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Coverage of Selected Side Events at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF 2018)

9-18 July 2018 | UN Headquarters, New York

Monday, 9 July 2018 events

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HLPF 2017

Elizabeth Cecelski, ENERGIA, stressed that a gender-approach is critical to achieve SDG7 (access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all)

The following events were covered by IISD Reporting Services on Monday, 9 July, 2018:

  • Gender in SDG7: Closing the Knowledge Gap
  • The Future of Cities: Leveraging Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development

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Gender in SDG7: Closing the Knowledge GapPresented by ENERGIA, in collaboration with the Department for International Development (DFID), UK


Elizabeth Cecelski, ENERGIA, opened the event, highlighting the linkages between SDG5 (gender equality) and SDG7 (energy). She noted limited progress on these goals and that 3 million women are engaged in the cooking energy sector. She stressed that ENERGIA’s ongoing research helps reduce knowledge gaps between the gender and energy sectors.

Joy Clancy, ENERGIA, underscored priority actions for improving gender-equal energy access, including: making clean cooking solutions a top political priority; closing the electricity gap between men and women as well as across sectors; and accelerating the pace of transition towards renewable energy, including through decentralized solutions. She emphasized the need to increase the number of women in the energy sector, including through: adopting and implementing action plans that include gender goals and targets; changing social norms; women empowerment in the business sector; and education.

Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Spaces for Change, Nigeria, presented on the impacts of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene and gasoline subsidy reform on women and the poor in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria. She said current subsidies have not worked well for poor women, due in part to lack of awareness and diversion of access to the energy source. She noted that targeting of subsidies, directed towards poor women through their bank accounts, led to increased LPG use in India. She called for greater awareness raising and decision-making opportunities for women on the choice of cooking fuels.

Jiska de Groot, University of Cape Town, South Africa, highlighted the impact of energy services delivery on women businesses in the informal food sector in South Africa, Senegal, and Rwanda. Noting the sector provides opportunities for women, she said policy makers need to support the sector as whole, not work against it, or remove it from the urban landscape. She also stressed that policy programs targeting the informal food sector can enable women to expand their business opportunities, including through access to finance and space.

Commenting after the first panel, Krista Riddley, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, highlighted the need to promote women entrepreneurs to move into cleaner, more efficient fuels, noting that some still use kerosene or wood. She also emphasized a woman-focused approach that identifies what women need and provides solutions appropriate to those needs.

Govind Kelkar, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, India, presented on the political economy factors that influence gender equitable energy access in India. He highlighted, inter alia: feminist and advocacy activities to promote recognition of women’s unpaid household work and property rights; roles of women’s organizations in securing electronic supply and clean cooking energy; policies addressing gendered social norms; and the Indian Government’s ‘#GiveItUp LPG subsidy’ campaign to motivate LPG users to voluntarily surrender their LPG subsidy.

Kirsten Ulsrud, University of Oslo, Norway, described factors that enhance and restrict women’s empowerment through electrification in Kenya and India, including: preconditions such as social-cultural and material circumstances; design of electricity systems; the process of implementation, management, staffing and ownership; policies and regulations; financing schemes; and roles of international actors. She highlighted the importance of addressing affordability for poor women.

Ana Pueyo, International Development Studies, UK, presented findings on the benefits of productive use of energy for women in Tanzania, Ghana, and Myanmar, highlighting that men engage in the most energy-intensive activities, benefiting more from power usage effectiveness (PUE) intervention. She also reviewed factors that affect productive energy use by men and women, such as: differences in access to skills, education and resources; unequal distribution of care responsibilities; restrictions on women’s use of space or mobility; social norms that determine acceptable activities for women; and different motivations for running businesses and risk tolerance.

Anita Shankar, Johns Hopkins University, spoke on building the evidence base for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship to improve energy interventions’ effectiveness. Outlining results from a comprehensive literature review, she said women tend to: have less powerful business networks; start businesses more for social than economic impact; and benefit strongly from personal agency training. She said gender-aware interventions will help catalyze progress, including women-focused offerings on: mobile-based financial services for enhancing decision-making power; in-kind support as opposed to cash to ensure investment in the business; personalized coaching; strengthening social networks; and efforts to address confidence and personal agency.

