Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for the use of science and technology to build better cities, saying that most global population growth in the coming years is expected to occur in urban areas of developing countries, with rising demand for land, housing, basic services and infrastructure.
“We know what policies would strengthen urban good governance and improve the way cities handle such key issues as housing, land use, equitable access to land, inheritance and shelter rights, sanitation and energy efficiency,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the delegates attending the 23rd session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), which opened today in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Our collective challenge is to stimulate sustainable urban development and the transition towards a green economy,” the Secretary-General said in the message, delivered by Inga Bjork-Klevby, the UN-HABITAT Deputy Executive Director.
Mr. Ban pointed out that since the articulation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by world leaders at UN Headquarters more than a decade ago, 55 million slum dwellers have been added to the global population.
“Cities, as they have for centuries, play a central role in the advancement of human progress. Let us ensure that all their citizens enjoy the well-being they need to continue making those unique and invaluable contributions,” said Mr. Ban.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos said that whereas the world’s cities were faced with myriad of challenges, they could be overcome with innovative urban planning.
“For the last 20 years the city has been seen as a place of problems, a form of pessimism that has led to inaction,” said Mr. Clos. “Instead, we should be optimistic, after all if you go back in time, you find that the city has been a place of freedom and growth – economic as well as personal,” he said.
He stressed that cities and urbanization should be considered an asset, not a liability, adding that urban areas provided decent jobs and development, equality, opportunities for the youth and chances for gender equality.
In a related development, the southern Italian city of Naples has offered to host the sixth session of the World Urban Forum in September next year. The theme of the event will be “The prosperity of cities: balancing ecology, economy and equity.”
Mr. Clos thanked the Italian Government and the Naples municipality for agreeing to host the event, adding that the city, globally renowned for its history of art and culture, had many lessons to offer to the world on urbanization.