Multilateralism Vital in Helping Cities Become Resilient, Inclusive, Sustainable, Secretary-General Tells United Nations Human Settlements Programme Assembly

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Assembly, in Nairobi today:

Excellencies, friends, cities are central to the human story: Through much of our history, they have driven progress.  The decisions taken in them have determined our path.  Ideas and innovations that originated in cities have shaped our world.

Today, their role is more important than ever:  Because the UN-Habitat Assembly meets amidst a world in crisis.  Inequalities are increasing.  Global temperatures are rising, with catastrophic effects.  Debt is straining developing countries’ economies to the limit. And halfway to the deadline for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we are leaving more than half the world behind.

COVID-19 has hobbled progress in poverty reduction:  An estimated 670 million still live in extreme poverty.  And over 1 billion people still live in slums — driven to cities not due to jobs and opportunities, as in the past, but lack of services elsewhere.

There is still time to reverse these trends.  But to do so we must fight for the future we want.  The future envisaged in the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals), the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement [on climate change].

Cities are critical battlegrounds.  They generate 70 per cent of global emissions.  They house half of humanity.  And by 2050, over 2 billion more people will call them home.

My report, Our Common Agenda, calls for a reinvigorated and more inclusive multilateralism — recognizing the pivotal role cities and other local authorities play in addressing the challenges we face.

Such multilateralism is vital to help cities to play their part: To ensure the finance, information and support is in place for them to become resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Multilateralism must support cities to take action on climate, advance access to affordable housing, and deliver the local initiatives needed to make the SDGs a reality.

I am confident that this UN-Habitat Assembly will advance these aims, including through your ministerial declaration.  Together, we can achieve the sustainable urban future we need to build a peaceful, prosperous and healthy world for all.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.