Latin America and the Caribbean – the most urban of the developing world

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Paulette Bethel (left), Permanent Representative of the Bahamas to the United Nations with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NARRATOR:  Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), is the most urban of the developing world, and perhaps of the entire world, according to a message from the President of the UN General Assembly to the Latin American and Caribbean Inter-Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Cities toward the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Habitat 3 Conference.

The statement noted that in Latin America and the Caribbean, four out of five people live in cities, although in vastly different circumstances, ranging from expanding megacities to smaller urban centers in densely populated small island developing states (SIDS).

And it explains that urbanization in the Latin American and Caribbean region has been both rapid and recent, with half of urban growth taking place in the last 40 years.

The president's statement was delivered by Ambassador Paulette Bethel.

TAPE: In many cases, the urban management experience in LAC has produced impressive results and is a source of inspiration and best practices for the rest of the world. Generally, the quality of life for the region's urban dwellers has improved, with better access to water, sanitation and transport, and more economic opportunities. The region has much to share and many success stories, as well as advice to impart. In this regard, I look forward to your contributions this afternoon. The specific needs and circumstances of countries in the LAC region vary greatly, as it includes both powerful emerging economies, as well as very small island developing states.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Bethel said that with that in mind, she wanted to draw attention to a few areas that require attention and threaten to set back gains. Foremost, she said, is the issue of inequality, noting that the physical and social segregation that affects many cities of the region reflects the pervasive problem of inequality.

TAPE: While the proportion of people living in informal settlements has decreased over the last twenty years, there are still over 100 million slum dwellers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sustainable policies and equal access to basic services can play a key role in addressing such inequalities. For example, providing access to clean water and sanitation and to transport and sustainable energy can significantly improve the lives of the urban poor. It is also critical to ensure the right to decent housing, particularly for those who face legal and social barriers to secure land or house ownership, such as women and indigenous and marginalized groups. The second issue I would like to address is security. Crime and citizen security have gained increased attention over recent years in the LAC region. Populations living in poverty, women and children are often significantly more vulnerable to rampant crime and violence.

NARRATOR:   According to Ambassador Bethel, such insecurity limits their freedom of movement and their ability to make choices; disrupts life at home and at work; and has damaging impacts on entire communities. The cost of violence is devastating for individuals, but can also significantly hinder economic development for communities and nations.

TAPE: The third challenge is disaster management and resilience. The vulnerability of cities to natural disasters is all too familiar to the inhabitants of the American continent. Climate change has led to extreme weather events, which have increased in frequency and magnitude and upended the livelihoods and well-being of many city- dwellers. At the same time, rising sea levels threaten urban infrastructure and critical facilities, such as roads, schools and hospitals, in many countries. Cities must continue building capacity for disaster prevention and preparedness, as well as strengthening their resilience in the face of rising sea levels and devastating natural disasters.

NARRATOR:  Ambassador Paulette Bethel stressed that this would require broad partnerships drawing on the skills and expertise of multiple stakeholders from national and local governments, as well as from the civil society and the private sector.  Ambassador Bethel delivered the remarks on behalf of the president of the UN General Assembly. This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration:  4’28″


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January 2018
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