Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly

30 November 2021



Distinguished delegates,

Thank you for joining today’s preparatory meeting.

As previously communicated, I will be convening, together with UN-Habitat, a one-day High-Level Meeting on 28 April 2022, to assess progress on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

The mandated meeting will be informed both by the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on implementing the New Urban Agenda, as well as inputs from regional commissions.

The purpose of today’s briefing is to solicit your inputs regarding that meeting’s format, scope, themes, and outcomes.

This is to ensure that the meeting, while adhering to mandated modalities, is as impactful as possible, and reflects the needs and  desires of Member States.

I do not think I need to detail the challenges associated with urbanization. We are all well-versed in this.

We know that we live in an increasingly urbanized world. Globally, around 55 per cent of people live in urban areas: a figure that is expected to rise to nearly 70 per cent by 2050.

We know also that our policies and practices continue to lag behind this rapid and monumental shift.

This was very much on display during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Urban areas have borne much of the consequences of the pandemic’s spread, with the vast majority of reported COVID-19 cases. 

Local institutions are our societies’ first line of defense. They provide the most direct forms of governance.

Strengthening urban systems and institutions for the challenges that exist, and the ones that may yet arise, must be part of a resilient vision for our cities.

Beyond the pandemic, we know that unsustainable urbanization can have severely detrimental impacts on the environment.

This threatens biodiversity, land and soil quality, food supplies, water and air quality, and any number of other factors.

These are all challenges to be expected when you have millions of people in a concentrated area.

Yet, for every challenge that exists there is a viable solution. This is where the New Urban Agenda becomes so important. It offers us a roadmap to more sustainable, resilient cities.

With COVID-19 and climate change taking their toll on our cities, there has never been a better time to revisit this Agenda and to refocus our efforts.

We know that cities are both immense carbon emitters, yet also some of the most progressive climate action advocates.

Here is where the Paris Agreement and the goal of 1.5 can be won or lost. Certainly, it is where it is localized.

Given the importance and urgency of upscaling action on sustainable urbanization, I have decided to convene an Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization.

The Committee will support me in preparing for the High Level Meeting.

They will also help identify key messages for strategic advocacy, on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, and other strategic engagements related to sustainable urbanisation.

I will circulate summaries of the committee’s meetings, and welcome inputs and suggestions from all Member States.

I look forward to engaging with each of you, as well as the broader UN family, civil society, and relevant stakeholders, in preparing for, and during, the upcoming Meeting.

With your support, I am hopeful that we can succeed and make a difference.


Cities represent the greatest achievements of human civilization. Throughout history they have served as centres of scientific research and innovation, solving some of our most pressing concerns.

Let the New Urban Agenda pave the way for a rejuvenation of our cities for a cleaner, greener, and inclusive future.

I look forward to your suggestions and considerations.