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2022 Session,
11th Meeting (AM)
ECOSOC/7077

New Urban Agenda Must Be at Heart of Efforts to Achieve Sustainable Development, Speakers Stress at Economic and Social Council Special Meeting

COVID-19 ‘Dramatically’ Highlighted Suffering among 1.2 Billion Living in Informal Settlements, Slums

With more than half the world’s people living in cities and the fastest population growth projected to take place in urban settings, sustainable development will hinge on how countries manage urbanization, the Economic and Social Council President told delegates today, as he opened the special meeting on the New Urban Agenda amid calls for tackling the deep inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the 2016 United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, laying out a universal framework for housing and sustainable urban development.  It was endorsed by the General Assembly later that year.  The Council’s special meeting on Sustainable Urbanization and the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda reviews select aspects of the Agenda based on findings in the Secretary-General’s related 2022 quadrennial report, with emphasis placed on inequality and United Nations coordination.

Such attention is especially important as countries struggle to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, said Council President Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), who called upon delegates to look at the issue through the lens of the inequities at play.  “The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the state of inequality,” he underscored, highlighting the plight of the 1.2 billion people in the global South who live in informal settlements and slums and who have strained to implement disease-transmission mitigation measures.  In the global North, the pandemic pushed many into homelessness.  Current discussions on housing and sustainable urban development therefore should be informed by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he advised.

“The New Urban Agenda must guide our efforts to address inequalities in urbanization, in both developing and developed countries alike,” said General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives).  A solid focus on the issue will require the mobilization of millions of urbanization professionals from across the globe — engineers, architects, urban planners and surveyors, among many others — working in partnership with Member States and other stakeholders.  Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that the day’s deliberations would help leverage United Nations systems at local, regional and global levels in order to meet the world’s aspirations.

Echoing those concerns, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the pandemic had both exacerbated existing inequalities and created new areas of vulnerability in urban life.  These developments only make the New Urban Agenda more critical, she said, noting the importance of local action in that regard.  She cited the Local2030 Coalition for the Decade of Action in that context, which is based on the idea that the people closest to sustainable development challenges are best placed to tackle them.  “Local is the space to connect all the dots, and cities can spearhead innovations to bridge the inequalities gaps, deliver climate action and ensure a green and inclusive COVID‑19 recovery,” she said.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), said cities have been at the forefront, absorbing the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This has led to increased collaboration between national and local governments, momentum that should be built upon to speed implementation of the New Urban Agenda.  “We can provide basic services on a more equitable manner, reduce commuting through tele‑work, and reduce carbon emissions by prudent use of energy,” she affirmed.

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico and President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, took the opportunity to highlight the idea of “smart cities”:  urban areas guided by equity and inclusion that make the best possible use of available resources to solve urban problems.  “It is necessary to give way to the evolution of cities, it is time to raise the level of urban spaces, to be aware and to migrate to the era of smart cities,” she stressed.

Also today, the Council hosted two round‑table discussions, one on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, based on the Secretary-General’s 2022 quadrennial report, and the other on a United Nations systemwide strategy for sustainable urbanization to assist Member States in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Throughout the day, speakers emphasized that necessity is often the mother of invention, and highlighted innovations that had emerged from cities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many underscored the need for such creativity in efforts to accelerate progress on the New Urban Agenda.

Opening Remarks

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, underscored the importance of sustainable urbanization in a world where more than half the population lives in cities and where most of the population growth will be in cities.  “Sustainable development will hinge on how we manage urbanization,” he said, urging delegates to examine the issue “through the lens of inequality” and to review the support provided by the United Nations development system in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito in 2016.

Since its adoption, the world has been transformed, he said.  Current discussions should be framed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic response, and challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.  “The pandemic has dramatically highlighted the state of inequality,” he affirmed, notably for the 1.2 billion people in the global South living in informal settlements and slums, who have struggled to implement preventive disease‑transmission measures.  In the global North, dependance on welfare, where available, increased manifold and many entered the ranks of the homeless.  In response, cities deployed creative actions and provided services in underserved areas, while new urban models were made with more attention to pedestrians and mixed land uses.

