Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Observation Ceremony on the World Cities Day

Your Excellency Mayor Yang Xiong,
Your Excellency, Vice Minister Qi Ji,
My Dear Colleague and Ms.Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General of UN-Habitat,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and pleasure to attend this ceremony in Shanghai marking the first World Cities Day.

It is only fitting that we are celebrating this international Day in Shanghai.

The very idea of a World Cities Day germinated and grew during the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, China, under the theme of Better City, Better Life.

Thanks to the persistent effort of the Shanghai Municipal Government, the proposal of a World Cities Day eventually took off, with strong support from the Chinese Government, the UN-HABITAT Governing Council and finally the approval of the UN General Assembly.

I am pleased to note that my Department, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat, was fortunate to have had the opportunity to support the Shanghai Expo’s Thematic Forums and the Summit Forum, and work with the Expo Organizing Committee on the Shanghai Manual.

My staff also provided technical assistance to delegations during the negotiations on the General Assembly resolution adopting the World Cities Day.

In the course of these activities, we have also collaborated closely with our colleagues in the UN-HABITAT.

This collaboration will intensify as the United Nations system continues to support member States and local governments in promoting sustainable city development.


With more than half of humanity living in cities today, urbanization is a critical issue for the United Nations.

According to the 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects published by the Population Division of my Department, continuing population growth and urbanization

are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

In cities, the pressures of rural-urban migration, unsustainable consumption and production, social inequality, environmental degradation and climate change are most acutely felt.

At the same time cities are the engines of the world economy. They are centers of innovation where solutions to global problems are developed.

In many countries, cities have become epicentres for education, culture, and scientific and technological innovations, enriching our social and cultural fabric. 

Cities’ role as powerful drivers of economic growth extends beyond city boundaries.  They create income generation opportunities for surrounding rural areas, helping reduce rural poverty.

Worldwide, cities generate more than 80 per cent of the global GDP.  In Africa, 60 per cent of the region’s GDP is created in cities.

In China, prefecture-level cities and other large urban centres generate 61 per cent of China’s GDP.

During the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – also known as Rio+20, member States underscored the importance of cities. 

They stated that cities can promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies if they are well planned and developed, including through integrated planning and management approaches. 

They further emphasized the importance of increasing the number of metropolitan regions, cities and towns that are implementing policies for sustainable urban planning and design in order to respond effectively to the expected growth of urban populations in the coming decades

In the ongoing work on the United Nations post-2015 development agenda, the issue of sustainable cities is being addressed across a number of focus areas.

Cities are deeply tied to climate change, to industrialization, to infrastructure, growth, health, education and the environment. 

At the centre of this interlocking agenda is the perspective of human-centred approach to sustainable urbanization and sustainable cities. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished guests,

The importance of sustainable cities for the future of global sustainable development cannot be overemphasized.

Indeed, experts have stressed that the future battle of sustainable development will be won and lost in cities.

Let us work together to make sure that we win this battle and that we achieve the future we want for all.

Thank you.