Massive growth in city populations could deepen poverty, warns Ban

3 November 2008

The current unprecedented growth in urbanization means that by 2030 two-thirds of the world will be living in cities and some 2 billion people could be living in slums and temporary shelters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today.

He said ballooning population rates in cities around the world will have a significant impact on today’s global crises and on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight pledges world leaders made to halve extreme poverty and other ills, including climate change, by the target date of 2015.

In a message to the opening of the World Urban Forum in Nanjing, China, the Secretary-General noted that high food and fuel prices as well as the global financial turmoil have combined to form a triple crisis that threatens to erase years of effort to eradicate poverty and achieve the MDGs.

“We must not let this happen,” he said in the message, which was read to the meeting by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang.

He added that rapid urbanization had important links to those crises in the world today.

“Urban areas consume most of the world’s energy and are generating the bulk of our waste, including greenhouse gas emissions. Helping cities produce less waste and emissions and consume less energy is an integral part of our work to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

The World Urban Forum was established by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies.

“The UN system will do whatever it can to ensure that the poor, the vulnerable and particularly the 1 billion people living in urban slums around the world, do not become casualties of the [global financial] crisis,” said UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, at the forum’s opening ceremony.

Speaking at the opening of the related World Urban Youth Forum on Saturday, Ms. Tibaijuka said that the creativity and innovation of youth is key to overcoming the challenges of poverty and urbanization.

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