While the COVID-19 crisis has tested the impact of United Nations reforms launched in 2018, the development system was found to be better prepared to help countries overcome crises and to deliver a solid humanitarian response.  Noting that the New Urban Agenda calls for United Nations country teams to work differently under the leadership of an empowered resident coordinator, he said the framework will help deliver on many Sustainable Development Goals, including those on sustainable cities, gender equality, reducing inequalities, good health and water and sanitation.  As the impact of climate change on cities can no longer be ignored, he urged the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to work with stakeholders in exploring the role of data, science, technology and innovation in mitigation and adaptation measures to build resilient cities.

ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said today’s discussion on inequality and the United Nations system’s support for the New Urban Agenda aligns closely with the Economic and Social Council’s mandate as a coordinator, convener and specialized body for policy dialogues on development.  Through that mandate, the Council plays an important role in helping the world to achieve the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.  “A clear message we must take from today’s discussion is that the New Urban Agenda must guide our efforts to address inequalities in urbanization, in both developing and developed countries alike,” he said, noting that the Agenda’s universality stems not only from its link to Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, but across the whole spectrum of the Goals.

“Achieving the New Urban Agenda’s goals will accelerate our progress on human welfare and security globally,” he said, adding that, on the climate front, it will help keep the goal of limiting planetary warming to 1.5°C alive.  Thanking the President of the Economic and Social Council for his membership on the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization, he said the New Urban Agenda’s objectives will require a comprehensive effort, mobilizing millions of urbanization professionals from across the globe — engineers, architects, urban planners and surveyors, among many others — working in partnership with Member States and other stakeholders.  Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that today’s deliberations will help leverage United Nations systems at local, regional and global levels to effectively meet the world’s aspirations.

AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is closely tied to urbanization trends.  The New Urban Agenda includes measures to secure land tenure, promote affordable housing, create public space, enhance mobility and provide services that are accessible to all, “leaving no one — and no place — behind”.  Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic deepened existing inequalities and created new vulnerabilities in cities, making the New Urban Agenda more important than ever, she said the latter calls for practices that offer United Nations country teams new ways of working.  It also underscores the importance of a “systems approach” that brings together different sectors and actors.

In that vein, she said the Local2030 Coalition for the Decade of Action seeks to mobilize the support of national Governments, private industry, local governments and various non-State groups — together with the United Nations system — to coordinate local action in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Coalition is built on the premise that the people closest to the challenges for sustainable development are best positioned to solve them, and that multi-level and multi-stakeholder partnerships are essential to ensuring results.  “Local is the space to connect all the dots, and cities can spearhead innovations to bridge the inequalities gaps, deliver climate action and ensure a green and inclusive COVID-19 recovery,” she said, encouraging all participants to support the Coalition and help make the New Urban Agenda a reality.

MARTHA DELGADO, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico and President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, said the COVID-19 pandemic has both exposed and interconnected humanity, posing serious collective challenges and calling for short-, medium- and longer-term solutions.  One of the proposals of the New Urban Agenda — to think in terms of new ecological and sustainable urban areas — opens a great opportunity to mobilize communities and reactivate space as a vector of change.  Noting that such an approach aligns closely with solutions to the climate crisis, she said revitalizing the economic resilience of cities is essential to creating urban public policies.

“The Secretary-General […] has emphasized that urbanization is one of the transforming forces of our times,” she said.  Underlining the key role of multilateralism in that process, she spotlighted the common goal of developing a better planet for human subsistence.  The concept of “smart cities” — led in an equitable, inclusive manner by women and men with a strong technological vision and making use of all available resources in an organized manner — offers hope that the problems of today’s large urban settlements will be resolved.  “It is necessary to give way to the evolution of cities, it is time to raise the level of urban spaces, to be aware and to migrate to the era of smart cities,” she stressed.

She said today’s interconnectedness allows for alliances among local government leaders, with greater participation by citizens in issues related to global sustainability.  A “smart city” also allows for the creation of new centres of power and interactions with innovation and technology.  Women, men, children, seniors, people with special needs, along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities and others can now be at the centre of the city, and efforts to address climate change, gender equality, social justice and financial inclusion.  “The actions we take now must lead us to […] a new social integration based on the principles of prosperity, transformation, adaptation, equity and respect for human rights,” she stressed.

