City leaders from around the world came together this month in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the C40 Cities World Mayors Summit, the triennial gathering of the C40 network of Mayors committed to tackling climate change through united global action. During the summit, Mayors of the world’s largest cities announced policies to achieve goal 13: Climate Action and Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, through the creation of 50 million good green jobs.
The three day summit represented the largest ever gathering of global Mayors who, alongside business leaders, philanthropists, youth activists and scientists, sought to create solutions to the interlinked crises of climate change and inequality. Attendees heard from a diverse range of speakers, with notable addresses from Sir David King (available to watch here), Hilda Flavia Nakabuye (here), London Mayor Sadiq Khan (here), and Zainab Waheed (here).
Founded in 2006, C40 is a network of Mayors representing almost one hundred world-leading cities, collaborating together to deliver urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. Chaired by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the network today represents more than 700 million people and around one quarter of the global economy. Through international cooperation and a science-based approach, the network aims to limit global heating to 1.5°C, while building healthy, equitable and resilient urban communities.
The organisation is an excellent example of the power local leaders have when united in action to affect global change. Currently, three quarters of its member cities are outperforming the rest of their respective nation states in terms of emissions reductions, with a 5% reduction in air pollution across its cities this year.
Getting the World’s To-Do List done
Building on the theme of this year’s Global Goals moment: local action for global impact, C40 partnered with Project Everyone to bring the World’s To-Do List campaign to life at the summit.
Buenos Aires joined cities around the world, including Freetown and Bogota, in featuring a physical sticky note activation, reminding city leaders to get the World’s To-Do List done. The activation placed particular focus on the key themes of the summit: ensuring wellbeing for all, tackling the climate crisis, financing resilient cities, and creating good green jobs for all.
Mayors from around the world stopped by the enormous sticky notes to show their support for the Global Goals, including C40 Chair Sadiq Khan, Mayor Elizabeth Sackey of Accra, Ghana, Mayor Sophie Hastrop Andersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, Mayor Atiqul Islam of Dhaka North, Bangladesh, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, France, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, USA.
Additionally, in an address to the summit, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the vital role city leaders must play in achieving the Goals. Guterres described the leadership of the world’s cities as ‘essential’ to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals against the challenging backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and cascading food, energy and cost-of-living crises.
Watch the Secretary-General’s full address (here).
50 Million new good green jobs
One of the key announcements to come out of the summit was a commitment to drive the creation of 50 million good green jobs by 2030.
In a landmark collaboration led by C40 Chair Sadiq Khan, scores of Mayors set out actions they are taking to create good green jobs – from ensuring homes and workplaces are energy-efficient to modernising public transport systems.
Research by C40 shows that these jobs will be required to halve their cities’ emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The research goes on to show that the plan will create 30% more jobs than continuing with the ‘business-as-usual’ approach, reduce air pollution by up to 30%, and deliver $280 billion in health-related economic benefits to the network’s cities.
The announcement exemplifies both the power local leaders have to implement climate policy, and the interconnectedness of the issues faced by megacities. Through united action, C40 Mayors will not only reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but improve health and well-being and stimulate good job creation, working at the intersection of goals 3, 8, 11 and 13.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Investing in the jobs and skills of the future will help us to tackle inequality as we tackle the climate crisis. I’m so proud to stand united in action with my fellow C40 city mayors to drive the creation of 50 million good, green jobs by the end of this decade. London will lead by example as we double the size of our green economy and establish good, green jobs accessible within communities that need them most. There is no time to waste. The best time to act on good, green jobs was yesterday, the next best time is today.”
London alone has committed to double the size of its green economy to £100 billion by 2030, stimulating job growth in the sector.
A platform for youth activists
The summit aimed to amplify the voices of youth climate leaders, particularly from the global south and areas most affected by climate change. 30 international youth climate leaders and 30 local leaders from Argentina made up a youth delegation to the summit, with representatives from groups including Fridays for Future, Choked Up, YOUNGO, Green Africa Youth Organisation, and Extinction Rebellion.
Mayor of Bogotá and C40 Vice Chair for Youth Engagement Claudia López announced plans to further empower youth climate leaders through the creation of the C40 Global Youth City Climate Council Network, which aims to give young people more influence in local decision-making.
This network will serve to support the creation of new city-youth climate councils, strengthen existing councils, and connect councils across C40 cities to promote collaboration and share best practices.
