Participants called for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements at the first Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which will take place in 2016.
They recognized Habitat III as an opportunity to create a coherent, integrated urban agenda and ensure urbanization's contribution to sustainable development, particularly within the context of the post-2015 development agenda.
18 September 2014: Participants called for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements at the first Preparatory Committee for the 2016 UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). They recognized Habitat III as an opportunity to create a coherent, integrated urban agenda and ensure urbanization’s contribution to sustainable development, particularly within the context of the post-2015 development agenda.
“Our future will be decided in cities,” declared Conference Secretary-General Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). He said that, since 1960, the world has “seen a runaway urban growth,” with most growth expected to occur in developing regions. Although urbanization has served the purposes of growth, Clos questioned its contribution to sustainable development, pointing to increases in the total number of slum dwellers and lagging progress on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on urban access to water and sanitation. He said the world is failing in how it plans, builds and manages its cities, and subsequently “failing in creating a sustainable future for us and our next generations.”
Clos highlighted four lessons from successful urbanization experiences: planning as essential to avoid social segregation; allocation of 45-50% of urban land to public space; proper design of public space; and adequate population density and mixed use.
‘Urban areas are at the heart of many great challenges, opportunities and promise,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks to the PrepCom. Ban underscored urbanization’s role in supporting sustainable development, particularly within the context of the post-2015 agenda. He identified “good, strong planning” as the key to well-planned urbanization for development.
The meeting elected the Bureau co-chairs, Diego Aulestia Valencia of Ecuador, and Maryse Gautier of France, who will serve during the two-year preparatory period, as well as representatives from each region. Gautier said Habitat III will be especially important as it will follow adoption of the post-2015 agenda and related goals.
Participants discussed climate change and urbanization, noting the contribution of cities to climate change. Seventy percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to climate change, according to UN-HABITAT. Participants also recognized that cities can contribute to tackling climate change, through city and local-level action.
Participants recognized other threats to the future of cities, including natural disasters, conflicts over land and resources and transport challenges. They discussed challenges such as unemployment and rising inequalities in cities and highlighted the importance of public space in cities.
Habitat III will be the first UN global summit to take place following the adoption of the post-2015 agenda and the anticipated adoption of a new climate agreement. It is expected to bring together governments, local authorities, civil society, the private sector, academia and others to review urban and housing policies and agree on a ‘New Urban Agenda’ for the 21st century.
PrepCom 1 for Habitat III convened on 17-18 September 2014, in New York, US. The PrepCom was established pursuant to UNGA Resolution 67/211 of 21 December 2014.
PrepCom 2 will take place in April 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. [UN Secretary-General Remarks] [UN Press Release] [Conference Secretary-General Statement] [UN-HABITAT Press Release on Opening] [UN-HABITAT Press Release on UNSG Statement] [PrepCom Webpage] [Conference Secretary-General Opinion Piece]