MAIMUNAH MOHD SHARIF, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, provided an overview of the Secretary-General’s “Quadrennial Report on the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda through the two prioritized themes on inequality and United Nations reforms” (document E/2022/10).  During the reporting cycle, just 30 countries submitted progress reports, she said, making it clear that the Secretariat must work harder to assist Member States in building the capacity to bring about the policies, multi-level governance, planning and technology needed to realize the potential of sustainable urbanization.

The fact that cities have been absorbing the socioeconomic impact of COVID‑19 has often resulted in closer cooperation between national and local governments, she said, which, in turn, has led to greater reclamation, greening and inclusive use of public space.  There is an opportunity to build on this partnership to accelerate the New Urban Agenda.  “We can provide basic services in a more equitable manner, reduce commuting through tele-work and reduce carbon emissions by prudent use of energy”, she said.  Upgrading slums and addressing the housing affordability crisis remain the highest priorities among Member States.  “Cities are unfortunately still often perceived as detrimental to the environment with a negative impact on climate change,” she said, noting that “when well‑planned, built in a compact urban form and supported with high quality public transport, cities offer the most sustainable form of human settlement”.

Stressing that efforts to implement the New Urban Agenda continue to be impeded by inadequate financing, and that local expenditures have risen “dramatically” due to emergency social security measures, she said national legal frameworks also restrict the capacity of subnational governments to borrow money, issue municipal bonds and raise endogenous revenue.  However, cities have demonstrated initiative by revaluating the benefits of privatizing municipal services.  The pandemic has demonstrated that real value comes from the provision of affordable service, rather than extracting profit, she added.

Round Table 1

The Council then held a roundtable discussion on the theme “Implementation of the New Urban Agenda, based on the 2022 Quadrennial Report of the Secretary‑General including how it is addressing rising inequality”, featuring presentations by Ines Sanchez de Madariaga, Professor of Urban Planning, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair on Gender; Luis Nava Guerrero, Mayor of Queretaro, Mexico; Leilani Farha, Global Director, THE SHIFT, and former United Nations Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Canada; Smurti Jukur, Society for the Promotion of Area resource Centres and Slum Dwellers International, India; and Charles Hinga Mwaura, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of Kenya.

Ms. SANCHEZ DE MADARIAGA said the advisory group on habitat that she chairs is an excellent example of how to integrate gender expertise into the highest level of decision making.  Ten years after its founding, the group is updating the landscape on the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said, noting that the former mentions women and gender in as many as 34 of its paragraphs.  The pandemic has stalled advances in women’s employment and increased gender violence, while responses to the needs of women refugees remain limited.  Gender equality must be built into the institutional architecture, with effective participatory mechanisms for voices at the grass-roots level and adequate funding.  Meanwhile, the gender mainstreaming strategy launched in 1995 must be buttressed to protect what has been achieved.  The New Urban Agenda cannot be achieved without improving the institutional architecture and providing funding, she said.

Mr. NAVA GUERRERO said Queretaro, with 1 million inhabitants, is one of the five largest capitals in Mexico.  The challenge for local governments is compliance with the New Urban Agenda while budgets are limited and backlogs persist.  Another problem is a lack of long-term planning instruments.  Noting that Queretaro has aligned its development plans with the 2030 Agenda and devised a strategy for reducing inequality, in particular among women, he said the city is addressing homelessness by creating transitional shelters that offer support for rejoining the labour market.  It provided elderly people with free home tests and other assistance during the pandemic.

Ms. FARHA said that in every city, she looks up and sees skyscrapers and luxury billboards, but when she looks down, she sees people living in parks and on church doorsteps, “hanging to life by a thread”.  This is as true in London and New York as it is in Cairo and Lagos.  The gap between those on pavements and those in buildings shows that development that is leaving people behind — the opposite of what the Sustainable Development Goals promise.  Noting that the value of global residential real estate is $220 trillion, which makes it the biggest business in the world, she said there are 1.8 billion people living in unaffordable housing or homelessness, often without secure tenure or access to basic services.  She asked how it is possible that housing has become so valuable, while many people experience deplorable conditions.  “Housing is a driver — and not a consequence — of inequality in cities,” she stressed, adding that Governments should be asked if development is pursued for the well-being of the entire population and the fair distribution of benefits.

