UN General Assembly President, Abdulla Shahid, on Thursday, April 28, 2022, called on Member States to improve cooperation and accelerate progress on the New Urban Agenda.
Shahid made the call at High-Level Meeting to Assess Progress in the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda at UN headquarters in New York.
The meeting was held in accordance with General Assembly resolution 75/224, and in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Shahid spoke on how sustainable urbanisation could drive change across a variety of interconnected issues, including poverty eradication, climate action, migration, land degradation, economic prosperity, and creation of peaceful societies.
Yet, he said the New Urban Agenda had often been “under-appreciated”, inspite of its far-ranging implications.
“While sustainable urbanisation is related to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), only a few countries can truly claim that they have in place the governance, and the necessary policies.
Only few countries have put in place the policies, including inclusive urban planning, capacity development, technology access, and financing necessary to ensure sustainable urbanisation,” the top UN official said.
Addressing the Assembly, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President, Collen Kelapile, said full implementation of the New Urban Agenda was at the core of the SDGs principle of “leaving no one behind”.
According to him, housing has become a commercial commodity, and urban land markets are captured by the political elite, urging Member States to position housing above all as a human right.
He also encouraged countries to view the challenge of unlocking financing for affordable housing as both an opportunity to create jobs and a catalyst to enhance revenues raised by cities.
The imperative around housing is included in the Secretary-General’s quadrennial report, the document guiding deliberations at the one-day meeting, Ms Maimunah Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said.
She recalled that the report recommended countries integrate provision of adequate and affordable housing as a driver of equitable development, adding that housing is central to social protection systems, along with healthcare, jobs, education and digital access.
“Member States can achieve this by making urban policy a central feature to comprehensively address climate mitigation and adaptation. By aligning spatial and economic development we can protect biodiversity and reduce pollution.
“We must ensure no one, including the smallest of God’s creations, is left behind,” she said.
Also speaking, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Mohammed, said the New Urban Agenda was critical at a time when cities were grappling with numerous pressures, citing example of food, water and energy resources.
“The framework sets out a clear pathway for developing truly sustainable cities, centred around resilient economies, a clean environment, and the health, well-being, culture, and security that residents need.
“It also 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,” she said.
In addition, she said investing in sustainable urbanisation could also catalyse important transitions across food and energy systems.
Mohammed also highlighted UN initiatives to assist countries in implementing the New Urban Agenda.
The UN General Assembly session, which examined progress towards implementing a 2016 framework on sustainable urbanisation – New Urban Agenda- brought together Government representatives, city mayors, business leaders, youth, and other constituencies.
The New Urban Agenda presents a shared global vision for how to build, manage, and live in cities, through urbanisation that is well-planned and well-managed.
It was adopted one year after countries agreed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the blueprint for a better future, for people and the planet, by 2030.
By Cecilia Ologunagba