Milan, New York, Guadalajara, Wuhan, and Mezitli have won the fourth Guangzhou International Awards for Urban Innovation after being selected from a shortlist of 15 global cities.
The aim of the awards is to identify initiatives with the potential to solve current and future challenges in urban areas. Each city was chosen by a jury of global experts, with submissions required to demonstrate an ability to contribute to global agendas. The population of the winning cities ranged from 140,000 to over 10 million.
Nicholas You, urban specialist and director of the awards, told Cities Today that the initiatives normally feature “new policies, strategies, governance, business models, or the use of new technologies”.
However, he also explained that a “substantial emphasis [is placed] on the potential for initiatives to inspire other cities,” adding that it is important for the awards to “recognise innovation in different geographic, social, cultural, economic and political contexts”.
Milan won its award for a new framework that promotes sustainable food production, consumption, waste reduction, and nutrition. Launched in 2016, the Milan Urban Food Policy has since grown into a global network with 179 signatory cities.
New York was included after becoming the first city to voluntarily submit a local report on progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. While governments are encouraged to submit national reports, cities are not obliged to do so, despite some analysts suggesting two-thirds of the Sustainable Development Goals will need to be implemented at the local level.
In Guadalajara, a citizen-led metropolitan coordination programme bringing together nine municipalities responsible for 4.5 million people was enough to convince the jury to reward the city’s contribution to urban development with an award.
Elsewhere, in China, the restoration of the Jinkou landfill site and polluted Zhanggong dyke saw Wuhan receive praise for its role in solving an ecological and urban problem that has plagued the city for decades.
The Turkish city of Mezitli, while small by comparison, was also singled out for its role in creating employment and social security safety nets for migrant women forced to flee war-torn Syria and other conflict zones. The Mezitli Women Producers’ Market has supported 6,000 women in a local economy previously dominated by men.
This year’s awards were notable for several reasons, including the absence of an African winner for the first time since the biennial awards began. In another first, the total population of the winning cities surpassed 20 million.
Winning submissions each receive US$20,000, a trophy, and certificate, among other incentives.