The new chief of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting sustainable cities and towns has stressed the need for governments, civil society and the private sector to all work more closely together to improve the world’s urban areas.
“With over half of humanity now living in cities, we must prioritize both urban poverty reduction and environmental sustainability – especially as there are now almost 1 billion slum dwellers,” said Joan Clos of Spain.
Mr. Clos was elected yesterday by the General Assembly as Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) for a four-year term starting on 18 October, at the level of Under-Secretary-General.
“I am a long-time believer in sustainable cities that practise participatory urban governance and which provide shelter and basic services for all,” said Mr. Clos, who served as mayor of Barcelona from 1997 until 2006. More recently, he was Spain’s minister for industry, tourism and trade and then its ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan.
“Through collaboration and partnership with governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and all Habitat Agenda partners, our urban areas can be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable,” he added.
On hearing the news of his election, Mr. Clos, 61, said he was deeply committed to his new task and aimed to build on the achievements of his predecessor. “I look forward to making my modest contribution to the future of cities,” he said.
Mr. Clos succeeds Anna Tibaijuka, who has headed UN-HABITAT since it was formed in 2001 to replace the UN Centre for Human Settlements. The agency has the goal of providing adequate shelter for all by encouraging the development of better housing in cities and towns.