I am pleased to send greetings to the 24th UN-Habitat Governing Council. You have an important role in building a sustainable future. With more than half the global population living in towns and cities, urbanization continues unabated. Most urban growth is in developing countries, where infrastructure is often inadequate, and meeting the needs of rapidly expanding urban populations, especially the young and the poor, presents formidable challenges.
Experience has shown that these challenges can be overcome. The Millennium Development Goals target of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 has already been surpassed. However, because of rapid urbanization, there are more slum dwellers now than in 2000, often living without adequate sanitation or affordable access to safe water. As we look forward to the period post-2015, we must build on successes and attend to unfinished business so towns and cities can become models and drivers of sustainability.
Urban centres provide a major opportunity to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. Governments recognized this in the Rio+20 outcome when they stated that, “through integrated planning and management approaches, cities can promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies.”
UN-Habitat can provide critical support to Member States to realize these opportunities. I am encouraged that UN-Habitat’s proposed Strategic Plan for 2014-2019 and biennial Programme Budget for 2014-2015, which the Governing Council is considering at this session, address both the challenges and opportunities of urbanization.
I hope, too, that the Governing Council will provide guidance to the Secretary-General of the Habitat III conference, as requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/216, and that the Council will advance the reform of the governance of UN-Habitat.
Please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.