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UN-Habitat Assembly pledges to address urbanization

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | Updated: 2019-06-02 16:14

The first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly concluded Friday with a pledge from delegates to accelerate implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than 3000 delegates who attended the five-day event, held at UN offices in Nairobi, Kenya, adopted ministerial declarations, five resolutions and one decision to promote sustainable urbanization.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, Martha Delgado, UN-Habitat Assembly president, said delegates adopted guidelines on safer cities and a strategic plan for 2020-2023.

Delgado said delegates agreed to prioritize the NUA and the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

She said delegates also resolved to promote gender equality through UN-Habitat to support inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements.

"The delegates also resolved to enhance urban-rural linkages for sustainable urbanization and human settlement," she said.

Maimunah Sharif, UN-Habitat executive director, said the assembly represented the beginning of a story of transformation and change.

"We have laid strong foundations this week. Now it is time to build on them and create a world where no one is left behind," she said.

She said UN-Habitat will continue to explore the best ideas and practices to achieve its vision of a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world.

Sharif called on stakeholders to put sustainable urbanization at the center of their development priorities through the NUA, as well as strengthen their urban governance structures and institutions.

She called for policy solutions that promote science, technology and innovation in fulfilling the promises of the 2030 agenda.

This includes using artificial intelligence to support decision-making processes and to efficiently and inclusively deliver basic and social services that transform lives in cities.

"I call for the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries," she said.

Sharif also called on stakeholders to work with UN-Habitat and to bring their ideas, solutions, expertise and resources to the organization.

"We are committed to working with you. While we sincerely appreciate earmarked contributions, it is core non-earmarked contributions that will reduce fragmentation in our work, enable us to achieve impact, while increasing predictability and flexibility in the implementation of the priorities agreed together in the Strategic Plan," she said.

The ministerial declaration recognized that increasing urbanization constitutes both a challenge and an opportunity to sustainable development.

It called for the "promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production" though various methods including smart technologies, sustainable lifestyles and resource efficiency.

The declaration said the ministers recognize and support the role and expertise of UN-Habitat as a focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements and as a center of excellence and innovation.

During Wednesday's partnership and pledging conference, $152 million was pledged by 21 countries, namely: China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, the Gambia, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland and Zambia.

The assembly's theme, innovation for a better quality of life in cities and communities, was reflected throughout the week with 90 exhibitors showcasing new solutions.

These included using the computer game Minecraft for inclusive urban planning, recycling food waste for fuel, and using spatial data to effectively respond to urban incidents.

The assembly confirmed that the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly, which is to take place every four years, will be held June 5-9 in 2023.

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