Cities will be on the front lines of implementing the global goals

By Brock Carlton, Brock Carlton is the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, UCLG North American Section and the national voice for nearly 2,000 municipalities—from big cities to rural towns—representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation 

Everyone has a connection to the place they call home, be it a large metropolis or a small town. It’s where we raise our families, start a small business and connect with each other—and the world.

In Canada, like in many other nations, our hometowns also play a key role in how our countries fare on the global stage. Local governments are on the front lines of finding solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges, such as alleviating poverty, ensuring access to basic services, addressing inequalities, supporting local economies, promoting culture as driver of development, and coping with the impact of climate change.

According to the United Nations, managing the growth of urban areas is among the most urgent developmentchallenges of the 21st century and will be a major factor in the achievement of the 2030 sustainable development agenda. By 2050, an estimated two thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, with 90 per cent of that growth occurring in developing countries. Local and regional governments will need to respond by developing and maintaining infrastructure to serve the population growth.

Goal 9 refers to the need for countries to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure in order to support economic and social development in their communities and to connect to the rest of the world. Like most sustainable development goals, this requires local commitments and local action, bolstered by national programs and partnerships.

In order to achieve Goal 9 and others, local governments must be given access to new financing mechanisms, including a more balanced distribution of national resources.

In Canada, and around the world, municipalities are the economic engines of their country. They are already taking a leadership role in infrastructure, driving solutions on everything from adequate housing and transit, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and disaster preparedness.

Long-term and sustained investment in local infrastructure provides a clear and measurable return on investment and addresses the biggest gaps hindering our economic competitiveness. And we believe in strengthening the capacity of local governments to plan, prepare, coordinate and manage local responses to natural disasters and postconflict reconstruction.

Building and maintaining infrastructure that is resilient to extreme weather will help us tackle environmental and social challenges in the future, while saving taxpayers and local businesses money in the long run. Upgrading important water infrastructure will allow communities to keep water clean without deferring other important infrastructure priorities.

In Canada, we’ve seen significant gains for the municipal sector over the past few years, including dedicated, longterm funding for infrastructure and public transit. These are historic levels of investment in our cities. And the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has long advocated for increased federal involvement in developing the telecommunications infrastructure that is so important to the social, cultural and economic life of Canada's rural, northern and remote communities.

And in the 25 countries where FCM is active, local governments of all sizes are addressing urban growth and land-use challenges to build more inclusive and resilient communities.

Achieving Goal 9 — both here in Canada and globally — will require significant public investment, as well as recognition of local and regional governments as equal partners with national governments.

Whether we are talking about infrastructure, climate change or poverty reduction, the success of these goals will play out in our neighbourhoods, our cities and our metropolitan areas.

Local and regional governments—with the closest and most direct mandate from its citizens—have a central role to play.

Community building is nation building. As we tackle 21st century challenges, local and regional governments of all sizes will be central to building more sustainable and prosperous nations.

This article is part of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) publication: "Transforming our world: Canadian perspectives on the Sustainable Development Goals"