Ahead of financing conference, Urban Development Fund urged

Come September, an unusually broad swathe of the world’s attention will focus on the Special Summit for Sustainable Development in New York. But even before then, the development savvy are equally eyeballing the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in July in Addis Ababa.

That’s because without strong financing mechanisms, the lofty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Post-2015 Development Agenda are liable to barely get off the ground.

The Ecological Sequestration Trust (TEST), a think tank that focuses on city-region connections, is well aware of that fact. So, in late February, TEST organized a high-level meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre, aimed at brainstorming how development could and should be financed going forward. (Citiscope also receives funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.)

Those gathered in Bellagio explored several specific test cases from Brazil, India, China and other parts of rapidly urbanizing Africa and Asia. Each of these, of course, is a key actor in the coming “century of the city”.

Among their conclusions, the experts determined that the availability of finance is not an issue. Rather, the problem may come in ensuring that an adequate share of national funds are directed to the city level, as well as that local-level capacity is strong enough to prepare bankable projects.

The group ultimately recommended an Urban Development Fund as a financing mechanism that could shepherd this process. Such a fund would bring together major investors, development funders and city-level public sectors. “This vehicle would serve as an aggregator of income from various sources within the cities … [and] then act as an initiator, developer and creator of projects within the cities,” the experts suggested.

The group also urged that increased emphasis be placed on city regions in international development aid.

The meeting brought together a global cast of experts. Authorities included political representatives such as Mayor Erdene Bat-uul of Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, and Dahong Shi of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Academics and civil society thinkers included Aromar Revi, the director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and Martin Oteng-Ababio, a lecturer on urban disaster risk management at the University of Ghana. Emma Torres, with the U. N. Development Programme’s Washington office, also took part.

Oteng-Ababio was able to reflect on Accra’s recent selection as one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. TEST shares Rockefeller’s interest in the resilience agenda, having pioneered resilience.io, an open-source, cloud-based platform that brings together economic, social and environmental statistics with satellite and terrestrial data that can be used to inform city planning.

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