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- UN-Habitat Executive Director: World Cities Day Message
Like much of the world, Egypt is witnessing rapid growth of its cities. To date 43% of the population in Egypt live in 223 cities, of which 56 % are concentrated in the Greater Cairo Region (GCR) and Alexandria. This rapid urbanization represents one of the biggest challenges that faces Egypt’s urban development and is one of the main causes of the growth of informal and unsafe areas in Egypt.
However, the smartest cities today are turning these challenges into opportunities because urbanization should be considered as a driver of development rather than a problem. Cities can be engines of growth, but this is only if they are managed well and if opportunities are seized and utilized. Cities bring people closer together, benefit from economies of scale, and are a marketplace of their own – placing people, goods, and services all in close proximity. To capture this potential, we must push forward sustainable urbanization policies, policies that enable growth and at the same time create an urban development process that is able to cope with the challenges of the coming years – such as climate change, increasing demands on urban infrastructure, pollution and rapid population growth.
Sustainable urbanization is multifaceted, and it is for this reason that national urban policies must look at urban development through multiple lenses such as Planning and Design, Urban Economy, Housing and Services, and Governance. We must build and design cities that are inclusive and that are equipped for the next century. It is for this reason that UN-Habitat has been focusing on pilot interventions that result in the creation of sustainable, efficient and vibrant cities so they become engines of growth and also focuses on producing knowledge products and pilot projects that can provide evidence based research to the formulation of key policies. These dynamics are not a particularity to Egypt, but they are part of global processes. Thus UN-Habit is mobilizing the government towards the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) which will take place in 2016 in Quito, Ecuador and it is aligning its work along the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 11, to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”