during the annual “Fete de Genéve”, with its amusement rides, concerts and fireworks. More than three million people are expected to stop and read the messages of the exhibition, which include dynamic images and erudite quotes from a range of sources.
“Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities,” declares UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from one panel, while Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says the world today can no longer afford to hold back half the population. “We know that smart cities recognize that women’s equal participation, equal opportunities and equal rights are essential to eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.”
The exhibition’s launch event took place in Geneva at the Perle du Lac, a beautiful lakeside restaurant near where the 100 panels are displayed. Speakers included UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay; WACAP Coordinator Adam Rogers; Deputy Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation Inyang Ebong-Harstrup; and Hakan Bjorkman, representing UNDP.
“This event demonstrates the acknowledgment that urbanization is not only an economic and a political process but, above all, one that is about people,” said Pillay in her opening remarks. “And because it is about people, urbanization must be grounded in human dignity and human rights.”
Ebong-Harstrup of UNOSSC, whose organization recently assumed the leadership of WACAP, said the beauty of the WACAP Network of cities is that it does not put poor cities into a dependent position to rich ones. “In fact,” she said, there are many caseswhere the lesser developed cities have developed successful innovations that are now being used to address poverty challenges in richer cities.”
Ebong-Harstrup said the recent decision to move WACAP’s institutional home to UNOSSC is consistent with the priorities outlined by the UN Secretary-General and Member States to engage all partners for development and to foster greater harmonization throughout the UN system. It will also, she added, build upon important synergies for strengthening triangular and South-South cooperation among traditional donors, emerging donors and partner cities – “a goal that is central to WACAP and in the full spirit and mandate of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation.”