Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, in New York today:
I would like to start by thanking you, Mr. President, for your leadership in organizing the preparatory process for this High-Level Meeting, and your decision to establish the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization.
Thanks to your efforts, our deliberations today benefit from the recommendations of the Quadrennial Report of the Secretary-General on the New Urban Agenda, released in February — from Member States’ perspectives emerging from the five Regional Forums for Sustainable Development held in March and April, and from the outcomes of the Economic and Social Council special meeting on Sustainable Urbanization and the New Urban Agenda, held a few days ago.
This work is moving quickly because time is of the essence. We are already in the second year of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. And the New Urban Agenda is central to the success of these goals. Adopted just one year after the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, the new Urban Agenda was a clear recognition that, without addressing the challenges and opportunities of the urban world, sustainable development is impossible.
Urbanization is a defining feature of the twenty-first century and a powerful tool for sustainable development if well-planned and managed. Already, over 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This will rise to nearly 70 per cent by 2050. With few exceptions, cities are expected to become bigger and more numerous. They are engines of growth, innovation, culture and knowledge.
But, they also grapple with a number of pressures. Pressures on the environment, and on resources such as food, water and energy. Pressures on governance and social cohesion. And pressures to take full advantage of the benefits of technology and digitalization. Cities are also on the front lines of many of the world’s challenges and opportunities. From COVID-19 and climate change. To just transitions in energy, food systems and digital connectivity to speed up progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals over the next eight years.
That’s why the New Urban Agenda is so critical. It sets out a clear pathway for countries to develop truly sustainable cities centred around resilient economies, a clean environment and the health, well-being, culture and security that residents need. But, it is important to note that this focus on urban areas does not come at the expense of rural areas and livelihoods.
In the New Urban Agenda, Member States were clear in their calls for national urban policies that anticipate demographic shifts and ensure balanced development across all subregions within a country — so no one is left behind. They also called for harnessing the opportunities of growing urban populations for improving rural livelihoods through increases in food production, processing and distribution. The Agenda recognizes that urbanization is not only about cities. It is also about how rural and urban areas harness the power of urbanization to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for all people.
And for our planet. The New Urban Agenda offers lasting solutions to tackle the climate crisis. When planned well, built in a compact, urban form, and supported with high‑quality public transport, cities offer the most sustainable form of human settlement. Investing in sustainable urbanization can also catalyse important transitions across food and energy systems.
But, the Agenda also recognizes that action by all is essential. That’s why the United Nations is leading by example across our own operations. In this spirit of action echoed by the President of the General Assembly, I would like to highlight two commitments the United Nations will be pursuing to assist Member States in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
First, United Nations resident coordinators and country teams will lead a dedicated effort to integrate urbanization more systematically into common country analyses and development cooperation frameworks, and embark on joint urban programming. Guided by these core planning instruments at the country level, the United Nations system will provide tailored support for the development of national urban policies and inclusive urban planning aligned with national priorities. Thanks to the recent reform efforts of the United Nations development system, our country teams are well-placed to provide the context-specific support countries need.
Second, the Local2030 Coalition led by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will mobilize and bring together the actions of local and national governments, businesses, social entrepreneurs and networks of neighbourhood organizations.
This collaborative approach is a pillar of the Secretary-General’s report on Our Common Agenda, which recognizes the valued role of all stakeholders in the development process. It offers proposals to strengthen the role of cities in the international space, as key actors in a more networked and inclusive multilateral system. This must include an expanded role for local and regional governments in developing solutions to urban challenges. The Secretary-General and I expect that this high-level meeting will contribute to exploring the solutions we need.
In closing, I would like to once again thank the President of the General Assembly for his leadership and call on national and local governments, businesses and all stakeholders to step up action to implement the New Urban Agenda. Taken together, the commitments you make today through the New Urban Agenda provide an important opportunity not only to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, but to make progress towards the liveable, healthy and peaceful cities and countries that every person needs and deserves. Thank you for being part of this important effort.