The United Nations General Assembly has designated the 31st of October as World Cities Day, by its resolution 68/239. The Day is expected to greatly promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.
2019 Theme: Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations
The general theme of World Cities Day is Better City, Better Life, while each year a different sub-theme is selected, to either promote successes of urbanization, or address specific challenges resulting from urbanization.
This year, the United Nations has selected the theme “Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations” to discuss how urbanization can be used to achieve sustainable development. It aims to promote the international community’s interest in implementing the New Urban Agenda globally and in enhancing cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization in cities.
Over half the world’s population now live in cities. With the number expected to double by 2050, urbanization is one of the world’s most transformative trends. Urbanization poses several sustainability challenges related to housing, environment, climate change, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources. Urbanization can also present great opportunities and is a critical tool for sustainable development if it is done right.
It is possible to use urbanization to achieve sustainable development by tailoring the way cities are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed. Cities have always been drivers and incubators of innovation, industry, technology, entrepreneurship, and creativity; creating prosperity, enhancing social development and providing employment. It is often said that the battle for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be won or lost in cities. For this to happen, cities will have to continue to drive innovation in ground-breaking ways to achieve a lasting impact in communities and to ensure that “no one and no place” is left behind. At the same time, innovation can contribute to inequality and needs to be accompanied by appropriate economic and social regulatory policies. Youth and women need the opportunity to participate and contribute more fully to innovation in cities.
The new digital economy, sometimes called ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ is built on data, reduced transaction costs and sharing platforms and already has a profound effect in many cities. Innovations in mobility, including autonomous transport, electric vehicles and drones will require fundamentally different approaches to urban planning. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual, augmented and mixed reality and the internet of things present efficiency and communications opportunities requiring new governance frameworks. This rapid rate of innovation also puts pressure on urban policymakers and managers to strengthen their capacity when it comes to understanding, procuring and regulating new technologies.
The main goals of World Cities Day 2019 are to:
- Increase awareness of how digital innovations can be used for urban service delivery to enhance the quality of life and improve the urban environment.
- Show new frontier technologies that can create more inclusive cities.
- Present opportunities for renewable energy generation in cities.
- Explore how frontier technologies can promote social inclusion in cities.
The main event will be hosted by the City of Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation and is jointly organised by UN-Habitat, the Shanghai People’s Government and the City of Ekaterinburg. UNESCO will also be hosting a Conference on October 31st in Paris.
Why Do We Mark International Days?
International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. More information available here.