Ms. JUKUR said the consequences of urban planning failures are evident in all cities of all sizes, leading to the growth of informal settlements and slums where the urban poor are excluded from access to services.  Rent is extracted from slum‑dwellers based on insecurity, she said, noting the negative result of the informal provision of lower quality services is a higher cost.  It is inefficient and it shows “exactly how expensive it is to be poor”, she said.

Mr. MWAURA said Kenya is committed to ensuring that its urban areas are equitable and resilient and it has summited its report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.  The Government has received valuable support from UN‑Habitat and the international community in terms of access to tools and training.  It has also enacted documents and legislation to address issues such as urban sprawl, the high cost of land and the high cost of planning.  His Government has prioritized affordable housing, and through its programme has committed to providing affordable home financing solutions and to create an enabling environment for continuing development.  To address slum‑dwelling, the Government has constructed housing, schools, markets and installed street lighting.  “We need to look ourselves in the mirror and ask what is the elephant in the room?  It is how we are going to finance the Urban Agenda while we know there are many competing interests,” he said, underscoring that “urban areas are the theatres of economic development”, he said.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates agreed that cities have been the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many outlined national initiatives to blunt the impact on those living in tenuous conditions and support urban resilience.

To that end, India’s delegate, noting that cities in her country provide 65 per cent of the national gross domestic product (GDP), said the Government has launched a range of initiatives — in particular, to advance India’s switch to sustainable urban transport systems, smarter infrastructure and clean, eco‑friendly energy.  Meanwhile, India’s “Affordable Housing for All” initiative is the world’s largest housing programme and embraces the principle of gender equity by placing the title of each new home under the name of the woman in the family, or under joint ownership.

The representative of Madagascar spotlighted her country’s efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in city slum areas and stem the rapid increase in addictions among marginalized groups.  Madagascar co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution titled “Inclusive policies and programmes to address homelessness, including in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)”, which calls for holistic programmes to address health, poverty, discrimination and inequality challenges, as well as policies to eradicate the causes of homelessness.

The representative of Ecuador said that while the world has changed since the adoption of the New Urban Agenda in 2016, the commitments made are even more relevant today.  The latest report calls for stepped-up efforts to ensure affordable housing and achieve national progress, financing and capacity‑building.  In Ecuador, the New Urban Director oversees how the Government plans, finances and administers cities and human settlements, in efforts to end poverty and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

The representative of Bolivia asked how the well-being and welfare of rural areas could be improved.

The representative of Finland, associating with the European Union, said her country submitted its national report on the New Urban Agenda, and through its comprehensive reporting process, increased awareness of the Agenda’s vision and goals.  Finland’s national report shows it is on the right track, which is especially true in relation to climate and “housing first” targets, as homelessness has been decreasing.  She acknowledged that there are several areas that could be improved, such as strengthening the gender approach in urban planning and stopping the damage that urban sprawl poses to biodiversity.

The representative of Slovakia, associating with the European Union, said that his country serves on the General Assembly President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainable Urbanization.  Cities should play a more prominent role in United Nations processes, due to their crucial role in the 2030 Agenda.  In its national strategy on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, Slovakia focuses on the renovation of cultural heritage, agriculture, food security, investments in public transportation and bicycle routes, as well as on “social housing”.

The representative of South Africa said the New Urban Agenda aligns with objectives articulated in the national development plan, notably as related to transforming human settlements and building safer communities.  Noting that several cities and towns are implementing a range of mixed‑use and mixed‑income developments in well-located areas, he asked panellists how to ensure that housing is a social good and a human right.

The representative of Oman said his country pays particular attention to urban planning, especially in relation to sustainable tourism, pointing out that Oman is cited in the report with notable positive developments.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, recalling that civilians are being forced to flee cities in Ukraine, called on the Russian Federation to cease its senseless military aggression against that country.  Cities are central to common efforts to advance climate action and offer opportunities for emissions reductions.  Effective mitigation and well-planned adaptation strategies must start now.  Within the European Union, he highlighted the European Green Deal and measures to bring about a climate‑neutral Europe, adding that the European Climate Pact aims to create behavioural change, both within the individual and the largest multinationals.

