‘Our Struggle for Global Sustainability Will Be Won or Lost in Cities,’ Says Secretary-General, at New York Event

23 April 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘Our Struggle for Global Sustainability Will Be Won or Lost in Cities,’


Says Secretary-General, at New York Event


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the High-level Delegation of Mayors and Regional Authorities, in New York, 23 April:

It is a pleasure to welcome you here today, along with my colleague Dr. Joan Clos, the Executive Director of UN-Habitat.

In less than two months, the world will be the guests of Mayor Paes and the citizens of Rio, gathered to chart a sustainable future for our planet.

“Rio+20” is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Globally, a profound demographic shift is under way.

The global increase in urban population by the year 2050 is forecast to be higher than what the total population of the world was in 1950. 

Let there be no doubt:  we live in an urbanized world.

Moreover, the greatest urban population growth is expected to take place in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  And mega-cities are growing fastest of all.

Today, seven of every ten urban residents in the world live in developing countries.

The implications of this change are clear.  Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities.

As mayors and associations of local and regional authorities, your support has never been more crucial to delivering practical results that will defeat poverty, protect the natural environment and improve disaster risk reduction. 

By prioritizing sustainable urbanization within a broader development framework, many critical development challenges can be addressed in tandem.

Energy, water, food, biodiversity, climate change adaptation, exposure to natural hazards, consumption and production patterns, social protection floors and jobs, especially for young people — these are all closely linked.  Our challenge is to connect the dots, so that advances on one can generate progress on others.

It is vitally important that this approach be recognized and endorsed at Rio+20.

The weeks to come will be filled with complex discussions and long nights of negotiation.

I continue to press Member States to maintain a high level of ambition for the conference.

In the next twenty years, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy, 30 per cent more water, and many, many millions of new jobs. 

We need an outcome from Rio+20 that is thus both practical and transformational.

We need to move beyond gross domestic product as our main measure of progress, and fashion a sustainable development index that puts people first.

We expect the conference to agree on the need to launch a process to elaborate sustainable development goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals.

We are also looking to Rio to reinforce a set of building blocks for sustainability, including through support for an oceans compact and for my Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

Our goal is a fundamental “reset” of the global development agenda.  Hard but necessary choices lie ahead.  Cities have a central role to play in making this paradigm shift a reality.

In the spirit of UN-Habitat’s “I’m a City Changer” campaign, I encourage you all to advocate for the importance of sound national urban strategies, balanced regional development policies, and strengthened urban economic and legal frameworks. 

Sustainable cities are crucial to our future well-being.

Your contributions can not only ensure a successful outcome from Rio+20, but will also provide a cornerstone towards the realization of a “New Urban Agenda” at Habitat III in 2016.

I will count on you to ensure that the voices of cities are heard.

Thank you for your support and commitment and I wish us all every success with the work ahead.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.