Make Cities Hubs of Sustainability, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments

13 December 2013

Make Cities Hubs of Sustainability, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments

13 December 2013
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Make Cities Hubs of Sustainability, Deputy Secretary-General Tells


Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments for the 2015 International Agenda towards Habitat III, in New York today:

Let me start with a reality check.  Cities occupy some 2 per cent of the land on this planet.  Yet they are home to more than half of all people in the world.  Nearly one third of them live in sub-standard accommodation with inadequate sanitation.  Cities consume the bulk of global energy and emit 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

So there is much truth to the saying that cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost.  Cities are the epicentre of strains and risks — but also of potential and opportunities.  Seeing the dynamics of cities means seizing the challenge of social equity.  We have a lot to do to address inequalities, not only between nations but within them.  Today more poor people live in middle-income countries than in developing countries.  Seizing the potential of cities also means stimulating urban culture, inclusive economic growth, as well as protecting the environment.

So I am pleased to see the broad representation here as we look towards the launch of the post-2015 development agenda.  I would like to welcome to the United Nations the many mayors and local and regional government representatives who have made it a priority to come to New York today.  I welcome, too, the Group of Friends of Sustainable Cities and the representatives from the United Nations system.

We have a common objective:  to shape a sustainable long-term vision for cities and provide concrete solutions that will achieve such a vision.  Last May, the Secretary-General welcomed the creation of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments for 2015.

Local and regional governments have a key role to play in defining and implementing the post-2015 development agenda.  People and communities depend on you for equitable access to basic services such as water, sanitation, education, health, transport and housing.   That means providing adequate funding, well-functioning and accountable institutions, and the skills to develop and implement sustainable policies.

We are experiencing the fastest rate of urbanization in human history.  In the next 30 years, almost 3 billion people will be added to, mainly, city populations.  Almost all this urban population growth will occur in the developing world.  That is why sustainable urbanization should feature in the post-2015 development agenda.  That is why next year’s World Urban Forum, in Medellin, and the Habitat III meeting in 2016 are so important.

By working together, we can realize the massive opportunities for cities to demonstrate, indeed showcase, efficiency, equity and sustainability.  It is time to place strong and capable local and regional government in the context of sustainable development.

Cities are major sources of employment opportunity.  Cities are where social advancement happens fastest.  Cities are benefiting the rural areas surrounding them.  And better rural-urban connectivity means greater access to education, health services and markets.

So let us make our cities hubs for sustainability.  Cities are already providing solutions worldwide.  Let us learn from each other, and replicate and scale up what works.  When I was Ambassador in Washington, D.C., I observed the rate of change in different parts of the United States.  I noticed that the cities and municipalities were sometimes more progressive on sustainability than the federal authorities.  For example, the city of Portland was way ahead on sustainability and fighting climate change than the federal level.

We can gain much by working together, not only between cities and local communities, but also with civil society and international organizations — not least the United Nations family, primarily Habitat.

Urbanization is part of the new global landscape which is now taking shape.  Our challenge and duty is to transform this global trend into a catalyst for a life of dignity for all the people, whom we are here to serve.  In this pursuit the United Nations is proud to count representatives of cities, local and regional government as partners.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.