Delegates at the Mercocities Summit in Santa Fe, Argentina (Photo: Mercocities)
PANAMA CITY, 22 December 2016 – A network of hundreds of cities across South America has pledged to step up regional efforts to reduce disaster risk and boost sustainable development.
The 21st edition of the Mercocities Summit, held in Santa Fe, Argentina, put the focus squarely on the links between climate change, poverty and damaging development.
“We know that the most acute problems affect everyone, but those with less suffer more. Building resilient cities allows us to focus on the ability of communities to cope with crises. We need to think about regional integration and urban development through the lens of equity and sustainability," said Mr. José Corral, Mayor of Santa Fe, who holds the rotating presidency of the Mercocities network.
He underlined the need not only to ensure that the global development agenda is applied in cities, but also to ensure in turn that cities are a clear part of that agenda.
The summit, earlier this month, unanimously adopted the Santa Fe Declaration on "Building Resilient Cities within the Framework of Regional Integration", which aims to guide urban development efforts through to 2030.
That is the timeline set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted by the international community in 2015. One of its other key building blocks is the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Reducing disaster risk plays a key role in the development of nations, given that economic losses from disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and floods are averaging US$250 billion to US$300 billion every year, while future losses (expected annual losses) are currently estimated at US$314 billion in the built environment, according to UNISDR’s 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.
The Santa Fe Declaration addresses resilience as a key element in the face of the multiple challenges facing the international community today, such as unemployment, inequalities and the impact of climate change, and states that these must be addressed through the articulation of policies for and with cities.
In particular, and in response to current global challenges, the cities vowed to “to encourage networking to promote resilient societies based on a broad concept of the term that addresses not only natural hazards (earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, etc.) but that also takes into account the tensions that cities have (unemployment, crime, drug trafficking, marginality, lack of basic infrastructure, among others).”
"Resilience requires a multidisciplinary approach, through education, promotion of culture, generation of employment opportunities, construction of a sustainable urban environment, social inclusion policies and a greater presence of the state in the most vulnerable areas," it says.
The Mercocities network is linked to South America’s trading bloc. It groups more than 300 cities in Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, as well as in Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, with a combined population of more than 120 million people.