“The focus needs to shift from economic growth to achieving a better quality of life for all,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of UN Habitat, during her keynote speech at the October Days for Sustainable Development (ODSD) 2021 conference.

This seventh edition of the ODSD focusing on the theme “Rethinking Cities: From Smart to Human” — held online this year — was organised by the EIB Institute, the University of Luxembourg and Caritas, in collaboration with Network Nature Events and UN Habitat as part of this year’s Urban October.

Today, over 55% of the world’s population live in cities and towns and the number is growing every day. Cities are the source of about 75% of the world’s CO2 emissions but they also have high potential in the fight against climate change and the transition to a circular economy.

Following the keynote address, the event featured four panellists: an architect, an urban planner, an entrepreneur with a circular-economy building company and an expert in nature-based solutions. They spoke about what the cities of the future might look like, showcasing innovative solutions, discussing burning issues and answering the audience’s questions. A model centred on people and community (as opposed to economic growth) was the overarching theme.

In his closing remarks, University College London Professor Brian Field highlighted the still enormous mismatch between the global north and south, where cities are facing different issues. He called on policymakers to move away from empty three-word slogans such as “build back better” and put content behind words (what is better? what is greener?) as a start to implementation.

View the discussion here and click here for previous editions.

Illustration, Caroline Schuler-Ocean Visuals