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Delegates set to endorse new urban agenda as Habitat III talks begin in Quito

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The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development HABITAT III, Joan Clos, speaks during a press conference in Quito on October 14, 2016, ahead of the HABITAT III meeting in Ecuador. The HABITAT III conference will take place from October 17 through 20 in Quito. Juan CEVALLOS / AFP

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development HABITAT III, Joan Clos, speaks during a press conference in Quito on October 14, 2016, ahead of the HABITAT III meeting in Ecuador.<br />The HABITAT III conference will take place from October 17 through 20 in Quito.<br />Juan CEVALLOS / AFP

Following the shocking fact that Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent and most of the population is taking place in slums, a new global strategy on sustainable urbanisation, called the New Urban Agenda, which will turn cities urbanisation into an engine room of wealth creation is in the offing.

For the first time in history, more than half of humanity lives in urban areas. By 2050, this proportion will reach nearly 70per cent, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends, intensifying its social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental challenges and opportunities.

Specifically, the new agenda has already been agreed on at the Habitat III Informal Intergovernmental Meetings that took place at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York from September 7 to 10. The three-day meeting holding in Quito, Ecuador from today is a platform to adopt it.

The agreed draft is the culmination of the work of the preparatory committee and informal negotiations, with input provided by regional and thematic meetings and informal hearings with stakeholders and local authorities. Policy papers prepared by policy units on a range of topics related to the urban agenda also fed into the development of the outcome document.

The 22- page draft aims to be concise, action-oriented, forward-looking, universal, and spatially integrative, recognizing distinct globally evolving trends, regional specificity, and transformative potential, as well as taking into account a wide range of realities and contexts, cultures, and historical urban and human settlements landscapes, avoiding a one-size fits-all approach.

It states that “cities are human creations, places in which we aspire to enable inhabitants to lead peaceful, healthy, prosperous, and free lives with full respect of human rights for all. They are places in which we, the people, aim to achieve gender equality, empower women and girls, reduce poverty, and create jobs and generate equitable prosperity.

“Cities present an opportunity for us, the inhabitants, to commit to share resources and space in a way that ensures the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. Human settlements are the embodiment of the human spirit, where we determine our rights and responsibilities, both as individuals and collectively.

The text includes the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All and the Quito Implementation Plan for the New Urban Agenda. It addresses: sustainable urban development for social inclusion and ending poverty; sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; environmentally sustainable and resilient urban development; building the urban governance structure; planning and managing urban spatial development and means of implementation.

“Reaching an agreement on the New Urban Agenda is a huge first step towards a shared vision on sustainable cities and a historic opportunity to work together on improving the way we plan and manage our cities. Member states and stakeholders have committed to this collective vision, and it is something truly worth celebrating,” says Dr. Joan Clos, Secretary-General of the Habitat III Conference.

The Regional Director of UN-Habitat for Africa, Prof. Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka told The Guardian that urbanization is not only an outcome of development, but a formidable engine to achieve development.

“With more than 80per cent of global GDP generated in cities, urbanization, if managed well can contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth, in harmony with nature, by addressing inequalities, increasing productivity, and promoting job creation, social well-being, citizen participation, innovation and emerging ideas.

“The battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in cities. By 2050, the urban population alone will be larger than the current total world population, posing massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, and jobs among others. There is a need for a radical paradigm shift in the way cities and human settlements are planned, developed, governed and managed. The decisions we make today will shape our common urban future.”



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