New York

27 May 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at the Economic and Social Council 2014 Integration Segment

I am pleased to address this first-ever Integration Segment of the Economic and Social Council. The General Assembly took a crucial decision last year to strengthen ECOSOC with this annual segment integrating the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

I am delighted to welcome government representatives, civil society actors and business executives to this gathering.

We are fortunate to have very high-level keynote speakers with expertise in different parts of the world. I look forward to hearing their views and I thank all the leaders who have taken their very precious time to speak in this meeting.

Today, we take a step toward harnessing the power of urbanization for sustainable development.

This is central to achieving three interlinked United Nations priorities for the year 2015:

First, to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

Second, to shape an ambitious long-term vision for development.

And third, to adopt a meaningful new global climate agreement.

Just as people converge in cities, so do global issues.

Urban areas are at the heart of many great challenges, opportunities and promise.

People move to cities for jobs and other opportunities.

But too many cities face challenges - including weak infrastructure, unemployment and pollution.

Climate change is increasing risks in all cities, where the poorest people are hit the hardest. 

We are seeing daily disasters at unexpected times and places. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia just had their worst floods in more than a century. Jobs, businesses and economies in a number of cities across the region, including in Croatia, have suffered.

From my earliest days as Secretary-General, I have focused on urbanization and its wider implications for development.

During my first month on the job, I visited a slum in Kibera, Kenya. I immediately saw that to overcome problems in cities we must take a hard look at inequality.

Many cities have very rich and very poor communities right next to each other. This is unsustainable and unjust.

In order to learn about urban solutions, I have visited many projects, businesses and other initiatives in cities around the world.

I have seen bamboo bicycles made in Ghana.

I have seen mobile flood barriers in Prague, Czech Republic.

I have seen solar panels being produced in Abu Dhabi, Vilnius, Denver and Xi'an.

Cities are turning the climate challenge into a business opportunity. They are exploring how to conserve and generate energy. They are finding innovative ways to recycle waste. And they are creating better living conditions.

There is one common feature to every success story, and that is people.

In all our urban policies, we should think of people they affect.

Urban transport policies should focus on the safety of women, access for the disabled, and meeting the needs of all vulnerable people. When we protect them, they will drive development.

Efforts to encourage businesses activity should also promote corporate responsibility. Companies that protect labour rights, preserve the environment and prevent corruption can create an even better climate for business.

Education is essential. We need to raise a generation of global citizens who use science and technology to develop green technologies that will further sustainable urbanization.

We must strengthen the capacity of governments to plan, construct and manage urban areas. That will require a close look at how resources are consumed, produced and managed – and how this impacts overall quality of life.

This September, I will convene a Climate Summit in New York.

I am gathering world leaders here to help shape a collective, ambitious vision rooted in concrete action.

The Summit will focus on solutions.

I encourage all leaders to attend. We need their high-level commitment to tackling the climate challenge as we move toward the pivotal year of 2015.

Your discussions here can contribute to that Summit, as well as the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.

I count on your strong engagement to make the most of our opportunities to usher in a sustainable future.

Thank you.