Sustainable urbanization and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda- Economic and Social Council, Special Meeting, 11th plenary meeting, 2022 session

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21-Apr-2022 03:05:54
New urban agenda must be at heart of efforts to achieve sustainable development, speakers stress at Economic and Social Council special meeting.

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COVID-19 ‘Dramatically’ Highlighted Suffering among 1.2 Billion Living in Informal Settlements, Slums

With more than half the world’s people living in cities and the fastest population growth projected to take place in urban settings, sustainable development will hinge on how countries manage urbanization, the Economic and Social Council President told delegates today, as he opened the special meeting on the New Urban Agenda amid calls for tackling the deep inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the 2016 United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, laying out a universal framework for housing and sustainable urban development. It was endorsed by the General Assembly later that year. The Council’s special meeting on Sustainable Urbanization and the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda reviews select aspects of the Agenda based on findings in the Secretary-General’s related 2022 quadrennial report, with emphasis placed on inequality and United Nations coordination.

Such attention is especially important as countries struggle to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, said Council President Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), who called upon delegates to look at the issue through the lens of the inequities at play. “The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the state of inequality,” he underscored, highlighting the plight of the 1.2 billion people in the global South who live in informal settlements and slums and who have strained to implement disease-transmission mitigation measures. In the global North, the pandemic pushed many into homelessness. Current discussions on housing and sustainable urban development therefore should be informed by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he advised.

“The New Urban Agenda must guide our efforts to address inequalities in urbanization, in both developing and developed countries alike,” said General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives). A solid focus on the issue will require the mobilization of millions of urbanization professionals from across the globe — engineers, architects, urban planners and surveyors, among many others — working in partnership with Member States and other stakeholders. Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that the day’s deliberations would help leverage United Nations systems at local, regional and global levels in order to meet the world’s aspirations.

Echoing those concerns, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the pandemic had both exacerbated existing inequalities and created new areas of vulnerability in urban life. These developments only make the New Urban Agenda more critical, she said, noting the importance of local action in that regard. She cited the Local2030 Coalition for the Decade of Action in that context, which is based on the idea that the people closest to sustainable development challenges are best placed to tackle them. “Local is the space to connect all the dots, and cities can spearhead innovations to bridge the inequalities gaps, deliver climate action and ensure a green and inclusive COVID‑19 recovery,” she said.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), said cities have been at the forefront, absorbing the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to increased collaboration between national and local governments, momentum that should be built upon to speed implementation of the New Urban Agenda. “We can provide basic services on a more equitable manner, reduce commuting through tele‑work, and reduce carbon emissions by prudent use of energy,” she affirmed.

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico and President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, took the opportunity to highlight the idea of “smart cities”: urban areas guided by equity and inclusion that make the best possible use of available resources to solve urban problems. “It is necessary to give way to the evolution of cities, it is time to raise the level of urban spaces, to be aware and to migrate to the era of smart cities,” she stressed.

Also today, the Council hosted two round‑table discussions, one on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, based on the Secretary-General’s 2022 quadrennial report, and the other on a United Nations systemwide strategy for sustainable urbanization to assist Member States in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Throughout the day, speakers emphasized that necessity is often the mother of invention, and highlighted innovations that had emerged from cities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Many underscored the need for such creativity in efforts to accelerate progress on the New Urban Agenda.

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