Home to millions of inhabitants, megacities are the defining features of our times. Never before in history did humans live in such high numbers in urban dwellings. The sheer scale of megacities qualifies them to a league of their own. They have become unique entities. Not only are megacities the locus where all the challenges converge, but they are also the drivers of global change. Evidently “one size fits all” policies falter in the case of megacities.
Beyond that, it is also important to recognize that the world has entered an era of polycrisis and megacities are on the frontline of this ongoing battle. Natural disasters, such as wildfires or floods, are not anymore one-off catastrophes but have become recurring emergencies. As demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, municipalities do not have the luxury to delay decision-making. They must act immediately.
Surely there are several international platforms, gatherings, and conferences, where multilateral talks take place. However, in the context of “global city diplomacy,” none of these platforms are dedicated to megacities. As humanity enters a predominantly urban lifestyle, megacities are not only humanity’s future, but become unavoidable modes of living. Evaluated from a city services point of view, megacities need to self-assess in which aspects they can do better for their inhabitants and on their climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is crucial that policies focus on a more people- and planet-oriented approach rather than a profit-seeking one. Hence a consortium of like-minded megacities would be able to promote this perspective. Our summit will provide the first step towards a new way of thinking as required by the pressing needs of our times.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for a new conversation to take place where similar challenges of megacities are identified and good practices are shared. Peer to peer communication amongst mayors of megacities is bound to inspire unique resolutions for the challenges they face.
The megacity mayors have more in common than they think. It is time they open a direct line of communication so as to learn from one another.
Proposed Theme: “Sustainable Finance for Affordable Megacity Services”
Issues such as affordable housing, environmental protection, access to clean water and sanitation, transport and mobility, waste management, energy, equity and inclusion have become even more complex when people and structures are compressed as is the case for megacities. There is an unquestionable challenge to provide sustainable finance in order to address these basic human needs while preserving the natural resources of these territories under pressure. Megacity municipalities need to find innovative ways to blend public and private funds to provide quality services to urban dwellers. This requires the fields of services, governance, law and economics to be reviewed at the same time in search for a new sustainable urban finance. Megacities must also determine how to best unlock financing sources for the benefit of cities in light of a state-centric international finance system and increase their capacity to access financial markets.
The Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, together with the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes and Professor Jeffrey Sachs have already hosted an event to inspire a new “Global Commission for Urban SDG Finance” that was aimed at strengthening global financing so as to meet SDGs in cities. Now we have the opportunity to back this process, by coming together as megacities.
In this context, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality would like to host a Megacities Summit that will focus on two major issues: the first is the affordability of key urban services and underlying infrastructures, and the second, is to evaluate existing proposals to improve green urban finance access and examine alternative models in financing these services and infrastructures. A session will be dedicated to each issue. In each session, provision of affordable housing, transport services and energy, water and sanitation, waste management as well as equitable access to these services will be discussed. Mayors and vice-mayors will share models and solutions that involve public and private sector actors, at the large scale that is characteristic of megacities. Community-based initiatives led by civil society and the solutions provided by social enterprises will also be showcased.
The conditions under which “win-win” solutions and successful multi-level governance in financing affordable municipal services will be the main collective inquiry in our conversations. The principal objective of this Summit is to generate broader guidelines and shared priorities on investment and finance-related policies. Hence this call to become a “coalition of the willing”.
The first ever Megacities Summit to be hosted in Istanbul, the crossroad for civilizations, will bring together Mayors, Deputy Mayors and high-ranking officials of megacities. It will consist of a core group of current and emerging megacities representing different continents of the world, thus enabling the exchange of diverse perspectives. The day-long interactive Summit will seek actionable answers for the growing challenges of megacities in an increasingly urban world.
Coming immediately after the Marmara Urban Forum (October 4-6, 2023) and the global celebration of World Metropolitan Day (October 7) in Istanbul, the Megacities Summit will be co-organized with Metropolis, the World Association of Major Metropolises, and will count on the high level participation of the world’s current and emerging megacities.