Cities Are Listening at Smart City Expo World Congress, 2019


On 19, 20 and 21 November United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) took part in the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019 in Barcelona bringing to light key topics such as digital rights, resilience, localizing the global agendas and citizen-led participatory processes. 

The Smart City Expo World Congress gathers together annually local leaders, businesses, public authorities, research centres and civil society from around the world in order to empower cities and collectivize urban innovation at the global scale. UCLG is one of the institutions supporting this event, together with UN-Habitat, the European Commission and the Barcelona Provincial Council, among others.

On Tuesday, November 19th, UCLG attended the executive team meeting of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights to contribute towards the actions and targets of the coalition for the year 2020 together with the core city founding members, Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City, as well as core partners such as UN-Habitat and Eurocities. UCLG, as a core member, helped shape the work of the coalition for the next year by providing inputs on issues related to digital rights, increased geographically balanced and inclusive membership, and more comprehensive targets. 

The 2nd and 3rd day of the Congress, UCLG brought insight on urban resilience and on the localization ofthe global agendas. During the session on Wednesday, November 20th: “Smart, Developing and Resilient Cities: How can smart solutions cater to rapidly urbanising developing areas?”, experts of the municipality of Barcelona and the Generalitat de Catalunya, and Esteban Leon, Head of City Resilience Profiling Programme (CRPP), UN-Habitat, fostered a discussion on how can technology be incorporated into different phases of disaster management and recovery, ensuring urban resilience to all cities and territories, and therefore in leaving no one and no place behind. 

As the growing Smart City approach has shown, technology can be incorporated into different phases of disaster management and recovery, helping to improve urban resilience. However, in the words of the Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, “we need to expand this perspective to make resilience a concept that is not just about tackling natural disaster risk management but that also tackles social challenges. Resilience needs to be part of the political agenda if we want it to be embedded in development and move beyond crisis management”

Our sister organizations such as ICLEI and C40, as well as UN-Habitat participated together with our in a closed meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss issues related to resilience together with the Major of Asunción resilience officers from London, Dallas, Rotterdam, Teresina, Milan, Manchester and Tel Aviv.  As Urban Resilience Hub predicted in twitter with its announcement, it was a great learning opportunity to know more about the challenges of resilience with such a complete panel. 

Smart Cities Expo also offered an opportunity to present the outcomes of our recent World Summit: The Durban Political Declaration. The Secretary General of UCLG and staff members of the World Secretariat team joined the mayors of Banjul and Subang Jaya in a discussion on the localization of the global agendas within the context of smart cities and the 4th Industrial Revolution, highlighting the potential of harnessing technology by local communities to ensure a future that leaves no one and no place behind.

The discussion revolved around the importance of putting citizens at the forefront of the discussions that affect their daily lives including moving towards a smart city. “We cannot do it without the community. We have to include citizens in our planning” concluded  mayor of Banjul, Rohey Malick Lowe.  The Mayor of Subang Jaya, Noraini Roslan, in her intervention, defended the need to convince all stakeholders with the idea that “we can make profits and be sustainable at the same time.”

In line with this thoughts at the session Future Cities: Tapping the Transformative Power of Emerging Technologies, Emilia Saiz emphasized the need for communities to shape the technology for the future, in order to maintain sustainable ways of life.

 People are starting to realize that the last decades of development have led to unhealthy and unhappy ways of living. Technology has to help us transform this from the local level – not from a high-tech perspective.” (Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of UCLG)

This last session fostered dialogue on how to fairly implement innovation at all levels and sectors within cities with the collaboration of Pipo Serrano, content broadcaster, Daniel Quintero, Mayor of the City of Medellin, Jeff Merritt, Head of IoT, Robotics & Smart Cities of World Economic Forum and Richard Budel, CTO Public Sector Huawei. 

Thanks to this participation and shared vision felt at events such as the Smart City Expo World Congress, UCLG has been able to form and enhance partnerships with stakeholders to achieve the global goals.  All in all, local and regional governments will need to be at the forefront of the growing movement towards Smart Cities as the issues that correspond to them are but local challenges felt at the world scale.