During the wrap-up discussion, Inka Ivette Schomer, World Bank, highlighted a focus on social dimensions of energy use, including energy education for women, and the long timeframe between concept, design and implementation. Paul Mbuthi, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Kenya, stressed that targeted subsidies, with sunset clauses, can work; cited the need for regular audits of energy policies; and underscored the value of cooperative societies for getting resources to support women’s and men’s enterprises.


A view of the room during the side event

Joy Clancy, ENERGIA, said “changing social norms is a key factor to achieve SDG5 and SDG7


Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Spaces for Change, Nigeria, said it’s important to identify gender specific barriers along the energy value chain

Jiska de Groot, University of Cape Town, South Africa, noted the importance of engaging businesses in women empowerment


Govind Kelkar, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, India, stressed the need to recognize and value women’s work in the energy sector

Krista Riddley, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, noted that marketing campaigns also need to include men, who may have power over financial decisions


A participant taking a picture of presentations

A question written by a participant to be discussed in the follow-up event


Kirsten Ulsrud, University of Oslo, Norway, said both centralized and decentralized energy systems are necessary to enhance women’s empowerment

Ana Pueyo, International Development Studies, UK, called for appropriate PUE interventions for women enterprises to scale up


Anita Shankar, Johns Hopkins University, said mobile financial services foster anonymous transactions, allowing women to put funds back into the business

Participants taking notes of speakers’ presentations

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The Future of Cities: Leveraging Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development Presented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore


Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, highlighted the rapid growth of emerging cities and the need to deal with technological development, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain and bioengineering.

Moderator Aniruddha Dasgupta, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, emphasized that many people in cities remain poor. He underscored opportunities emerging from technological innovation to create jobs, protect the planet, and ensure quality of lives.

Burhan Gafoor, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN, described factors that enable sustainable urbanization, inter alia: integrated and coordinated policies at subnational and national levels; and creating smart cities to enhance inclusion. He highlighted Singapore’s practices, including: creation of 3D master plans that allow agencies and developers to visualize whether proposed buildings fit into the environment; and knowledge-sharing platforms to reach out to the private sector and civil society.

Martha Chen, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), said many “smart” cities currently exclude the working poor in the informal economy. She cited gaps in access to technology, including lack of storage space, and inadequate access to information about prices and supplies, and highlighted the importance of public services, public space and procurement.

Purnima Kapur, New York City Department of City Planning, said a key challenge is to harness technology to address inequities in housing affordability. She described several initiatives, including: the city’s mandatory inclusory housing policy for new developments; a community information portal to make planning more inclusive; and a tracking system to monitor and report on progress for “smart city” goals.

Emily Mohohlo, Slum Dwellers International (SDI), said people talk about “smart cities” when many people still live in informal settlements without clean water, sanitation, electricity, or a roof over their heads. She described SDI’s efforts to gather and provide information to municipalities and highlighted the need to work together.

Norma Munguia Aldaraca, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, noted challenges in using new technologies in cities, including training for workers and the need for public regulations. She said Mexico called for an analysis and a resolution on potential public policies to address technological changes to be provided at the upcoming UN General Assembly.

Kala Fleming, IBM Watson, presented on IBM’s Nairobi THINKlab that allows staff to communicate with communities in Africa using big data analytics and mobile technologies in education, healthcare, and water management. She said data collection on daily water use, using AI, helped cities in Kenya understand household water consumption patterns.

Jonathan Reichental, City of Palo Alto, said the key technologies that will shape future cities include: transportation, energy, sustainability, and digital transformation. On important behaviors, he highlighted public-private partnerships, community engagement, education, and being open to risk.

During the ensuing discussion, participants commented on: public-private partnerships to address increased financial uncertainty; whether technology is top-down or participatory; and inherent technological biases that disfavor the informal economy; digital rights and security; and whether the direction and speed of technological change can be regulated.


The panelists during the session


Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, said smart cities need to be hubs of sustainability

Burhan Gafoor, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN, said if we don’t have sustainable urbanization, we won’t achieve SDG11


Aniruddha Dasgupta, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, stressed the importance of technological innovation that generates many opportunities for creating smart cities


Norma Munguia Aldaraca, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, stressed the importance of ensuring opportunities for the young to belong to the technological transition

Participants take notes during the event


Kala Fleming, IBM Watson, noted the importance of considering business models that support smart cities to utilize digital technology

Participants at the event


A participant offered precautionary notes about technology's ability to solve problems

A participant offered comments on the importance of cooperation for ensuring sustainable development


Purnima Kapur, New York City Department of City Planning


Participants during the event

Panelists shake hands after the event


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