Speech by Minister of State Niels Annen at the Virtual Launch of the United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC)

16.03.2021 - Speech

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It is a great honour for Germany, for my home town Hamburg and for me to host the United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC).

You know how much I would have preferred to meet you in person here in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

This inauguration is a very special occasion and I would have enjoyed showing you around in Hamburg.

But on the other hand, a virtual launch seems very fitting given the core ambitions of this project, namely to connect people through digital solutions.

Among this audience, I do not need to speak about the potential or even the necessity of using data and digital technologies. There are countless examples showing the importance of embracing the opportunities that arise from utilizing data-driven processes.

UNITAC focuses on the potential of these technical opportunities in order to contribute to a sustainable urban development.

But what is more, UNITAC does not limit itself to one of this century’s megatrends. Its particular focus is on urbanization, on making cities better, sustainable places to live.

You know that the world is urbanizing very quickly. Acutally more than half of the world’s population live in cities, and that share is expected to rise up to 60 per cent by 2030.

Urbanization is part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG Goal 11 stands for making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Our common 2030 Agenda presents a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all of us.

Considering that 95 per cent of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in the developing world, it makes a lot of sense that UNITAC will not focus on Hamburg, Germany or Europe. It has to operate instead in a much broader, global frame-work.

The unique structure of UNITAC represents this global perspective itself and is the result of an excellent cooperation between UN-Habitat, UN-Office of Information and Communication Technology, the city of Hamburg, HafenCity University Hamburg and the German Federal Government.

I would like to thank all of our partners for their efforts made in order to launch UNITAC.

The German Federal Foreign Office attaches great importance to the issues that UNITAC has set out to tackle. This is why we support this Technology Accelerator with a total of 6 Mio. Euros.

Please be assured that we also stand ready to support UNITAC with our global network and expertise.

Cities and local stakeholders are central actors for global sustainable development. The term “Urban Diplomacy” stands for the recognition of this fact. Urban Diplomacy acknowledges the importance of including the local level into global policy strategies.

In cities and communities we will determine wheter and how we will be able to live up to global challenges.

The Federal Foreign Office is deeply convinced that foreign policy can only be successful when it is inclusive and transparent. This is why we always want to ensure that the various local level stakeholders are involved in the processes of the United Nations.

This applies to existing mechanisms, such as the International Mayors Forum, the settlement program of the United Nations UN-Habitat or the participation in the multilateral processes for sustainability by the so-called Major Group of cities and municipalities.

This inauguration meeting takes place at a crucial point in time:

We find ourselves confronted with two very serious and truly global crises, both with long-term effects: The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. It has even forced us to hold this event in a purely virtual form. And climate change keeps accelerating at a dangerous pace.

These crises are interlinked in many respects. And they also have something very important in common: While action needs to be taken at local, regional, national, global level, we are dealing with global crises that won’t spare any country, any region and any city.

These are crises that no country, no region or no city can tackle alone. We need international solidarity, multilateral and multilevel cooperation and strong international institutions.

The United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities in Hamburg is a visible sign of international solidarity and our commitment to multilateralism.

We want UNITAC to be a hands-on example of why and how multilateralism delivers better, faster and more sustainably than if we all just looked after ourselves.

In this spirit, you can be assured of my government’s wholehearted support. And it is in this spirit that I wish you every success!

Thank you very much.


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