Shanghai 31 October 2014 The first World Cities Day has been commemorated across the globe under the theme “Leading Urban Transformation”.

In his statement to mark the occasion, United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon “With the decision by the United Nations General Assembly to establish World Cities Day, we now have an annual date on which to celebrate one of humankind’s greatest and most complex creations.”

The global celebration was hosted by Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, China and UN-Habitat.

Mr. Ban added: “This new day is one of the legacies of Expo 2010 Shanghai, at which the international community explored urban best practices and concepts from all over the world.  So it is fitting that Shanghai is hosting the main inaugural event of this new UN observance.”

According to the Secretary General, the theme of this first World Cities Day — “Leading Urban Transformations” — highlights the pioneering power of cities. 

“Today is also a moment to recognize the contributions of mayors and other city leaders.  Urban transformations require political will and the capacity to coordinate many actors and stakeholders. Mayors give voice to their citizens and play a central role in building well-planned cities and making them engines of prosperity, innovation and inclusiveness,” he said.

WCD Launch 2UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos emphasized the transformative potential of cities to contribute to sustainable development. “Cities are able to create positive transformations if well-planned and well-managed. A well-planned city making use of optimal density can provide services to its citizens in a more efficient and affordable manner than sprawling urban areas,” he said.

The Shanghai celebration took place at the Expo Park, where some 300 participants attended , including participation by high-level officials from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and other national government institutions in China; top officials from UN-Habitat and other stakeholders from around the world.

The highlight of the event was remarks by key note speakers including Mr. Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira.

In a congratulatory message read by Mr. Qi Ji, the Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Premier Li Keqiang said: “Cities are important platforms for human civilization’s advancement and various countries’ economic and social development…World Cities Day shows cities’ functions and essence, and reflects people’s thoughts on and actions for cities’ development in the new period.” He stated that the establishment of the World Cities Day can help the international community pay more attention to the field of cities and learn from each other.

Meanwhile, while in Nairobi on official mission, Mr. Ban visited an exhibition mounted by UN-Habitat as part of the Urban October. The exhibition features a paper city and an exhibition on urban issues mounted by professional photographers based in Kenya.

“In the run up to the United Nations Conference of Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III in 2016), this first World Cities Day is an opportunity to consider a new urban paradigm. Instead of waiting to see how our cities turn out, let’s seize this opportunity to start to shape the cities we need,” said Dr Clos.

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