Cities play a vital role in the social and economic development of countries. Efficient and productive cities are essential for national economic growth. Strong urban economies are essential for generating the resources needed for public and private investments in infrastructure, education and health, improved living conditions, and poverty alleviation. However, urban environmental problems are a serious threat to the full realisation of the socio-economic contribution which cities can make. Environmental degradation brings with it enormous costs, resulting in significant inefficiencies in the use of local resources. It also compounds inequities, and threatens the sustainability of development. Yet environmental degradation is not inevitable and is often caused by inappropriate urban development policies and ineffective planning and management.
The environmental planning and management (EPM) approach of the Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) addresses the urban challenge by promoting the sustainability of cities. The EPM approach is based on and supports the efforts that cities make in developing their environments by improving their environmental information and expertise; their strategies and decision-making; and their implementation of strategies. With improved EPM capacity and policy application processes, municipal authorities are able to better address priority local environmental issues. On a broader scale, SCP helps to reduce poverty by more efficiently and equitably managing the use of environmental resources and the control of hazards and by promoting employment through improved environmental service delivery.
To strengthen local capacities (for EPM), SCP directly helps local authorities and their partners to achieve a well-managed urban environment as part of a sustainable urban development process that empowers all city dwellers. Consequently, SCP promotes good environmental governance at all levels:
- Locally, by supporting partners in cities to apply a well proven four stage Environmental Planning and Management Process.
- Nationally, by supporting national partners to replicate local-level best practices into national scale and to integrate lessons of experience into national policy and legal frameworks.
- Regionally, by facilitating city-to-city exchanges and technical cooperation amongst developing countries through partner networks and regional meetings.
- Globally, by combining the complementary strengths of UN-HABITAT and UNEP in applying specialized expertise and synthesizing experiences for awareness building, policy formulation and national replication.