High-Level Meeting on New Urban Agenda and Positioning of UN-Habitat

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05-Sep-2017 02:53:58
With two thirds of the world’s population projected to live in cities in the next 30 years, the fate of humanity hinged on how Governments addressed the “megatrend” of urbanization, the General Assembly heard at a high-level meeting to discuss the implementation of the New Urban Agenda agreed by Member States in 2016.

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“The draw of social and economic opportunity that cities possess is the magnet that has led to nearly 1.4 billion more people living in urban areas today than just two decades ago,” said General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) in an opening address this morning. While cities generated about 80 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), many were failing to keep pace with the rapid rate of change and relied on deteriorating infrastructure, inadequate urban planning and services, and outdated legal and environmental protections. In that context, he said, the Agenda had set a new standard for sustainable urban development.

Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), noted that today’s meeting also came on the heels of report by a High-level Independent Panel aimed at assessing and enhancing the programme’s effectiveness. UN-Habitat was one of the first United Nations entities to be assessed in the context of the Organization’s new reforms. Underlining the Programme’s key role in providing guidance and support on complex urbanization policies, he pointed out that unplanned urbanization often resulted in slums, adding that many complex factors must be addressed simultaneously and integrated to achieve urbanization in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, described cities as hubs of promise and innovation, as well as epicentres of the challenges facing sustainable development. While cities encouraged their residents to work towards increased tolerance and coexistence, the global response to the promise of urbanization had been inadequate, with inequality increasing and the urban share of global poverty rising. The ambitious character of the 2030 Agenda required a nimble United Nations, and UN-Habitat could serve as a “litmus test” for the Organization’s reform. Among other things, the Programme should play a leading role in ensuring strong urban expertise across the United Nations system, she said.

Also addressing the Assembly this morning were the Co-Chairs of the High-level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-HABITAT, who jointly introduced the body’s report (document A/71/1006). Mpho Parks Tau, President of United Cities and Local Governments and South African Local Governments Association, described the Panel’s broad consensus on the need to acknowledge the “megatrend” of urbanization, as well as to shift away from ineffective, exclusionary and unsustainable socioeconomic development models. Among other things, the Panel had recommended the establishment of a multi-agency coordinating mechanism — to be known as “UN Urban” — to champion the urban agenda across the United Nations, as well as the enhancement of UN-Habitat’s role as a focal point on sustainable urbanization and reporting.

Rosario Robles, Secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development of Mexico and the Panel’s other Co-Chair, said the group had examined UN-Habitat’s evolution and its broader context within the United Nations system, carrying out broad consultations with Member States and stakeholders in New York and Nairobi. Strengthening the programme was a priority, she said, with the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda serving as its road map.

Following those remarks, the Assembly held two interactive panel discussions, which were moderated by Manish Bapna, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of World Resources Institute. They focused, respectively, on UN-Habitat’s normative and operational mandates and its governance structure and financial capacity. Panellists, representing a wide array of Governments and civil society organizations, responded to questions and comments posed by Member States, especially regarding the High-level Panel’s recommendations.
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