Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

21 June 2012

Secretary-General's remarks to "Cities Leadership Day" [as prepared for delivery]

It is a great pleasure for me to join all of you for this Global Town Hall.

This week, Governor Cabral, Mayor Paes and the citizens of Rio have welcomed the world here to chart a sustainable future for our planet.

Mayors and local government have consistently stressed the need for concrete actions, measurable commitments and practical results coming out of the Rio+20 process. 

And I have consistently stressed the importance of working ever more closely with local government organizations and leaders around the world. 

I have met many of you in your cities.  I was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the US Conference of Mayors at their conference last year in Baltimore. 

And of course, we are proud to have one of your own – Joan Clos, who was the mayor of Barcelona – serving as the head of UN Habitat.

The reason I put such a high priority on your role is simple:  In our globalized world, there is little difference between local government and global or federal government. 

Local is global.  Global is local.

Mayors and local governments are central to the work of the United Nations on human rights, the rule of law, peace and security.

And, of course, you have been leading by example in sustainable development. 

Towns and cities around the world are on the cutting edge of sustainable solutions on transport, shelter, jobs, water and much else. 

Here in Brazil, Curatiba is a global model.  I have seen so many other trendsetting examples from Istanbul to Singapore to New York City and beyond.   

Tomorrow will mark the end of the Conference.      

We have made major progress on sustainable energy.  We are launching a process for sustainable development goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals. We have advanced our work to achieve Sustainable Cities.

And we will be leaving here with more than 500 concrete commitments from an ever more mobilized global movement for change. 

You are a critical part of that movement.

Most of the world lives in urban areas – and seven of every ten urban residents live in developing countries.

Urban development is key to sustainable development. 

We can save resources, sustain our cities, and promote greater dignity and equity by pursuing innovative approaches – using less fuel for urban transport, buildings and industry; opting for alternate energy sources; cleaning our seas and rivers; greening our buildings; and ensuring a decent urban living environment

Your leadership and engagement will be central to delivering results that defeat poverty, protect the natural environment and improve disaster risk reduction. 

We must also address the ways in which many urban dwellers are affected by poverty, inequality, vulnerability to natural hazards, slum formation and economic growth. 

Sustainable urbanization can be a unifying force to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development.

Creating jobs, reducing the ecological footprint and improving quality of life work best when they work together. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Agenda 21’s Chapter on Local Authorities is among the shortest.

But it has mobilized perhaps the largest number of people to raise awareness and boost action.

Organizations such as ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, and United Cities and Local Governments are at the forefront.

I salute your work and encourage you to intensify your efforts while implementing the Rio+20 outcomes in our towns, cities and regions.

Rio is not the end of a process, it is the beginning. 

Please keep raising your voices.  In the spirit of UN-Habitat’s “I’m a City Changer” campaign, please keep pushing for sound national urban strategies and balanced regional development policies.

Please continue to serve as vibrant laboratories for change. 

Your contributions will not only help us succeed in Rio, they will also provide a cornerstone for a “New Urban Agenda” at Habitat III in 2016.

The road to global sustainability runs through the world’s cities and towns. 

By building more sustainable cities and regions, you will lead us to a more sustainable world.

Thank you for your support and commitment.