Tirana Smart CityJan 20, 2016
UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative in Albania, Mr. Brian Williams
Excellency Prime Minister Rama, Excellencies; Lord Mayor;
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to address this distinguished audience today. I arrived in Albania only a few weeks ago. I am one of the newest additions, Lord Mayor, to the residents of Tirana.
I am excited to see that the theme of this conference – Tirana Smart City, resonates with so many partners in government, international community as well with representatives of the private sector, academia and civil society.
Like many European and world cities, Tirana faces the challenge of meeting the growing needs and expectations of an increasingly sophisticated urban population while at the same time improving its harmony with the environment, and doing all of this within tight financial limitations.
There are many definitions of a “smart city”. There are even more definitions of “smart.” In today’s fast-paced and inter-connected world of iPhones and Twitter, I take smart to mean the bright, new, workable ideas – innovative ideas that emerge from within Albania and ideas born of experience in other cities that Tirana can quickly adapt. Ideas that will allow you Mr. Mayor to have more inhabitants, more visitors, more businesses, more services, more transportation, with less exploitation, less pollution, less traffic, less noise, and maybe even with less money.
A lot of the discussion around smart cities focuses on the role of information technologies and sustainable infrastructure. Indeed, technology, infrastructure and good municipal systems are all important. But a city is not the sum of its physical assets. A city is the sum of its people, especially its youth, and the energy, enterprise, innovations and productivity that their interactions generate.
So with that logic, a smart city is one which attracts people and investments, generates businesses and ideas, and gives its citizens fulfilling and productive lives. Cities like these hold the potential to generate the new industries, green technologies and decent jobs the world needs to sustain inclusive growth and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UN works in developing cities around the world with partners like yourselves to identify sustainable solutions to urban challenges. We work to make cities child friendly and safe, especially for women. Our work on energy efficiency, effective local governance, social inclusion, and climate and disaster risk resilience all brings us to the cities and is all targeted at helping cities get on the right path to a sustainable future.
Last September, global leaders met at the UN in New York and agreed on a new development agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted. Relevant to our theme today, a specific SD Goal was dedicated to cities – Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. In short, our partnership, gathering, work here today in Tirana is part of a much bigger, global aspiration.
In Albania we have had the privilege of working with the Government and some 61 municipalities for the territorial-administrative reform. It is indeed, on the basis of that reform that the municipality of Tirana is now operating. This is already a great testimony to your efforts to undertake deep, meaningful reforms and, we like to think, of our UN partnership to assist Albania in its aspirations towards rapid, sustainable development.
This conference is organized around six pillars of urban development: economy, mobility, living, environment, governance and people.
We said that smart is about doing more with what resources we have. Let me draw your attention to some of the critical innovations that will be tabled at today’s conference, in particular around finance. Just in the past few weeks both Harvard and Stanford ran seminal articles and analysis saying that the future of cities is with innovative financing mechanisms. There are instruments out there from Denver to Dakar including social bonds, mini-bonds, crowdfunding, transferrable rights and the like. I am eager to hear whether these can be developed for our needs here in Tirana and in other cities of Albania, and eager to explore how the United Nations can assist.
Such innovative approaches call for the direct engagement of private sector in delivering urban services. The time has come for a generational leap in energy efficiency, transport, education and employment opportunities that meet the needs of Tirana’s growing population. These challenges cannot be met only by public funding. Progressive businesses recognize that the ability to operate in our societies is a privilege and not a right. They know that they give back to society with their workforce, taxes, research, innovation and technologies – not to mention through philanthropy and good deeds. Accordingly I warmly welcome those of you who are here today from the business community. I take presence here today as a vote in favor of business playing its role as a responsible partner in community development, and as a commitment to Tirana’s future.
I wish to thank the Municipality also for the privilege of partnership in leading up to this Conference. The Municipality teams in all departments have been working with my UNDP colleagues in identifying possible support activities in all pillars of today’s conference. They are all available in the online site for today’s event. They range from economic and social services in the much troubled Shkoza district, child protection units and empowerment of girls, to projects for strengthening the public finance management, integrity, transparency of the newly amalgamated Tirana municipality. I encourage all of Albania’s development partners to take a look and identify ways to bring them to fruition.
Mr Mayor, I would like to congratulate you for the vision and energy of you and your team to organize today’s successful conference. We are ready to assist so that the citizens of Tirana can see the benefits of today’s engagement. I wish you every success and look forward to working with you in the near future.