Ki-moon: To Transform Our World, We Must Transform its Cities

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Abimbola Akosile

The United Nations has stated that greater attention needs to be placed on the role of urbanisation as a source of global development and social inclusion; with more than half of the global population now living in cities and human settlements.

Speaking in a statement commemorating the World Cities Day, which is observed on 31 October around the globe, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “To transform our world, we must transform its cities.”

“They are central to climate action, global prosperity, peace and human rights,” he added. “Crime, pollution and poverty are taking their toll on hundreds of millions of city-dwellers. At the same time, urban areas are hubs of energy, innovation and economic dynamism. By investing in cities, we can advance progress across societies.”

In a resolution adopted in February 2014, the UN General Assembly designated the Day in recognition of the significance of urban basic services as a foundation for the overall social and economic development.

The rationale underpinning the Day is that planned urbanisation maximises the capacity of cities to generate employment and wealth, and to foster diversity and social cohesion between different classes, cultures, ethnicities and religions. The theme of this year’s observance is ‘Inclusive Cities, Shared Development.’

The Day also ties into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with SDG 11 aiming to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. According to UN-Habitat, inequalities in cities have grown since 1980, with the world’s largest cities also often the most unequal.

In his remarks, the Scribe noted that momentum is building on this issue in the wake of the recently concluded UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III, at which attendees adopted the New Urban Agenda, a vision for cities that are just, safe, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable.

He went on to flag that along with other new global framework agendas – such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Agenda for Humanity, the Sendai Framework and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – the New Urban Agenda will put sustainable urbanisation at the centre of efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve development and prosperity for all, and it can also complement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Local action is essential to realising the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.”
He was joined in marking the Day by Joan Clos, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, the UN agency charged with promoting socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.

In his message for the occasion, Mr. Clos pointed to the Day as “an essential celebration on the calendar to greatly promote the international community’s interest in global urbanisation, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanisation.”

He said this year’s Day was particularly significant as it comes on the heels of Habitat III, which he referred to as, a “resounding success” in which 30,000 people participated in almost 1,000 events over the course of four days.

Dr. Clos elaborated that in line with SDGs and the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda envisages cities and human settlements where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and have equal opportunities to participate in.