New York, 17 September 2014—The first session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) opened in New York on Wednesday with calls for urgent action towards achieving sustainable urbanisation.
Delegates from governments, non-governmental organizations, the civil society, including grassroots organizations, women, youth groups, professionals and academia, foundations, the private sector as well as Habitat Agenda Partners attended the opening ceremony officiated by UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos.
In his address, Dr. Clos said that Habitat III came at a vital time of urban growth posing both challenges and opportunities for development for the world.
“The rapid urbanization of planet Earth is an unprecedented challenge in the history of humanity. In forty years, four of every five people will live in towns and cities and ours will be an urban planet… In the 15 years between 2003 and 2018, one billion people will be added to our cities. Most of this growth will occur in developing regions. In fact seven out of ten urban dwellers will be African or Asian in 2013.”
During the session, the representatives of the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee were elected, making up a Chair and Co-chair and representatives of each region. Member state representatives made statements outlining their support for Habitat III and for sustainable urbanization as a global challenge and opportunity.
“As we proceed with the consultations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and we start the preparations for Habitat III, we should move away from fragmented views of sustainable urbanization. Rather, we should focus on creating a coherent view of this important phenomenon and its role in sustainable development. We need cities and human settlements that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,” said Dr. Clos.
The official meetings arranged for PrepCom 1 are accompanied by a series of side and parallel events on the urban topic organized by civil society groups and key stakeholders with the aim of feeding conversations with external inputs on the identification of new and emerging challenges on sustainable urban development.
The Preparatory Committee is in place to set the agenda for and initiate substantive discussions towards the Habitat III conference. The second session, PrepCom 2, will take place in April 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Habitat III Conference
Habitat III is the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, due to take place in 2016. This was decided in General Assembly Resolution 66/207. Resolution 67/216 outlined the modalities, preparatory activities and format of the conference.
It will be one of the first global conferences after the establishment of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Habitat III will be the momentum to discuss and chart new pathways in response to the challenges of urbanization and the opportunities it offers for the implementation of the sustainable development goals. The conference promises to be unique in bringing together diverse urban actors such as governments, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, academic institutions and all relevant interest groups to review urban and housing policies affecting the future of cities within an international governance architecture, with a view to generate a 'New Urban Agenda' for the 21st Century which recognizes the ever-changing dynamics of human civilization.
The transformative power of urbanization as focus theme of Habitat III
Throughout modern history, urbanization has been a major driver of development and poverty reduction. Governments can respond to this key development opportunity through Habitat III by promoting a new model of urban development that is able to integrate all facets of sustainable development to promote equity, welfare and shared prosperity. How can we mobilise the global community and focus all levels of human settlements, including small rural communities, villages, market towns, intermediate cities and metropolises for demographic and economic growth? Habitat III may serve to systematise the alignment between cities and towns and national planning objectives in their role as drivers of national economic and social development.
Advances in technology, a realignment of global power relations, changes in demographic profiles, recognition of emerging resource constraints as well as the reassertion of questions of rights and justice in the global development world have triggered a profound systemic change. The new international order provides more room for cities and regional economies to contribute to national development through direct participation in the global economy.
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Find all Habitat III background documents here
Find more information on Dr. Joan Clos, Secretary-General of the Habitat III Conference here
Practical Information - PrepCom1 for Habitat III, 17-18 September
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