Weekly Urban News Update
April 26, 2019
In This Update: 
Asylum-Seekers in Greece Face Eviction
Residents of Ethiopia's Satellite Cities Face Forced Eviction and Home Demolition
Indian State Offers 400,000 Free Homes for Homeless Residents
UN Says Countries Should Consider All SDGs in Upcoming High Level Political Forum
UN Habitat Emphasizes Human Settlements for National Adaptation Plans
Investing in Cities Helps, Not Hinders, Development of Small Rural Towns
London is the World's Most "Digitally Ready" City
IHC Global Spotlight Event: Underpinning Sustainable Development's Role in the SDGs
In the News and Around the Web
Asylum-Seekers in Greece Face Eviction
Large numbers of refugees hosted by Greece face eviction from EU paid homes this year, as the number of refugees outpaces available housing. The EU and UN programs that guarantee asylum seekers accommodations also offer financial assistance and administrative support. UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov explains that the programs are meant to be transitional and temporary, not permanent: "After securing asylum they (the refugees) would theoretically have to leave the dwellings in the next few months." But some challenge the effectiveness of the program implementation and believe a lack of open communication about program benefits with asylum seekers has hindered their ability to transition away from EU paid homes. Instead, activists assert that m any of the refugees facing eviction are  unaware the program guarantees assistance that should help them obtain a tax number, vocational training open a bank account, and register at job centers.

Read more here.
Residents of Ethiopia's Satellite Cities Face Forced Eviction and Home Demolition
Potential mass eviction and housing demolitions in Addis Ababa's satellite town Sululta is worrying its residents. According to city mayor Rosa Umar, Sululta's informal settlements encroach on land promised to investors. "If the houses are illegal, they have to be demolished." But the evictions and demolitions may leave residents in dire straits. One Sululta resident explains: "If they demolish the house, I cannot imagine what I'll do - I can't afford to build another. It would be better to kill us than displace us." But others hope that the government's decision to formalize 45,000 land titles in 2015 to tackle illegal housing in Addis Ababa may be the policy precedent. Others are not so sure. Harvard Law School researcher Mekonnen Firew Ayano Mekonnen notes that not only was this a rare move, but : "Blank-check legalization sets a precedent that is likely to create more problems."

Read more here.
Indian State Kerala Offers 400,000 Free Homes for Homeless Residents
The Indian state Kerala will offer more than 400,000 free homes for its homeless population as part of the national government's "Housing for All" plan. Housing for All promises to create 20 million new urban housing units and 30 million rural homes by 2022, but critics note its implementation has been slow and incomplete. According to  Shivani Chaudry, executive director at Housing and Land Rights Network Kerala's initiative is a welcome and much needed move that will "shift the focus from 'shelters' to 'housing...(which is) the only way that the issue of homelessness can be addressed." 

Read more here.
UN Says Countries Should Consider all SDGs in Upcoming High Level Political Forum
Last week, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) issued a "Question and Answers for Voluntary National Reviews at the 2019 High Level Political Forum." The document seeks to help the 49 nations who have volunteered to present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) under the theme "Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality." Although the HLPF in July focuses on SDGs 4, 8, 20, 13, 16, and 17, the Q&A expects that the scope of VNRs will be "as broad as possible," meaning that: "Countries are strongly encouraged to report on all 17 SDGs... (and that) it is not the expectation that the VNRs should focus on the SDGs being reviewed by the HLPF that year." Further suggestions include examining national and local governance levels; good practices, gaps, and lessons learned; and the potential for partnerships and collaborations.

Read more here.
UN Habitat Guide Emphasizes Human Settlements For National Adaptation Plans
The National Adaptation Plans seek to guide nations on how to adapt to climate change and enhance disaster response and resilience. Earlier this month, UN-Habitat highlighted the importance of integrating urban and human settlements into environmental sustainability and planning. Given the high and increasing concentration of people living in cities, effective NAPs should consider the relationship between meeting the needs of urban communities and how focusing on city-level adaptation enables countries to develop comprehensive national policies as well. The development of new infrastructure to promote urban resilience is one such example of this overlap.

Read more here.
Investing in Cities Helps, Not Hinders, Development of Small, Rural Towns
Small town and rural decline frequently features in the news and policy debates. In the New York Times, Brookings Institution Vice President and Director Amy Lieu and Policy Analyst Nathan Arnosti wonder: "What if the best way to rejuvenate small towns is to invest in cities?" For one, Liu and Arnosti explain accelerated job growth in a knowledge-driven urban economy will generate more revenue for states to subsidize education, infrastructure, and public investments in small towns. They assert that supporting the development of small and midsize cities can increase the flow of private investment. In turn, for rural residents in proximity cities, it will improve their access to jobs, customers, training programs and small-business financing.

Read more about the summit here .
London is the World's Most "Digitally Ready" City
Siemens's Atlas of Digitalization app ranked London the most "digitally ready" city, followed by Buenos Aires, Dubai, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, and Tapei. The Siemens app, that seeks to assess the so-called "Fourth Industrial Revolution," underlines mobility, sustainability, and opportunity among 21 indicators. According to Juergen Maier, CEO Siemens UK, London is successfully implementing digital technologies to decrease congestion and carbon emissions. Maier is especially optimistic about London's ability to lead the use of smart technology in cities: "In spite of all the economic uncertainty we have been facing in the UK over the last two years this study shows we are still well placed to achieve leadership globally if we continue to invest, innovate, and grow responsibly and sustainably."

Read more here.
IHC Global Spotlight Event
Underpinning Sustainable Development Infrastructure's Role in the SDGs
Society for International Development-Washington
May 2, 2019

S ID-Washington's Infrastructure & Urban Development Workgroup would like to invite you to a discussion regarding the importance of infrastructure on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recently, the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) published a  report  on how infrastructure supports the Sustainable Development Goals. It highlights the need to understand infrastructure as an integrated system of systems - the interdependencies across sectors requires us to break down the 'silo mentality' in infrastructure development. According to the report,  infrastructure supports between 70 and 80% of the SDG targets. This event will explore these themes, asking how efficient infrastructure policy and disciplined investment decisions can help attain the SDGs.

Find the event information here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • The Consequences of Urban Noise Pollution : Noise pollution is overwhelming major global cities, with the potential to have dire effects on people's health.
  • U.S. News and World Report Interviews Urban Institute President Sarah Wartfell: Wartfell shares her views on topics like Amazon HQ2, Opportunity Zones, accessible housing and urban investment.
  • What Shade Can Tell Us about Urban Inequality: In a long-form article, Sam Bloch makes the case that access to shade in cities is "a civic resource, an index of inequality, and a requirement for public health." 

A noise barrier by the autobahn in Essen Germany
( Photo credit:  Jocken Tack/Alamy)

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