Mayors gather at UN to discuss practical steps for dealing with urban problems

President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Léo Mérorès of Haiti

24 April 2008 – Mayors and other representatives from some of the world's biggest and most rapidly growing cities have been meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York over the past two days to examine how they can harness innovative forms of technology to overcome the environmental problems caused by the relentless expansion of urban areas.

Participants at this week's conference, entitled “Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age,” have been discussing practical solutions for improving living conditions – such as by reducing traffic congestion, pollution and crimes – while preventing social and economic inequity and exclusion.

The focus is on using information and communication technology (ICT) to achieve more sustainable urban planning given the physical pressures being placed on urban areas worldwide.

The conference is being held as the UN estimates that by the end of this year, more than half of the world's population – currently believed to be about 6.7 billion people – will be living in urban areas for the first time in human history.

UN Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) President Léo Mérorès told the forum that “rather than fear the shift from rural to urban, we have an opportunity to leverage it to ensure sustainable development. What we need is sustainable urbanization.”

Participants include mayors, representatives of local authorities, developers, architects, engineers, planners, ICT experts and representatives of the media, the private sector and civil society.

The conference was jointly organized by a series of organizations and entities, including the Global Alliance for ICT and Development of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and urban planners in the New York City region.

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