Monday, 18 January 2021

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To transform the world, we must transform cities

Busan City in South Korea, with a population of approximately 3.6 million as of 2010 | © UN Photo/Kibae Park

World Cities Day is celebrated by the United Nations at the end of October after an unprecedented month long mobilization on the challenges facing the world´s city dwellers, including 75% of the population of the European Union.

UN-Habitat organised “Urban October”, a series of events which culminated in the Habitat III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito, Ecuador, on 17-20.

The aim of “Urban October” is to emphasize the world’s urban challenges and engage the international community towards the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of Habitat III.

The theme of World Cities Day which is celebrated annually 31 October, “Inclusive Cities, Shared Development”, is also connected to this agenda, since it highlights the important role of urbanization as a source of global development and social inclusion.

‘Transforming our World – the 2030 development agenda’ includes Sustainable Development Goal 11, which formulates the ambition to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that to transform our world, we must transform its cities. “Momentum is building. The New Urban Agenda…marks a milestone in setting global standards for sustainable urban development, sparking new thinking on how we plan, manage and live in cities,” Mr. Ban says in his message on World Cities Day.   

Athens in Greece | © UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras

Cities are increasingly the home of humanity. They are central to climate action, global prosperity, peace and human rights. More than half of all people live in cities and human settlements, and that proportion is projected to grow to two thirds by 2050.

Approximately a quarter of these urban dwellers live in slums or informal settlements. The unplanned rapid expansion of towns and cities means an increasing number of poor and vulnerable people are living in precarious conditions, without adequate living space or access to basic services, such as water, sanitation, electricity and health care.  They are often isolated from opportunities for decent work and vulnerable to forced evictions and homelessness.

“Providing access to adequate housing for all is high among the priorities of the New Urban Agenda,” the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said in a message on World Habitat Day, which kick-started the Urban October on 4 October. 

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