29 March 2022

The International Sustainable Cities Summit: building bridges for a sustainable urban world in the age of emergency

This month, ICLEI and ICLEI Member Kadıköy (Turkey) joined forces to convene the International Sustainable Cities Summit. Local leaders from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Turkey, and the USA – including ICLEI First Vice President Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh of Malmö (Sweden) and ICLEI Vice President Mayor Minna Arve of Turku (Finalnd) – came together with representatives from international bodies like the United Nations and European Commission to discuss and commit to a sustainable future. This impactful event culminated in the live signing of the “ICLEI Kadikoy Communique 2022: building bridges for a sustainable urban world in the age of emergency”.

In line with the event being co-organised and hosted by a Turkish municipality, the ICLEI Kadıköy Communique places a focus on Turkish cities, and their growing role in global sustainability action. Its signatories resolve to five key points, namely that:

  1. Local governments are crucial for democracy, peace, social justice, health, prosperity and sustainability.
  2. ICLEI is an important partner in Turkish municipalities’ sustainability efforts.
  3. Turkish municipalities advance towards meeting European and global sustainability commitments and initiatives.
  4. Turkish municipalities engage far beyond Turkey, forging partnerships and collaborating with cities and regions the world over.
  5. Turkish municipalities actively contribute to local governments’ collective global advocacy.

Before culminating in the signing of the Communiqué, the Cities Summit brought Turkish and non-Turkish leaders together to learn from one another, generate new opportunities for cooperation, and foster dialogue with international bodies. Mayors in Kadıköy discussed, in particular, green city financing, circularity, and localising international plans like the European Green Deal.

The result of these discussions was clear consensus that local governments are ambitious, and fully invested in urgently addressing the climate crisis. In fact, Kadıköy Mayor Serdil Dara Odabasi argued that financial institutions must be challenged to match mayors’ urgency. He directly addressed financial bodies, saying: “We mayors are ready to take political risks. Are you ready to finance the future? Are you ready to support us in that risk? Are you decisive or are you pretending?”

The Cities Summit also shed light on the many ways in which local and international bodies share a common understanding of sustainability. For example, Tunç Soyer, Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and member of the ICLEI Global Executive Committee, spoke to the importance of fostering circular culture, saying: “Culture is not just the arts, sciences or theatre. It is the art of living together. This is where culture and sustainability come together: we have to learn to live together also with nature.”

This stance was later echoed by Louisa Vinton of UNDP, who emphasised the importance of circularity when speaking about culture. She began by arguing that culture can be seen as an additional pillar of sustainable development, before going on to expand: “Circularity is a defining principle of everything we do – creating a culture of circularity.”

While not foreseen in the core programme, talks of democracy and peace were also present throughout the day, in recognition of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Mayors extended their support to Ukraine, and spoke to the relationship between peace, democracy, and climate change. “The Russian war in Ukraine reminds us very painfully that people cannot build a future where war reigns. So, the global sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without peace,” explained Mayor Peter Kurz, ICLEI Member Mannheim (Germany).

In reflecting on the Summit as a whole, ICLEI Europe Director Wolfgang Teubner, who also moderated much of the event, reflected: “Over the past few years, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of Turkish cities who have become active Members of the ICLEI network. This Summit has confirmed that this uptick is part of a broad readiness among local Turkish leaders to be at the forefront of global sustainability movements. We are proud to be playing a part in supporting and empowering them to step-up and lead the way toward a sustainable global future.”

The entire International Sustainable Cities Summit is available to watch on YouTube in both English and Turkish. The event programme can be consulted to find the speakers and sessions you wish to revisit.

For more information on the ICLEI Kadikoy Communique 2022, read the text in full here.