Water-logged Islamabad suburb. Photo by Haseeb Jamil on Unsplash

 

The United Nations Development Programme will partner with Tencent in a new initiative, Connecting Cities with Solutions, to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to address critical urban challenges.

Humanity faces mounting challenges as global population increases in a climate stressed world. Cities find themselves at the forefront of these grand challenges. Cities have an instrumental role to play in tackling climate change, as they consume close to 65 per cent of the world’s energy and generate for more than 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. They also drive growth, accounting for 80 per cent of global GDP.

Given these trends, we need to ensure that cities have more opportunities to adopt innovations that can improve quality of life.  “How can cities share their most difficult challenges and make it as easy as possible to receive suggestions and proposals for solutions from the world’s entrepreneurs?” asked David Wallerstein, Tencent’s Chief eXploration Officer.

Tencent is the inaugural supporter to the UNDP’s new initiative, Connecting Cities to Solutions, with the objective of setting up an easy system that facilitates adoption of innovative solutions that boost sustainable development.

This will be done through a web-based platform that records the challenges (i.e. water, energy, transportation, etc.) and invites entrepreneurs and solution providers to engage in addressing the problem.

It is important there to be high quality “market signaling” mechanisms between government bodies and local/international technologists and entrepreneurs. The initial pilot in Islamabad, Pakistan, will work with the Municipal Corporation Islamabad on the pressing issue of water scarcity.

Islamabad has significant challenges with water scarcity and quality.  Over the past five years, water shortage in Islamabad has been elevated to the level of crisis. In 2017, 74 per cent of the water supplied was contaminated leading to a hepatitis rate of 25 per cent. Currently, at 50 million gallons per day Islamabad gets less than 40 per cent of the water it needs, while losses in delivery hover around 30 per cent. Severe droughts and water outages are expected by 2025. “The problem is complex and has wide-ranging ramifications on society and people’s well-being” said Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, UNDP Pakistan. 

“UNDP can provide adaptable “blueprints” that can be guideposts for other global cities and regions to learn from, benchmark, and emulate,” said David Wallerstein. Toward this end, UNDP will support Islamabad to clearly articulate its water challenge and help broadcast it to the rest of the world.  An online system will be available for international and local solutions providers to engage with the city around this grand challenge.

“Innovation will play a pivotal role in tackling our most intractable development challenges, and I am pleased to note that we are riding this wave,” said Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director of Asia and the Pacific. “Through this important collaboration, we will not only improve the lives of underserved communities, we also hope to illustrate how a new generation of partnerships between UNDP, governments and private sector actors will help achieve the SDGs.” he added.

“This is exactly what Islamabad needs. With current low levels of foreign direct investment, this is a welcome opportunity, especially as it aims to boost engagement and exchange between global solution providers and the city of Islamabad” said Najaf Iqbal, the Chief Metropolitan Officer of Islamabad. 

“A UNDP regional team has been dispatched to Islamabad to kick-start the work. This is the first small step in our shared journey,” said Jaco Cilliers, UNDP’s Regional Chief of Policy and Programmes. 

Contact Information

Fatimah Inayat, UNDP Pakistan  fatimah.inayet@undp.org

Mahtab Haider, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub  mahtab.haider@undp.org

Taimur Khilji, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub  taimur.khilji@undp.org

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