Ms. SANCHEZ replied that planning — along with implementation and investment — was the key to changing poor areas in central locations.  Planning is the instrument to reduce inequality.  On women and cities, urban planning has to ensure that cities fit the needs of women.

Mr. NAVA GUERRERO said cities cannot be incubators of marginalization or violence.  Preventing these situations requires long-term planning.  Queretaro has calculated that in 2050, the number of its inhabitants will double.  Thus, it must ensure that growth implies development and opportunities, rather than a deterioration of the quality of life for its citizens.

Ms. FARHA said that at the beginning of the pandemic, she thought Governments would move quickly to address homelessness — but the opposite has happened:  homelessness is on the rise in some countries, while forced evictions continue unabated.  She expressed concern that unless Governments recommit to housing through a human rights framework, conditions will only worsen.  She also expressed concern that cities do not have resources, noting that private overseas capital will be seen as a means of assistance to develop necessary infrastructure.  “Even money from development banks can be a dangerous game, as the lenders have a different client than those who cities are trying to help”, she said.  They are concerned with the investor, whereas cities are concerned with their populations.  The outcome of a loan must be human-rights compliant, she cautioned.

Ms. JUKUR said poor people are not the problem.  Governments must learn what people need and develop the architecture of investments around them.  “We need to stand with people to find solutions”, she affirmed.

Mr. MWAURA said COVID-19 mitigation measures have had an inverse relationship to economic measures, adding that housing construction not only provides dignity to people, but also creates related industries.

Representatives of El Salvador and the Russian Federation also spoke, as did observers for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization.

Round Table 2

The Council then held a second round-table discussion on the theme “United Nations Systemwide Strategy for Sustainable Urbanization to assist Member States in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda”.  Moderated by Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, it featured the following panellists:  Basim bin Yacob al Hamer, Minister for Housing of Bahrain; Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Gillian Triggs, Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); and Robert Piper, Director of the United Nations Development Coordination Office.

Opening the discussion, Ms. SHARIF recalled the 2019 creation of a United Nations systemwide strategy for sustainable urban development, which spotlighted urbanization as a megatrend requiring a “whole-of-system” approach.  The strategy calls upon United Nations entities to work with UN-Habitat to incorporate urban issues into their work.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for example, is collaborating with UN-Habitat to promote child-friendly cities and disaggregate rural/urban data and intra-urban data.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working on climate resilience for the urban poor and multi‑level governance.  The Secretary-General also established the United Nations Task Force on Future of Cities, comprising representatives of 20 United Nations entities, while the Organization’s regional commissions have used reform efforts to assist countries in implementing the New Urban Agenda.  The uptake on urban issues is growing, but more work is still needed to integrate sustainable urbanization in development cooperation frameworks, she said.

Ms. JAKAB said that, with nearly 70 per cent of the global population projected to live in cities by 2050, sustainable urban development is a growing priority for WHO.  As urban populations grow, urban development significantly influences public health across a range of issues, from housing and transport to violence, sanitation and waste management.  “The COVID-19 pandemic served as a wake-up call for some, and a reminder for many others of the importance of the urban environments for health and well-being,” she said, noting that COVID-19’s disproportionate impact in cities highlighted persistent health inequities at the urban scale.  “We need to use what we have learned from this experience to further strengthen people’s health,” she stressed, adding that, for the New Urban Agenda to succeed, the health of city‑dwellers must be a central concern.  Building healthy, liveable cities is a key prescription in WHO’s 2020 “Manifesto for Health and Green Recovery”, she said, also drawing attention to other relevant work.

Ms. TRIGGS said the New Urban Agenda has embraced two important principles:  Equal access to all to essential services, and inclusion of refugees in urban planning and budgeting processes.  “There is no question that cities are at the forefront of decision-making and are most likely to impact the day-to-day lives of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people,” she said, noting that most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people have settled in towns and cities.  “The New Urban Agenda sends an important message that they are not forgotten, are included and will not be left behind,” she said.  However, most refugees live in marginalized areas without access to adequate housing, infrastructure or essential services, and many face discrimination, xenophobia and social exclusion.  Urging mayors, city administrations and local leaders to respond and adapt policies to those challenges in pragmatic and innovative ways, she pointed out that the 2019 Global Compact on Refugees recognizes the vital role of cities in addressing refugees’ needs.

