Cities are complex structures. They function on numerous levels, and multiple stakeholders play a role in shaping them. Development of cities should be a coordinated process leading to one common goal: sustainable, resilient and inclusive spaces for all. Local authorities and municipalities can play an important role in bringing together relevant stakeholders and representing the needs of city-dwellers.

Almost 130 people—government and municipality representatives, civil society organizations and academia—gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria, to discuss how to create cities that are safe, sustainable, and provide decent housing for all. The international conference “Sustainable Cities - New Challenges and Opportunities for the Municipalities” served as a venue to discuss urban planning and management of cities.

“Meetings like this show that local governments are not alone. Representatives of various institutions, academia, professional and civic communities from various parts of the world are supporting their efforts,” said the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, in the greetings address sent to conference participants. 

Involving representatives of relevant sectors in discussions about current cities and what we want them to look like may help municipalities better formulate their goals, align them with national policies and find partners that can translate them into reality. Municipalities should be aware of and provide support for the projects that contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

One major challenge for cities and societies globally is climate change. In 2017, Sofia’s Municipality adopted a strategy to adapt to climate change. Its aim is to identify potential risks and challenges that the municipality will face as a result of changing climate conditions, particularly in the sectors of urban planning and housing, health, energy, transport, water management, environment and tourism. The strategy outlined measures to mitigate risks and fully prepare Sofia for new conditions. To monitor the progress of the metropolitan municipality`s climate change adaptation, the municipality created multiple indicators such as shared "green" urban areas, quality of the roads, investments to improve energy efficiency, number of residents with registered allergies, agricultural area affected or destroyed by extreme climatic events, and so on.

Climate change, as significant as it is, is not the only problem urban spaces face nowadays. “Sustainable Cities - New Challenges and Opportunities for the Municipalities” highlighted the complexity of issues that cities face today. The event covered a wide range of issues from the New Urban Agenda, a document that set up policies for urban development around the world for the next 20 years, to innovative approaches to territorial planning and solutions for housing stock in cities. Participants from around the world took this as an opportunity to share their urban experiences as well as learn from Bulgarian municipalities.

The international conference “Sustainable Cities - New Challenges and Opportunities for the Municipalities” was organized by Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa and Habitat for Humanity Bulgaria as a part of the Build Solid Ground project funded by the European Union.

This article is created with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.