Importance of effective city planning for sustainable development under the Blue Economy framework highlighted during the UN Habitat Assembly

The concept of the Blue Economy has recently attracted considerable attention as a basis to strengthen marine ecosystems, through which to promote economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. This approach underscores the importance of using ocean and other water resources sustainably. A number of initiatives have already been implemented around the world, such as the regulation of coastal activities, sustainable wetlands management, mangroves restoration, management of storm surges and fishing activities, etc., as the strategies to strengthen habitat protection of the marine environment and reduce pollution among other issues.  

A side event conducted during the recent UN Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2019 triggered discourse on how to enhance stakeholders’ partnerships and collaboration at national and international levels to address the common challenges and opportunities between Blue Economy and cities. Several nations recognised that cities take a center stage in solving environmental issues. Cities consume large amounts of natural resources, produce tonnes of waste and emissions, all of which have significant impacts on the regional and planetary environment.  Effective urban and regional planning is therefore crucial and must be managed by anticipating, mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  Member countries of the UN Habitat Governing Council concurred on the importance of protecting and restoring the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystem to maintain their diversity and to enable sustainable use of resource for the present and future.

The UN Habitat Background Paper on Blue Economy and Cities (2018) stresses that ‘spatial planning, integrated conservation, sustainable and efficient resource use are necessary tools and mechanisms to achieve sustainable development.’ The Paper highlights governance of marine and other water body environments and harmonizing them into national and regional urban policies, goals, plans and actions for better economic, social and environmental outcomes.  It also underscores the importance of involving all stakeholders in the Blue Economy infrastructure planning and design for cities, including informal settlements, low carbon plans and basic services while taking into consideration hinterlands, maritime space and foreland to drive integrated solutions.  A holistic approach would be further supported by effective governance and financing.

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