Sustainable Cities: Empowering People, Enabling Prosperity and Protecting the Planet

A Special Symposium of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Cities and the Sustainable Development Agenda

VATICAN, July 22, 2015 – In September 2015 the world’s governments will agree upon a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals revolve around three themes: empowering people, eradicating poverty and protecting human dignity; shared prosperity and decent, fair jobs for all; protecting the planet and tackling climate change. These 15-year goals will help guide the public’s understanding of complex sustainable development challenges, inspire public and private action, promote integrated thinking, and foster accountability. SDG 11 will help establish a new agenda of global action to ‘Make cities and human settlements, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.

Urbanization will be a defining trend over the next several decades. Today, 50% of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities, and, by 2050, this is expected to rise to around 70%. Cities are currently home to extreme deprivation and environmental degradation with around one billion people living in slums. At the same time, roughly 75% of global economic activity is urban, and as the urban population grows, so will the urban share of global GDP and investments.

This special symposium will bring together local government leaders and leading urban development practitioners to consider how cities, urban areas and regions can drive the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda and forge a roadmap for their realization. Mayors and other participants will consider the challenges of social inclusion, economic development and environmental preservation including cities’ carbon commitments. They will reflect upon deeper partnerships with national governments and citizens, governance arrangements and a new financial architecture that will empower cities to accelerate the SDG implementation process.

Taking place just 2 months before Heads of State and Government gather in New York to approve the SDGs and 4 months before the climate negotiations in Paris, this event will provide a crucial opportunity for city leaders to take leadership of making clear, quantifiable commitments which demonstrate their dedication to a fairer, more sustainable world.


For media inquiries, please contact Jessica Espey.

Quote from Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (view biography):

“The symposium will help cities around the world to get a jump-start on the Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted by the world’s nations in September. The SDGs are a moral compact for the right kind of development: inclusive, pro-poor, and environmentally sustainable. Leading mayors, religious leaders, and urban experts will share views on the way forward.”