Statement by H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly at the High-Level Meeting of the New Urban Agenda

As delivered

Statement by H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly at the High-Level Meeting of the New Urban Agenda

New York, 5 September 2017

Her Excellency Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Her Excellency Ms. Rosario Robles and Hon. Mr. Mpho Parks Tau

Co-Chairs of the High-Level Panel of Assessment of UN-Habitat,

Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat,

Distinguished guests,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly convened to discuss the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the supporting role of UN-Habitat.
Today’s meeting brings together representatives from national and local Governments; United Nations’ entities from across the world; civil society; academia; and the private sector; all with the aim of discussing how the international community can work together to ensure our cities best serve the needs of humanity.
With urbanisation taking place around the world at a rate unprecedented in human history, the importance of our discussions today should be obvious to all.
The draw of social and economic opportunity that cities possess is the magnet that has led to nearly 1.4 billion more people living in urban areas today than just two decades ago.

As you are all aware, this trend is expected to continue, with two thirds of the world’s population projected to live in cities in just thirty years’ time.
Cities generate about 80 per cent of global GDP. They turn the wheels of industry, and serve as major catalysts for trade, economic growth, and development.
Despite the increasing importance of cities to humanity, many are failing to keep pace with the rapid rate of change. Many continue to rely on deteriorating infrastructure; inadequate urban planning and services; and outdated legal and environmental protections.

Where such divergence exists between the needs of growing city populations and inadequate urban infrastructure and services, dire social consequences are often encountered, including poverty, exclusion, violence and social unrest.

With cities today hosting over 1.6 billion people without adequate housing; 2 billion affected by water stress; and 2.4 billion people who do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities, our urgent attention is required. In such places and in such times, policies and resources must be prioritized for these cities.

Indeed all urban environments need this attention as we move to attain a world of sustained peace and sustainable development.

In this regard, the adoption of the New Urban Agenda in Quito in October last year was a major breakthrough in these efforts.
The Agenda sets the global standard for sustainable urban development, reshaping how we think, plan, manage and ultimately live in our cities.

Implemented effectively, the New Urban Agenda will help us build cities and human settlements that are safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable; and it will help governments and the international community progress implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Seen in this context, I again say how vital today’s discussions are to us all.

We must capitalise on the enormous social and economic opportunities provided by mass urbanisation so that we can lift people out of poverty, drive inclusive economic growth, promote equality, strengthen community resilience, and of course, effectively combat climate change.
To do so we have to increase global awareness of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda, particularly among policy makers and the global public.

Secondly, we have to strengthen strategic partnerships between Governments at all levels, community leaders, civil society, and the business community, to foster coherent approaches to urban development, SDG implementation, and long-term economic growth.

And we must leverage these partnerships to ensure adequate financing is directed towards supporting sustainable urban transformation.
Then there is the task of harnessing the exponential potential of science, technology and innovation to drive smart new approaches towards sustainable urbanisation and achieving the SDGs.

And finally, we must ensure the United Nations system is able to effectively serve Member States in achieving these universal agendas, with UN-Habitat strongly positioned to support implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

To this end, the discussions to be held during this High-Level Meeting will be critical. For we are going to address the findings and recommendations of the report Secretary-General’s Independent High-Level Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-Habitat.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The way humanity lives on this planet is changing rapidly and profoundly.

Effectively managing the unprecedented challenges that mass urbanization present, and harnessing this phenomena as an enabler of sustainability, requires that we make full use of opportunities such this meeting to engage in partnerships to develop new and practical means to implement the New Urban Agenda.

Following this High-Level Meeting, I will be preparing a Chair’s Summary of the event and providing it to the General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee – also known as the Second Committee –for its consideration and action.

I therefore wish you all the best for your deliberations over the next two days, and urge you to keep in mind at all times the facilitation of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so that they can be taken forward coherently, efficiently and effectively in the years ahead.

I thank you for your attention.

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