Over 100 mayors, leaders and representatives of local governments from around the world, convened in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe city from 16th to 18th May 2018 to attend the first ever International Mayors Forum to be held in Africa.
The historical three-day regional meeting underscored the importance of cities and urban areas in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provided an international platform for knowledge sharing amongst the delegates.
Through presentations around the implementation of SDGs in cities of different countries, the conference improved understanding of successes and lessons learned that will enhance the 2030 Agenda implementation, particularly SDG 11, which promotes efforts to develop sustainable cities and communities at the local level.
The conference was organised by the Government of Malawi, through the Lilongwe City Council in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development (UNOSD).
Speaking during the official opening session of the conference, the Guest of Honour, Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, acknowledged the importance of cities and their role in economic development. He described Malawi as one the fastest urbanizing countries in the world and is therefore imperative to come up with interventions that address the different challenges that are brought on because of the current urbanisation trend.
The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Maria Jose Torres, described the International Mayors Forum as timely for Malawi as the country is in the process of localizing the SDGs. She described cities as an opportunity to drive innovations and sustainable economic growth and further emphasised on the importance of having good data when creating sustainable cities.
“Inclusiveness cannot be achieved without having good data that shows how equitable empowerment and non-discrimination is being achieved. Cities require the necessary information and data on who and where are the vulnerable and marginalized people” said Ms. Torres.
The Mayor of Lilongwe city, Dr. Desmond Bikoko, acknowledged the importance that partnerships with different stakeholders have played in the development projects undertaken by the city, to provide better services to its residents. He urged his fellow mayors to work together with other stakeholders to gain knowledge and skills required for the implementation of SDGs in their cities.
The discussions and subsequent recommendations that emerged from the International Mayors’ Forum are expected to add to the voices of the local authorities at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), set for July 2018 in New York.