By Dr. Peter Kurz
Today, the High Level Political Forum for the implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2030 ends in New York City. On this occasion, Mayor Peter Kurz explains how the city of Mannheim, Germany is working towards implementing Agenda 2030 locally. Political leaders, the city administration and the citizens are collaborating to create an inclusive, citizen-oriented city.
As a part of the German delegation to the Quito Habitat III conference that adopted the New Agenda in October of 2016, I am excited that the city of Mannheim is working towards the adoption of the goals and vision of that conference and those of the 2030 Agenda.
At the beginning of 2016, the city of Mannheim hosted its first Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) entitled “Urban Citizenship in a Nomadic World.” The UTC primarily focused around growing global urbanity and the future of cities. This intensive three day summit resulted in the “Mannheim Manifesto,” which drafted an inclusive vision for global sustainable urban development. Part of this vision is a reconsideration of what Urban Citizenship means; calling for the extension of Urban Citizenship to all residents of the city, regardless of their status. Such inclusivity is paramount to ensure public participation: everyone is affected by decisions reached by the city government, and everyone should have a voice in crafting those decisions. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present the manifesto to several groups at the Habitat III conference and its influence can certainly been seen in the product of that conference, The New Urban Agenda.
Linking international agendas to local action
Our intention is to implement both the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – two international programmes – in conjunction with “The Mannheim Model,” a local device. The Mannheim Model is a collection of eight strategic goals adopted by our city council in 2015 to guide our local urban development. These eight goals consist of (1) Vitalizing Urbanity; (2) Attracting Talent; (3) Strengthening Enterprises; (4) Cultivating Tolerance; (5) Enhancing Equal Educational Opportunities; (6) Enhancing Creative Spirit; (7) Encouraging Engagement; and (8) Enhancing Assets. Each of these goals is tied to a variety of quantitative indicators to let us track our progress and strive towards improvement. To serve this end, the city has begun the process of aggregating these programmes and tailoring the product to the unique challenges that Mannheim is facing. This product is what we call “Mannheim 2030.”
Mannheim has been operating under a goal-oriented administrative philosophy since our large scale administrative reform CHANGE² began in 2008. The primary function of this process was to modernize the city administration to meet the challenges of a diverse 21st century city. Besides creating a goal-oriented administration, CHANGE² also reformed the administration’s capacity for citizen engagement. One project of the reform programme focused specifically on this issue, increasing citizen involvement and personal identification with the city.
Our administrative strategy has thus placed us in an advantageous position for formulating Mannheim 2030 as it can be informed by our experiences with smaller scale projects in the past. Such projects include the current re-development of the former U.S. Army base Benjamin Franklin Village into a new housing area, the continued emphasis on green development through our forthcoming sustainability report, and the cultivation of creative talent through a variety of art schools and a University for Popular Music and Music Business supported and operated by the city.
Getting started: The Mannheim 2030 process
In order to start the Mannheim 2030 development model with enough time to achieve its goals by 2030, the city administration has prepared a time table to guide our planning process. We began early this year, conducting a postal survey asking our citizens to rank the SDGs in order of personal importance. The results of this survey were an important first step and established the theme of citizen involvement that will play an important role for the remainder of the development process.
Citizen involvement is essential because we believe that it is impossible to craft a vision addressing local concerns without the participation of those who live and work in the local area. We have thus visited a variety of public fora and festivals to present our sustainability management and its approach to realize the SDGs, e.g. at the annual Fair “Maimarkt,” the “Jetztmusik” Electronic Art Festival, a new local forum for discussions of political populism, and a Gender Equality summit at the University of Mannheim to facilitate public dialogue about various SDGs and the future of the city. Each of these platforms was used to inform our citizens about the Mannheim 2030 process, to ask for their input and concerns, as well as to invite them to future public events.
Continued citizen involvement comes in the form of Mannheim’s second Urban Thinkers Campus operating under the working title “Mannheim 2030 – Glocalization of the SDGs” and taking place in October this year. This event will attract a wide array of international and local experts, as well as the city’s citizens. The UTC will provide a forum for the discussion of Mannheim 2030 and global sustainable development, and will be an opportunity for dialogue between experts and the general public. In addition, the input gathered at the earlier dialogues will be compiled and discussed in the context of the UTC.
Realising an inclusive, citizen-oriented vision of our city
The results of the UTC will be included in the next stage of the development process: a full year of consultation and collaboration with city interest groups, the political leadership and members of the public. We believe it necessary that the international perspective and influence of the UTC must be tailored to local interests and concerns through such an extended period of public dialogue. The end result of the entire process will then be presented to our city council for its consideration and amendment, ensuring that Mannheim 2030 truly represents the communal vision of the city.
The seventh strategic goal of “The Mannheim Model” reads “Encouraging Engagement.” It charges the city to support a population which is motivated and which takes an active role in the decisions that affect them. This goal in particular should guide the way for all communities to develop a vision for their future selves. Long term development models occupy a separate sphere from most other governmental programmes, they require more than the consent and advice of representative elected officials. These models, in essence, are a vision representing the chosen future of a city. If the general population is not intimately involved in the determination of what that chosen future looks like, this vision will not create commitment and collaboration. This, I believe, is the fundamental lesson from Mannheim’s planned implementation of the New Urban Agenda and 2030 Agenda. Citizens must be made an active part of this process.
I am glad about the international effort for implementing the SDGs. But to truly realise the vision of the 2030 Agenda there must be an equal emphasis on the implementation at the local level, addressing the needs of people to further strengthen local awareness of our global responsibilities.