Looking towards COP27
C40 Chair Sadiq Khan has already met his pledge of directing two thirds of C40’s budget to support climate action and a green recovery in global south cities. Looking towards COP27, C40 announced plans to build on this record of providing finance and technical support to cities in the global south.
At the close of the summit, the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF), in partnership with the German Agency for International Cooperation, announced a further 34 projects around the world, expected to leverage over $1 billion of climate finance by the time they are implemented. While significant, the network warns that there is still a gap between the finance available for urban climate action and the finance required.
As an emphasis is placed this year on the role local leaders play in tackling climate change, inequality and poverty, it is clearer now more than ever that networks of local leaders such as the C40 are instrumental in working towards the 2030 agenda.
As we head to Sharm El Sheikh for COP27, leaders of the world’s cities’ message is clear: Where they have led, nations must now follow. Or as the Mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski simply put it: “Show us the money.”
On 16th September, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died in police custody after she was arrested by the morality police. She was accused of not wearing the compulsory hijab properly and having some of her hair showing from under her scarf. Iran’s morality police have haunted women across the country for decades and this intensified over the past year. Writing as an Iranian woman, I would – on many occasions – avoid taking public transport or certain places because I knew there was always a threat that the morality police would be there, ready to target women and girls. When I was guaranteed to run into them, I would dress and act completely differently to avoid being taken away by them. It’s now 2022 and women are still more worried about this than ever before.
We often talk about achieving gender equality in salaries, opportunities, treatment, representation, and political power. What we sometimes brush aside is equality in freedom to do the everyday things. Freedom in choosing who we are and how we want to present ourselves. The freedom to leave your house and walk just as freely as men, without there being a threat to our safety. Freedom to dance in the streets or even sing.
More than two months have passed since Mahsa Jina Amini’s death, and since then people across the country and around the world have protested in the hope of equality and freedom. Since September, Iranians (and non-Iranians) have gathered in cities such as Toronto, Hamburg, and London to show their solidarity. Unfortunately, Mahsa Jina Amini was not the only casualty in the three months of protests. According to Iran Human Rights, more than 470 have been killed, including 65 children, with more than 18,000 other protestors arrested and many others missing. These aren’t the first protests we’ve seen in Iran, but the ones we’re currently seeing are unlike any other. They are primarily led by young women.
As an Iranian myself, it seems unfair to impose the label of ‘protests’ on what’s happening in Iran. This is a movement based on fundamental human rights principles. It’s also not solely about women’s rights and achieving gender equality. Shervin Hajipour – an Iranian singer – recently wrote a song called ‘Baraye’ meaning ‘for’, where he lists all the reasons why people from across all generations and backgrounds are protesting. The reasons were provided, mainly through Twitter posts, by Iranians in the country and around the world. The song quickly became a defining sound of the movement – after the chant ‘woman, life, freedom’ –striking a chord for Iranians. It’s a song that couples hope and pain in the most beautifully balanced way.
Having worked on the Global Goals since their inception, I noticed that the underlying reasons why Iranians are taking to the streets are heavily linked to all 17 Goals and I’ve spelt out some of these interlinkages below.
For Goal 5 (Gender Equality)
The defining chant for the movement is ‘zhen, zhian, azadi’, meaning ‘woman, life, freedom’. In a female-led movement, it’s been inspiring to see men of all ages stand by the women of their country, not only to protect them but to lift up their voices and to advocate for their rights, a lesson nations around the world can take forward; that gender equality is something we should all be asking for.
Women around Iran are taking to the streets to demand their freedom, including the freedom to choose whether to wear the hijab. We’ve seen incredible acts of solidarity; from women cutting their hair in protest to Elnaz Rekabi – an Iranian rock climber – competing in a competition without the compulsory hijab in an act of defiance. In November, a member of Iran’s beach football team joined a silent protest by gesturing to cut his hair to show solidarity with the women of Iran. Unfortunately, all these acts of solidarity come at a cost of getting threatened, arrested, and/ or tortured.
Many who choose to wear the hijab, both in Iran and other countries, have also supported other women in their right to choose. Iran is currently on the UN’s Commission for the Status of Women, a women’s rights body that also exists to ensure progress is made towards Goal 5. However, recent calls for the removal of Iran from this commission have resulted in a vote which will take place in early December to remove Iran from the Commission.
Goal 1 (No Poverty)
Decades of sanctions imposed against Iran by countries across Europe and North America have had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of the Iranian people, leading to a huge spike in inflation rates and devaluation of the country’s currency.
