Management of Growing Cities Will Have Great Impact on Change Envisioned in 2030 Agenda, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Political Forum Side Event

By on 07/20/2018

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the 2018 High‑Level Political Forum side event, “The SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] in Action:  Working Together for Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Cities and Settlements”, in New York today:

It gives me great pleasure to join you today to highlight the importance of sustainable urban development.

As we assess progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, there is much encouraging news from around the world.  At the same time, it is clear that we have more to do to address the challenges and opportunities associated with rapid urbanization.

The economic, social and environmental forces that shape and shift our societies are evolving rapidly, and it is in our cities that we see this play out visibly and in significant ways.  How we manage urbanization and the growth of our cities in the next decade will have a tremendous impact on the transformation we envision in the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].

The economic power of cities is enormous.  Cities accounted for 82 per cent of global gross domestic product in 2014, and this number is expected to reach 88 per cent by 2025.  But cities are also the locus of complex and interconnected challenges:  they produce more than 50 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, use about 75 per cent of the world’s energy and generate 1.3 billion tons of waste every year.

Poverty is becoming increasingly urban, and cities are also home to crime and diverse forms of violence, including the trafficking of people and illegal drugs.  Moreover, a high proportion of the people and economic activity affected by extreme weather events is increasingly concentrated in urban centres, where people living in slums and informal settlements are the most vulnerable.

For these reasons and more, we need to get urbanization right.  The adoption of the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito in 2016 marked a turning point in our collective recognition of the impact of urbanization.  It offers practical strategies and tools, and frames imperatives for our sustainable future in light of rapid urbanization.  These include national urban policies to ensure balanced territorial development, and urban design and land use planning that promote growth, climate mitigation, urban resilience and poverty eradication.

The United Nations system has an important role to play in assisting Member States to implement the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda.  Towards this end, the United Nations development system reforms, adopted by Member States two months ago, offer important opportunities.  With the enhanced country presences and catalytic funding envisaged under the reforms, the United Nations will be better positioned to assist Governments in advancing norms for urban development, improving the use of data, facilitating partnerships and mobilizing public investment and private capital.

The report we have distributed to you today demonstrates the results the United Nations development system achieved in 2017 in delivering integrated support for the 2030 Agenda.  The United Nations Development Group, which has been renamed the United Nations Sustainable Development Group and which I chair, supported Governments and national partners in 165 countries.

The report shows important gains upon which we can build.  Going forward, we need to step up the pace and scale of our integration as a development system to match the ambition of the 2030 Agenda — and to create cities that drive progress towards the SDGs.  Success will depend on how we involve all stakeholders.  Indeed, we estimate that at least 110 of the 169 SDG targets require direct intervention from local authorities and partners.

As cities heighten their efforts to tackle poverty, climate change, exclusion and inequality, they are recognizing the need to coordinate better, share lessons more widely and shape a collective voice.  The United Nations system is well positioned to support this.  The Secretary‑General and I are fully committed to the collective effort of ensuring inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and settlements, for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you for your contributions to that essential work.

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