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GFHS SG Haifeng Lyu: Build a New “Nobel Prize” with a New “Nobel Foundation” for a Sustainable Urban Future
Source: GFHS | Author: GFHS | Published time: 2024-03-02 | 737 Views | Share:

Build a New “Nobel Prize” with a New “Nobel Foundation” 

for a Sustainable Urban Future

-Keynote speech at the Launch Ceremony of Global Human Settlements Foundation

By Mr. Lyu Haifeng, Co-Chairman of Global Human Settlements Foundation and 

Co-Founder and Secretary General of Global Forum on Human Settlements 

March 1, 2024

Dear distinguished guests, Dear colleagues, good morning!

I am glad to be here and greatly honored by your presence at this event. On behalf of the Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) and the Global Human Settlements Foundation (GHSF), I extend a very sincere welcome to all of you.

I would like to begin my speech with several questions to ensure it remains engaging and not too dull.

The first question is: What kind of world are we living in?

We are witnessing an era of unprecedentedly rapid and irreversible urbanization. On this urban planet, the global population has reached 8 billion, with 4.5 billion residing in cities. It is estimated that by 2050, approximately 70% of the world’s population, 7 billion people, will live in urban areas.

Meantime, we are facing some big challenges, most notably are climate change, poverty and slums, pollution and biodiversity loss, social fragmentation, conflict and violence. Climate change is leading to more and more disasters including sea level rise, threatening our life and human settlements. Meanwhile, 1 billion people still live in slums, lacking access to clean water, sanitation, adequate housing, and essential public services.

Since the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the world has seen significant changes. However, at the midpoint of our journey towards 2030, it became clear that we were off track in achieving the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, only approximately 12 percent of the targets are on track. Without immediate course correction and an acceleration of our progress towards the SDGs, we are at risk of facing continued poverty, prolonged crises, and increasing uncertainty.

The second question is: What have we been doing for near 2 decades?

Cities are not only the source of these challenges but also the primary arenas for addressing these issues to achieve sustainable development.

That is why we have been dedicated to promoting sustainable cities and sustainable urbanization since 2005. As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, recognized by the UN and granted the Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC in 2015, GFHS serves as a global platform for high-level dialogue and is committed to promoting sustainable cities and human settlements for all.

For over 18 consecutive years, GFHS has convened its annual forums at the UN headquarters and across five continents. Notably, one of its sessions was an associated event of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Summit), another paralleled the 2016 United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito (Habitat III), and a third was associated to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in Dubai. As of 2023, these forums have engaged more than 323,000 representatives from all societal sectors, resulting in a wealth of outcomes, standards, and publications.

The prestigious Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards (SCAHSA), an annual worldwide accolade, are organized by GFHS and supported by UNEP along with other UN agencies. These awards are dedicated to advancing the mission of GFHS and furthering the achievement of the SDGs by acknowledging outstanding contributions and innovations. Having been successfully held for 18 times, the Awards have emerged as one of the most significant global recognitions on sustainable development.

The third question arises: why do we need the foundation?

Even if we have made some efforts to promote sustainable development, the journey towards achieving SDGs remains long and challenging. Global Forum still lacks steady and sufficient financial resources. Consequently, we are unable to provide our awardees bonuses to improve their work and living conditions, which would enable them to perform better. There is much work to be done.

More importantly, we recognize that innovation and leadership are critical in addressing the challenges presented by this unsustainably urbanized world. Support from a foundation, along with transforming the SCAHSA into a new "Nobel Prize" to reward innovation and leadership, might represent a more effective approach to empowering sustainable development worldwide.

As many of us are aware, for more than a century, the Nobel Prize has occupied an irreplaceable and significant position in acknowledging and rewarding groundbreaking research in the basic sciences. It has steered the direction of scientific inquiry towards paths that have profoundly benefited humanity. This monumental achievement is supported by the Nobel Foundation, which was initiated with a generous endowment of 31 million Swedish kronor, a bequest from Alfred Bernhard Nobel. Remarkably, the funding for the Nobel Prize bonuses stems solely from the interest and returns on investment generated by this initial capital.

At the inaugural award ceremony, the bonus for each prize was a modest 150,000 Swedish kronor. Thanks to astute investment management, by 2023, the bonus for each prize has reached to 11 million Swedish kronor, approximately equivalent to 1 million USD. Meanwhile, the total assets of the foundation have increased to over 6 billion Swedish kronor, nearly 200 times its original size in over 120 years.

This extraordinary narrative of the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Foundation serves as a profound inspiration to us. It underscores the transformative power of a well-managed foundation in fostering innovation and excellence. This is precisely why we are compelled to establish the Global Human Settlements Foundation. Our aim is not merely to replicate the success of the Nobel Foundation but to create a platform that can similarly galvanize significant advancements in sustainable human settlements, thereby making a lasting impact on global sustainability efforts.

The fourth question we address today is: what are the plan of the foundation?

The Global Human Settlements Foundation aims to promote global sustainable development by acknowledging and rewarding innovation and leadership on sustainable cities and human settlements, as well as in the mitigation and adaption to climate change. Our mission is to promote a greener, healthier, and more livable planet for all.

Specifically, the Foundation is dedicated to supporting and amplifying the efforts of the GFHS, especially the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards.

Regarding our financial strategy, we aim to raise US$ 10 Million within one year of establishment and progressively reach US$ 50 Million over the next 3 years. Drawing inspiration from the Nobel Foundation's exemplary investment management, we plan to adopt a similar approach to ensure steady growth of our resources. This will enable us to gradually increase the awards bonuses, making them more substantial and impactful over time.

The initiative will not only honor those leading the charge towards sustainability but will also inspire a global movement to accelerate SDGs and towards a more livable, equitable, and sustainable urban future.

Thanks to the selfless dedication and outstanding leadership of our Co-Chairman and CFO, Mr. Fnu Oudom, with whom we have been working since GFHS 2018, He is a successful entrepreneur and social activist with a Bodhisattva heart and remarkable strategic talent. He has been playing a crucial role in providing key start-up funds and setting up a robust headquarters for the Foundation on Wall Street, marking a great start. Furthermore, with his donation, we have had excellent new headquarters for the Global Forum in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, facilitating a significant transformation.

Thanks to my older brother and partner, Dr. Taj Hamad, Vice Chairman of Global Forum and Co-Founder of the foundation. We have been working together since 2005. He has dedicated himself to the peace and sustainability of the world and has given us his trust and steady support.

Thanks also to all our colleagues whether present or not, for their important efforts. A special acknowledgment to our outstanding Chairman of GFHS, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury. We will continue to pray for his wellbeing.

Most importantly, we extend our gratitude to you, our distinguished guests. Your support and donations would greatly honor us and serve as a testament to your deep commitment to fostering global sustainable development.

As you know, without sustainable development, there can be no peace; and without peace, there is no foundation for anything else. Your support and donations will definitely empower the innovation and leadership, thus promote a more peaceful and sustainable world that benefits everyone—including you, your families, and future generations.

Let’s embark on a new journey together to build a new “Nobel Prize” with a new “Nobel Foundation” for a more sustainable and equitable urban future.

I thank you.