This means that the cost of living has skyrocketed, and the salaries of ordinary Iranians cannot keep up with the ever-changing economic situation. Sometimes when shopping, I would notice that shops would no longer scan barcodes when you’d come to pay for everyday food products. Instead, they’d tell you what the price of the day was, which changed too fast to be entered into their systems.
For Goal 8 (Economic Growth and Decent Jobs)
More than 60% of the population of Iran is under the age of 30, and the country has a literacy rate of over 85% (male and female students). The country is filled with passionate and incredibly skilled young individuals who are eager to make Iran – and the world – a better place. However, the country’s unemployment rate is over 12%, meaning that many Iranians have found that their hopes for their future will not become a reality. This has led to the country facing a huge brain drain as Iranians leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere.
For Goal 4 (Quality Education)
Since this nationwide movement began in Iran, students who face the looming economic crisis ahead of them and the high possibility of unemployment have also taken to the streets in protests, with many girls taking off their mandatory hijabs. But on 2nd October, students of Sharif University, the country’s top-ranking university, were attacked, arrested, and killed within the facilities of the university. Historically, Sharif graduates have moved on to countries such as the US, taking on high-powered positions and standings. One of the most prominent is the late Maryam Mirzakhani, honoured by UN Women as one of seven female scientists who have shaped the world.
Since this movement began, students have been at the heart of these protests, demanding change and equality. A powerful moment Iranians witnessed was the tearing down of a wall in Hormozgan University (south of Iran) to put an end to gender apartheid and segregation and allow students from all genders to eat side-by-side.
Earlier, I said that young people and women are leading this movement, but one thing that has struck me – and others – is the age of some of these protestors. I’m in awe of seeing young school children walk around cities taking off their veils and shouting ‘woman, life, freedom’. For the younger generation to fight so hard for equality, from such a young age, is both inspiring and heartbreaking.
For Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being)
As a result of imposed sanctions, imported medication became more scarce and expensive. Access to life-saving medicine has become a luxury for all in Iran. Many of those who are protesting are also doing so because of the government’s mishandling of the pandemic. On 8 January 2021, the Supreme Leader announced a ban on the import of vaccines made in the US and UK. The prioritisation of politics over wellbeing led to the death of more than 140,000 people, although the official figures are disputed by the public, who believe the numbers are higher.
This prioritisation was not limited to the pandemic. Since these protests began, injured protestors have been afraid to go to hospitals because the risk of plain clothed officers being there is high. This has forced many to find other ways of removing metal pellets from their bodies without medical treatment. Other protestors have been blinded after being shot, but despite this, the metal pellets have not taken away the future they envision. The Iranian Regime is also currently breaking International Humanitarian Law by using ambulances to transfer arrested protestors to prisons as opposed to hospitals.
For Goal 10 – (Reducing Inequalities)
Equality is not limited to gender; the Goals are proof of this. They are for everyone, everywhere. Goal 10 (Reducing Inequalities) is another reason why Iranians are protesting. Those calling for equality include Afghan refugees in Iran, other minority groups such as the Kurds and Balouchis, as well as those from the LGBTQI+ community who can never truly live freely under Iran’s current regime’s laws.
Since Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s death,, areas with a higher number of minority groups have faced brutal retaliation from the government. In Zahedan, people took to the streets to protest not just for Mahsa, but also for the rape of a 15-year-old girl by a high-ranking police officer. This was met with mass shootings during the Friday prayers on 30th September and more than 90 people were killed. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech is a human right for everyone and marginalised communities are not exempt from these rights.
Regime forces have attacked Kurdish-populated areas in western Iran with the aim of silencing minority groups. The internet and electricity were completely cut off and the videos made the area look like a warzone. While regime forces fought with weapons of warfare, Kurdish communities only fought with rocks in their hands and a desire for freedom in their hearts.
‘Woman, life, freedom’ came from Kurdish community members and is now a global anthem for equality and a call for marginalised voices to continue being heard, beyond these protests.
For Goal 13 (Climate Action), Goal 14 (Life Below Water) and Goal 15 (Life on Land)
Over the last few years, Iranians have seen countless precious resources evaporate – often literally! – in front of our own eyes through its mismanagement. The perfect example of this is Urmia Lake. My generation grew up hearing stories told by our parents and grandparents about the days when they’d visit the world’s second saltiest lake, float in it to relax, treat their rheumatism, and watch migratory birds such as flamingos choose it as a resting place.
