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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

New York , 5 October 2015 - Secretary-General's Remarks at World Habitat Day High-Level Discussion on "Public Spaces for All"

I thank UN Habitat, the Permanent Mission of Grenada and all others involved in making today’s discussion possible.  I am delighted that experts and representatives from governments and non-governmental organizations are here to present case studies from around the world on the future of the world’s cities.

You meet at a time of new challenge and opportunity following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  These inspirational goals will guide our efforts to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all on a healthy planet. 

In the years since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, the development discourse has increasingly recognized the role of urbanization in achieving sustainability.
The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals reflect an international consensus that sustainable urbanization can play a transformational role.

This is most clearly reflected in Goal 11 to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.’ The 10 targets under Goal 11 address the unfinished business of the MDGs, including the ongoing challenges of slums, housing and basic services. They also incorporate a new constellation of issues such as urban sprawl, segregation, transport, air pollution, resilience to climate change, safety and public space.

The implementation of other SDGs -- including on employment, energy, water and sanitation -- is also essential to sustainable cities. Indeed, we must recognize the fully integrated nature of the SDGs, and not remain in the silos that the new framework is meant to transcend.

This year’s observance of World Habitat Day highlights the importance of public spaces. Improving access to them, and making them safe for women and girls, increases equity, combats discrimination and promotes inclusion for poor and vulnerable citizens.

High-quality public spaces encourage people to communicate and collaborate with each other, and to participate in public life. Public spaces can also provide basic services, enhance connectivity, spawn economic activity and raise property values while generating municipal revenue.  

But successful public spaces do not just happen; they require careful collaboration among local authorities, local inhabitants and other actors.  I welcome the commitment of all of you here today to improving this important piece of the urban landscape.

As we look ahead, I hope all of you will raise your voices for a successful agreement at the climate change conference in Paris in December.  Next year also brings the Habitat III Conference, in Quito in October, which, offers an opportunity to point the way toward solutions to the challenges of rapid urbanization.  The Conference will result in a concise, focused and action oriented outcome document: the New Urban Agenda.

More appropriate policies can embrace urbanization across physical space, bridging urban, semi-urban and rural areas. It can also assist governments in addressing challenges through national and local government policy frameworks.

Quito will provide a unique opportunity to advance this agenda. I look forward to working with all partners to make Habitat III a success and to a future that is safe and sustainable for all.

Thank you again for being here today.  I wish you a very successful event.

I thank you very much.

Statements on 5 October 2015