Ms. ALGAYEROVA, noting that ECE holds the 2022 coordinating role among the United Nations regional commissions, said these commissions play a critical role in implementing the New Urban Agenda around the globe.  Regional commissions are using existing institutional mechanisms to strengthen the engagement of local governments in intergovernmental processes, and building bridges between the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Presenting highlights of that work, he said ECE adopted the Geneva Charter on Sustainable Housing, as well as Guidelines for the Formalization of Informal Constructions and the COVID-19 Recovery Action Plan for Informal Settlements.  The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has a project to accelerate implementation of urban climate action plans in partnership with the Global Compact of Mayors, while the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) carried out national and regional capacity‑building and consultative workshops on such issues as urban resilience and Sustainable Development Goal localization.

Mr. PIPER said the New Urban Agenda is a transformative one, as urbanization is profoundly shifting the world’s understanding of development.  “[Urbanization] affects everything we do,” he said, from service delivery to crisis preparedness.  The United Nations network of 131 resident coordinators “are really there for this type of issue”, he said, spotlighting their efforts in climate change mitigation, social protection, digital economy and other arenas.  Resident coordinators take stock of such efforts through their common country analyses, which have become more robust in recent years, focusing more on risk analysis.  Similarly, a new generation of development cooperation frameworks — which are the result of country analyses and are agreed in partnership with Governments — have become more multisectoral, more inclusive and more focused on urban issues.  He outlined some examples in particular countries, while adding that his office is working with UN‑Habitat at the global level to identify pilot countries where those efforts can be accelerated.

Mr. AL HAMER said Bahrain’s national report on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, submitted in November 2021, demonstrates the many efforts it has taken despite the COVID-19 pandemic.  It provided an extensive financial package exceeding $11.9 billion to its citizens, carried out in a flexible manner in line with the New Urban Agenda.  Bahrain also signed its strategic and sustainable development cooperation framework with the United Nations in June 2021, recognizing sustainable urbanization as a priority for accelerating progress towards the 2030 Agenda.  Spotlighting initiatives undertaken in that regard, he said adequate housing in safe and attractive neighbourhoods has benefitted more than 150,000 people in the past four years and helped to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  The programme is reinforced through ongoing investment in public spaces and green areas, aimed at creating more inclusive urban areas, and strengthening resilience to climate change, he said.

In the ensuing discussion, several speakers shared their national experiences driving forward the New Urban Agenda, as well as tackling urban challenges more broadly.

The representative of Poland said sustainable urban development is an urgent priority for her country, and its commitment to addressing the multifaceted development challenges facing urban areas is reflected in its national urban policy.  To prepare its 964 cities for the many effects of climate change, Poland also embarked on an urban adaptation programme and is working to revitalize urban areas with full respect for the rights of their residents.  Adding that the ongoing war in Ukraine has already driven 12 million people to flee their homes, she said the restoration of cities destroyed in that conflict will be the focus of an event Poland will host on 29 April.

The representative of Malaysia said the New Urban Agenda has not enjoyed equal attention among Member States, compared to other global programmes and agendas.  “It is more urgent than ever to carefully review the features of our cities, to prepare for future pandemics and shocks,” he said, calling on States to do so urgently.  He asked the panellists how data can be better harnessed to support community leadership and integrate community institutions into policy design.

ETIENNE KRUG, Director of the Department for Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization, replied that collaboration among United Nations agencies and city leaders will be critical to improving policy design.  A representative of ECE said regional economic commissions are working closely with practitioners, such as architects, to determine how they can help make cities more sustainable.  Mr. PIPER welcomed the representation of a broad cross section of the United Nations system at today’s meeting, while spotlighting the importance of resilience in all of the Organization’s work.

Also participating was the representative of Thailand, as well as representatives of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

For information media. Not an official record.