17 April 2015

Secretary-General, in Message to UN-Habit Governing Council, Says ‘Struggle for Sustainability Will Be Won or Lost in Cities’

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, to the UN-Habitat Governing Council in Nairobi today:

I am pleased to send greetings to the Twenty-Fifth Session of the UN-Habitat Governing Council.  This session is taking place at a time when the relationship between urbanization and sustainable development is better understood and appreciated.  Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities.  The potential of urbanization to lift millions of people from poverty and to accelerate economic growth is huge, as demonstrated in recent decades by some of the major emerging economies.

Ensuring that urbanization contributes effectively to sustainable development involves addressing a number of major challenges.  These include:  inadequate urban planning and weak legal frameworks; low levels of employment, especially among young people; and inadequate access to basic services for the rapidly increasing urban population, especially in Africa and Asia.  In addition the proliferation of slums and increasing informality in economic, housing and transport activities bring their own challenges.

Other key barriers are the contribution of cities to global warming due to a combination of urban sprawl and the excessive dependence of urban settlements on cars and fossil fuels.  Increasing urban inequalities and discriminatory practices against women and marginalized groups must also be overcome if we are to achieve sustainable development over the longer term.

As Member States, you have recognized these opportunities and challenges during your consultations on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.  Urbanization has assumed an important position in the global discourse on sustainable development.  I commend your work in proposing sustainable development goal 11, which is dedicated to making cities and human settlements, “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” for all.

This session of the Governing Council is the last before three highly anticipated and potentially momentous agreements:  the adoption of the sustainable development goals, in September; the climate change agreement, in Paris, in December; and the New Urban Agenda to be adopted at the end of the Habitat III conference in October 2016.

Your deliberations can provide further guidance to these processes and the broader subject of sustainable urbanization and human settlements.  So I am encouraged that the theme of your current session, “The contribution of United Nations-Habitat to the post-2015 development agenda:  promoting sustainable urban development and human settlements”, strongly reflects this ambition to make the necessary change that the world needs.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful Governing Council.

For information media. Not an official record.