Public Symposium on “Sustainable Urban Development: Challenges and Issues in Developing Countries”

Video Message by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Distinguished guests,

On behalf of the United Nations, I am pleased to welcome you to this Public Symposium on Sustainable Urban Development.  

I would like to thank the Japanese government, for its continuous support for the United Nations Centre for Regional Development, which is co-organizer of today’s event.

I am also grateful to the UN University Institute of Advanced Studies. I appreciate the strong and fruitful collaboration that has been established between the Centre and the Institute.  

Sustainable Urban Development is one of the key issues for the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or, Rio+20.

In fact, cities are at the core of efforts to achieve sustainable development.  We are experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Every week more than 1 million people move to cities, from rural areas. This rapid urbanization, which is taking place largely in developing countries, is placing cities under enormous pressure. Energy, water, transport, sanitation, housing, education and healthcare, are all part of the mix. 

Yet, it is important to recognize, that cities are well equipped to solve these problems. They are engines of growth, and centers of innovation and creativity.

Many Japanese cities have successfully dealt with the pressures of expanding populations, industrial transformation and environmental pollution. Japanese cities are often model examples for how to transition to sustainability.

For this reason, and many others, Japan is well positioned to contribute to Rio+20.

I am also pleased that the Symposium will highlight the lessons learned and best practices from the eco-city of Kitakyushu. This city has been highly successful in attracting environmental industries, especially for resource recycling.

Furthermore, being located in Ngoya is of great benefit to the training programmes of UNCRD. It allows for site visits to cities that have high levels of economic development, yet also minimize environmental impacts.

I am pleased that this Symposium will highlight these lessons learned and best practices. I trust it will spark productive discussions on how concrete examples can foster more sustainable cities, around the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Rio+20 is only three months away. This historic conference will influence the development agenda for the decades to come.

It is time to show a strong political commitment to sustainable development.

I wish you a fruitful discussion, and hope to meet you in Rio.

Thank you.