Lot Kaduma, a member of the UN Major Group for Children & Youth Habitat III Working Group for West & Central Africa, is also the founder of Urban Future Project, a youth-led advocacy initiative focused on achieving inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities in Africa, in accordance with Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
You are a trained architect, how did you become an advocate for sustainable cities?
As a trained architect, my work centers on the design and development of buildings along with their surrounding landscapes. Buildings function as shelter for human activities and the need for accommodation is considered second only to food in terms of importance to human survival.
This point to the relevance of architecture in shaping human civilizations and communities; be they hamlets, villages, towns, cities or even megacities. Buildings, along with the interconnecting infrastructure of roads, railways, sea-ports, energy, communications and so on make up the built environment and their combined functions is what drives social and economic activities in cities.
The rapid growth of cities due to rapid urbanization resulting from rural-urban migration is leading to negative impacts on human society and the natural environment in the form of growth of slums, increased poverty and inequalities in the form of access to food, water and energy as well as the challenges of climate change and pollution.
Currently, more than half of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities and it is projected that about 60% and 70% percent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2030 and 2050, respectively. A majority of such urban growth will be in Sub Saharan Africa, particularly in Nigeria where more than half of the populations already live in slums.
This will pose a serious development challenge and thus will require that cities in Africa be planned, developed and managed in a sustainable manner in order to address these existential challenges and drive the needed economic growth that will lift its citizens out of poverty while protecting the environment.
As such, it is the responsibility of architects along with other professionals such as urban planners, engineers, builders, and surveyors who are closely involved in the planning, design, development and management of the built environment to ensure that cities and human settlements are safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. This is why I became an advocate for sustainable cities.
You are the founder of Urban Future Project; an advocacy initiative focused on SDG11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities) which seeks to draw strength from the collective inspiration and energy of the Nigerian youth towards building inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities in the country. How are you working to achieve the project’s mandate?
The mandate of Urban Future Project is to facilitate the participation of young people in shaping the kind of cities we desire as well as drive current and future policy frameworks on urban development, locally and globally. We are set to deliver this through online and offline advocacy, research and policy development as well as capacity building.
Our primary target are young students and professionals within the built environment and construction industry as well as young people interested in city development because we believe they possess the passion and innovation to shape future cities and drive the needed development agenda for a sustainable and prosperous future for all.
Our specific focus has to do with addressing issues centered on sustainable housing and urban development such as green buildings, green transport and infrastructure, smart cities, renewable energy, urban agriculture as well as water and sanitation. Others are waste management & recycling, urban governance, urban resilience, green public spaces, nature conservation and climate change.
SDG 11 which is your focus is not one of the “popular” SDGs in Nigeria, what are the challenges associated with your advocacy?
It is obvious that the “popular” SDGs in Nigeria are those focused on “social issues” like ending poverty and hunger, improving the quality of education and healthcare as well as advancing gender equality, which are the most critical challenges every developing country of the world is currently facing.
And this is why SDG 11 is not as popular as it should be. Therefore, in order to appreciate the strategic importance of sustainable cities in achieving the SDGs in Nigeria we must understand the critically-important role of safe, resilient and sustainable cities as enablers of social and economic development.
This is because it is in cities that we have a majority of the problems that the SDGs seek to address such as poverty, hunger, diseases, inequalities, insecurity, pollution, flooding, environmental degradation and so on, and also considering the fact that majority of people are continuously moving from villages into cities in search of economic opportunities.
Moreover, the growing impacts of climate change and urban conflicts have made it even more imperative to begin to reexamine the critically-important role making cities and human settlements safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable – which is what SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities seeks to address – will play in achieving sustainable socioeconomic development.
Therefore, the major challenges associated with our advocacy have to do with the fact that key actors in society such as government, civil society, academia, private sector and urban communities are yet to understand the importance of sustainable cities as accelerators of the SDGs in Nigeria.
And it is only when the entire society begins to focus more on SDG11 by looking at its relationship with the 16 other SDGs that we will be able to successfully achieve this uniquely strategic goal. This means there is need for increased funding and support for advocacy and mainstreaming of the Urban SDG in Nigeria.
Where do you hope to see Nigeria in terms of achieving SDG11 by 2030?
Nigeria should ensure improved effort towards achieving SDG11 because of the strategic importance of sustainable and resilient societies in achieving the targets of the SDGs by 2030. The global community already accords priority to the implementation of SDG11 because it appreciates its relevance in achieving the Global Goals.
For example, last February, the World Urban Forum was held at Kuala Lumpur under the theme: “Cities 2030 – Cities For All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda” where the international community agreed on efforts to localize and scale-up the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will hold this April in the UK under the theme: “Towards a Common Future.” The United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will also be held in July 2018 under the theme “Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies.”
These events will focus on the implementation of SDG11 along with its targets towards building a prosperous future for all. Thus, my wish is to see Nigeria begins to double her efforts in the implementation of the SDG11 through its integration with national and sub-national development plans as well as enhance increased partnerships between government, civil society, private sector, academia, international development agencies and local communities towards achieving the targets of the SDG11 by 2030.
I will like to conclude with some words from the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina J Mohammed during the High-Level UN Meeting on the New Urban Agenda and UN HABITAT in September 2017: “It is clear that it is in cities where the battle for sustainability will be won or lost.”
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