Urban 20 Inception Meeting begins in Ahmedabad

Feb 10: “Steered by India and ‘Chair city’ Ahmedabad, I am convinced that this year’s Urban 20 Engagement Group will demonstrate that policies and practices adopted by cities indeed have powerful implications on global agendas of development. It shall further underscore the interconnectedness of the world’s future, and the crucial role cities will play in economic prosperity.”, said Union Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs and Petroleum & Natural Gas, Shri Hardeep S Puri in his audio-visual message at the inaugural City Sherpa Meeting of the 2023 Urban 20 Engagement Group of the G20.

Outlining the relevance of this year’s U20 summit, Shri Hardeep S. Puri said that resonating with the theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future’, this year’s summit will be the crucible from which a framework for mutually beneficial and sustainable international economic cooperation will emerge.

In his audio message at the event, the Minister elaborated on how India has increasingly led discourse and action on important issues of global governance in the last few years. The transformational story of India’s urban rejuvenation since 2014 is one such example that has become a blueprint for other countries to learn from, particularly in the Global South, he added further.

Highlighting the importance of harnessing the economic potential of cities in a sustainable manner, Shri Puri said that the recently concluded COP-27 on climate change and COP-15 on biodiversity have reiterated the urgent need to enhance urban resilience so that cities are equipped to deal with global stresses and shocks.

The Minister stressed that ensuring water security through better planning, policies and governance, is critical in the context of rapid urbanization. “I am certain that this will be an area where considerable knowledge will be produced and shared in this year’s summit.”, he said.

Another important concern for cities, the Minister said is to rethink traditional planning models in order to deliver desired socioeconomic outcomes. Comprehensive infrastructure development will necessitate a robust discussion on investments and financing, he said further.

The Minister expressed hope that this Urban 20 group can be the forum where innovative financial instruments are conceptualized even as concrete steps are taken to accelerate climate finance.

Shri Puri said that Urban 20, or U20, has to be seen as a great opportunity for global peer learning. He said that the collective experiences of various participants and the lessons learnt during the deliberations in this inaugural meeting will help build a bold, visionary roadmap that can be shared with the G20 leaders.

Urban 20 (U20), an Engagement Group under the G20, brings together city sherpas, mayors and representatives from cities in G20 countries, to collectively deliberate key urban challenges and inform the G20 negotiations. The inception meeting of the sixth U20 cycle is the City Sherpa meeting, which was inaugurated in Ahmedabad on 9th February 2023. Ahmedabad is the chair city for U20.

The event which is being held in Ahmedabad on 9-10th February 2023, is being attended by over 70 delegates from close to 40 cities and more than 200 participants from participant and observer cities, U20 Conveners, representatives from various working groups and engagement groups of the G20, senior officials from government, national and international organizations and other invited guests.

Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Bhupendrabhai Patel, Mayor of Ahmedabad, Shri Kiritkumar J Parmar, India’s G20 Sherpa, Shri Amitabh Kant, were among other dignitaries to attend the opening ceremony. In his keynote address, Shri Patel highlighted the rich urban legacy of Ahmedabad, a UNESCO World Heritage City, and recounted various urban development initiatives being undertaken by the Government of Gujarat under the guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi.

India’s G20 Sherpa, Shri Amitabh Kant shared his thoughts on the importance of the U20 engagement group, given the importance of cities in taking forward the global sustainable development agenda. He gave a clarion call to all delegates to act as brand ambassadors of India’s G20 presidency and carry the message of de-globalizing, de-carbonizing and digitizing cities.

The U20 Conveners from C40 and UCLG facilitated a round of introductions by all the City Sherpas present at the meeting.

The second session explored areas of convergence between urban priorities and aspects being discussed as part of key G20 working groups. The session included presentations by Mr Solomon Arokiraj, Chair, of the Infrastructure Working Group, Mr Kamal Kishor, Coordinator, of the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group and Dr Sandip Chatterjee, Member, the Digital Economy Working Group. They stressed on the importance of collaboration and convergence of the G20 streams with U20. The Secretary, of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, also made a special presentation on ‘India’s Urban Imperative’ highlighting the need for reforms in urban planning frameworks, infrastructure financing and moving towards sustainable services.

A special session was held to showcase the pioneering work being undertaken by Ahmedabad and other cities in Gujarat. The speakers, Shri Mukesh Kumar, Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department, Government of Gujarat, Shri Keshav Varma, chairperson, HLC of urban planners, urban economists and institutions, and Prof. H.M.Shivanand Swamy – Professor Emeritus, CoE-UT spoke about successful examples of affordable housing, riverfront development and sustainable urban transport among others.

In the last session, city Sherpas from around the world discussed the urban issues and opportunities that they want to discuss in priority with their G20 national government counterparts. Praveen Chaudhary, Sherpa for the city of Ahmedabad (U20 2023 Chair), presented the main issues that the city wants to address during their leadership. Sri Hayati, Sherpa for the city of Jakarta (U20 2022 Chair) shared evidence of the impact that U20 can have by demonstrating that during Jakarta’s cycle, the U20 recommendations focused on infrastructure financing were reflected and endorsed by the G20 Leaders Bali Declaration. Over 20 international cities took part in the open floor discussion and responded to invitations issued by G20 dignitaries that morning, to continue the dialogue between the G20  workstreams and U20.

The inaugural day concluded with a city excursion for the delegates to Sabarmati Ashram and Atal Bridge. This was followed by a special programme hosted by the government of Gujarat at the Sabarmati Riverfront including a musical and dance performance and a Gala dinner, which was also graced by the Chief Minister.

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