Yang Jian / SHINE
Officials from George Town in Penang, Malaysia, pose with the “Shanghai Award” trophy on the sideline of the 2023 World Cities Day China Observance in Shanghai.
Five cities from around the world have won the inaugural Global Awards for Sustainable Development in Cities, also known as the “Shanghai Award,” at the opening ceremony of the 2023 World Cities Day China Observance on Saturday afternoon.
Salvador in Brazil, Kampala in Uganda, Brisbane in Australia, George Town in Penang of Malaysia, and China’s southeast Fuzhou City, were honored with the award.
These cities stood out among 54 contenders from 16 countries and regions worldwide who submitted applications.
This year’s event, themed “Financing Sustainable Urban Future for All,” is jointly hosted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Shanghai government and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).
“The Shanghai Award recognizes the crucial role cities play in helping member states fulfill their sustainable development commitments,” said UN-Habitat executive director Maimunah Mohamed Sharif.
“I encourage smaller cities to join the Shanghai Award initiatives, as this platform can help share experiences, build capacity, attract investments and drive innovation for a sustainable future,” she told the opening ceremony of the event, which was held on the North Bund in Hongkou District.
These cities represent a wide range of development levels, income levels and population demographics, including developed, developing and the least developed nations.
The official poster of the 2023 World Cities Day.
“Sustainable development is a unique track, where cities are not judged by their wealth or reputation, but rather by what their administrators and citizens have planned and accomplished for sustainable development goals,” explained Wu Zhiqiang, a member of the international judging panel for the “Shanghai Award” and a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Wu said it is not just about how glorious their history is, how prosperous their appearance is, or how developed their economy is. It’s about aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This requires cities intending to participate to define sustainable development goals, strategies and implementation methods, as well as provide successful experiences that can be shared, disseminated and promoted, he added.
The award was jointly established by the UN-Habitat and the Shanghai government. It mainly focuses on four evaluation dimensions: economic vitality and urban prosperity, ecological construction and green development, urban safety and resilient development, and capacity building for sustainable development.
In addition to recognizing cities that have made significant progress, it is hoped that countries worldwide will join hands, collaborate and promote deep integration and connectivity of resources to better advance the implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
An aerial view of Fuzhou City, the winning city of the “Shanghai Award” from China.
The five winning cities share a common feature: they have demonstrated significant growth in sustainable development, according to Wu.
Salvador, Brazil, for instance, has implemented a series of climate change adaptation measures tailored to its unique geography and coastline. It has showcased a model of urban development in the context of climate change.
A notable initiative is the Salvador Solar Program, which encourages the use of photovoltaic solar energy through public policies. It has resulted in positive environmental and social impacts such as boosting the local economy, creating new employment opportunities, reducing energy costs and lowering energy consumption.
“This award is crucial because it points to possible solutions that can benefit cities worldwide,” said Augusto Pestana, the Consul General of Brazil in Shanghai.
“The award raises awareness of these best practices globally.
“Shanghai is a remarkable metropolis with excellent living and business conditions for its large population. Naming the award after Shanghai is fitting, because it reflects the city’s greatness and best practices,” he added.
Brisbane, Australia, has adopted solutions such as affordable housing programs, and sustainable transportation strategies to become a world-leading, green, sustainable and thriving city.
“We are incredibly proud of the work we’ve done and look forward to doing even more,” said Tanya Neish, manager of strategy and governance of the Brisbane City Council. She said the award is the highest honor for evaluating sustainable development goals globally.
An aerial view of the George Town in Penang.
“World cities can lead the way, and Shanghai is undoubtedly a world city,” Neish said. “It’s beautiful and we’ve enjoyed our time here.”
George Town in Penang has introduced a 2030 urban strategy to address challenges like climate change and achieve sustainable development. It has encouraged the use of public transport by offering free bus services across the island since 2009.
“We support alternative transportation, like cycling, and we’re even planning to introduce water taxis to improve sustainable transportation,” said Dato Rajendran P. Anthony, the mayor of Penang.
“We prepared for about three months … we felt a great sense of accomplishment. It was a rewarding experience and encouraged us to continue our efforts.”
Fuzhou, the only Chinese city to win the award, has effectively managed a complex river ecosystem to address the impacts of climate change.
It has undertaken comprehensive water system management projects, optimized water resource allocation, reduced water usage and waste, and promoted sustainable environmental strategies.
It has transformed into a green, low-carbon and eco-friendly city known as the “City of a Thousand Gardens,” said Lin Baojin, the Party secretary of Fuzhou.
Kampala in Uganda achieves key progress through actions based on innovative programs in the areas of road safety and connectivity, urban air quality improvement, green financing and renewable energy utilization.
The coastline of Salvador, Brazil.
The United Nations designated October 31 as World Cities Day in 2013, which was initiated in the declaration of the city government on October 31, 2010, the closing day of the Shanghai World Expo.
The latest edition of “Shanghai Manual – A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century” has also been released with urban development cases selected from across the world.
The Shanghai Adapted Index, jointly designed by the Shanghai government and the UN-Habitat, was also unveiled. It evaluates and reflects the achievements and challenges facing global cities in sustainable development and help to adjust their development focus.
The Shanghai Adapted Index originated from the people-centered urban development concept raised by President Xi Jinping. It covers education, transport, infrastructure, employment, social security, public participation, pollutants emission, public space and emergency response.
“Naming this award after Shanghai holds a special significance, as Shanghai represents China’s contributions and international influence in the field of sustainable development,” said Wu.
Brisbane in Australia.
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