The lake quickly started to dry up after a bridge was built to connect two neighbouring provinces (West and East Azerbaijan) together. The bridge impacted the ecosystem of the lake’s water, causing it to split into two over time and one side to dry faster than the other. This not only led to migratory birds skipping their pitstop in Urmia over time (Goal 15 – Life on Land) but also impacted the two provinces’ tourism industry (Goal 8 – Economic Growth). Urmia Lake is not the only victim of climate change and resource mismanagement. Other key rivers such as Zayande Rud have faced unpredictability in its flow, often leading to it completely drying up.
For more than two decades, one of the country’s most precious and beloved animals, the Asiatic Cheetah – has been listed as an endangered species with little to no steps taken by the government to rectify this. In 2016, it was announced that only two female cheetahs still exist in Iran. In 2022 when three cubs were born in captivity, only one survived, and recently, the Ministry of Environment in Iran announced that they will no longer have the budget to protect this endangered species. Inaction, mismanagement, de-prioritisation, and the ever-growing threat of making these precious species a thing of the past have provided yet another reason for Iranians to protest.
For Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)
On 15th October, a fire broke out in Evin Prison, which holds some of the country’s brightest individuals – from scientists through to journalists, film directors, artists, rappers, environmental and human rights activists along with lawyers as well as recently arrested protesters – and over a hundred gunshots were heard. It is said that the section that holds political prisoners was the setting for this fire. While the cause of the fire is still unclear and Iranians and the international community cannot verify the government’s reasoning, an important thing to ask is, why are those individuals in prison in the first place?
Shouldn’t environmental activists be celebrated? Shouldn’t they have been in spaces like COP27 or the UN General Assembly talking about the issues that need addressing? Shouldn’t journalists that expose crimes and wrongdoings be put forward for Pulitzer Prizes? Shouldn’t film directors be attending the Cannes film festival, or the Academy Awards and be celebrated for their creativity? These are questions we as Iranians have grown to ask ourselves, wondering why instead, all these promising bright individuals are seen as a threat as opposed to being a source of national pride.
Over the last three months, more than 18,000 protestors have been arrested, many of whom are facing executions without any due process and legal representation. On 8th December, Mohsen Shekari, at 23 years old, became a victim of these unjust executions. Since then, more protests have been sparked to help prevent any further loss of life.
For A Better Future, For The Global Goals
Iran has a population of over 80 million, with many minority groups with sometimes conflicting ideologies and practices. The movement we’ve seen over the last three months is proof that fundamental human rights principles are the foundation of a healthy society and everyone’s core values. People from different backgrounds can come together to fight for the same goal(s), for the same future. The people in Iran are truly fighting for the rights of everyone, not just themselves, or their friends or family members. They are fighting for a better future for all.
The reasons I have listed in this article only cover some of the reasons why people are protesting. Iranian women and girls are forces for good, teaching everyone around the world a valuable lesson that our rights are incredibly fragile.
This blog was written to show that the issues and rights Iranians are fighting for are very much in line with the Global Goals and that in order to make them a reality around the world by 2030, they must also become a reality for Iran and Iranians. The Global Goals are for everyone, everywhere. To achieve them, we must leave no one behind – especially not the women and girls of Iran.
Actions you can take to support
Taking action for the support of Iranians couldn’t be simpler and requires very little effort. Here are a few things you could do to help:
Share what you see: the government has severely restricted internet access. Blocking platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp, makes it more challenging for Iranians to speak to the outside world, and for them to know that the outside world is supporting them. Follow individuals such as Gissou Nia, Nicole Najafi, Sarah Ramani, Nazanin Boniadi, Nazanin Nour, Golshifteh Farahani, Maz Jobrani and Masih Alinejad who are continuously sharing content they are receiving from Iran. The more content is being shared, the more pressure this puts on decision-makers around the world to act in solidarity. You can also follow pages such as From Iran and Iran Diaspora Collective for more content. The more content is being shared, the more pressure this puts on decision-makers around the world to act in solidarity.
Check in with your Iranian friends: whether they live in Tehran or Toronto, Iranians are going through an emotional rollercoaster at the moment and with limited internet access in the country, having that sense of community can sometimes feel like a luxury. Check-in with them, and ask them how you can best support them.
Attend protests in your cities: look up what your city has planned and attend protests to show solidarity with Iranians.
Write to your representatives and ask them to take action to help protect the people of Iran and to speak up more frequently on this topic.
Sign petitions to call on world leaders to take action. There are currently dozens of petitions you can sign by searching on websites like Change.org including one calling for the rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is facing the death sentence, to be freed.
The identity of the writer has been concealed in order to protect friends and family members back in Iran.