Inclusive cities key to post-pandemic recovery: António Guterres
WARSAW — A UN conference on the transformation of the world‘s urban areas is taking place this week in Poland, which will include a dialogue on urban crisis recovery and reconstruction, centered on neighboring Ukraine.
Hundreds of delegates from around the world will attend the World Urban Forum, which opened in the southern Polish city of Katowice on Sunday.
WUF11 takes place at a critical time, as cities address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate emergency and conflict.
Making cities more inclusive must be part of post-pandemic recovery efforts, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the event.
“Cities are at the heart of virtually every challenge we face, and key to building a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future. They have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the UN chief said in a video message.
“As we seek to recover, promoting more inclusive and gender-responsive urban infrastructure and services will be key to giving everyone – especially young people, women and girls – access to a brighter future.”
Climate leading cities
António Guterres also highlighted another important role for cities around the world. They must be at the forefront of action to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,
More and more cities around the world are committing to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, or sooner.
The sooner these commitments are translated into concrete actions, the sooner countries will achieve green jobs growth, better health and greater equality, he said.
“But cities cannot do it alone,” he stressed. “They need more coordinated support from all levels of government; stronger partnerships with the private sector and civil society; and greater fiscal and policy space to deliver solutions at scale.” .
Harness the potential
The Secretary-General underscored the UN’s commitment to helping countries achieve the common goal of green, just and healthy cities.
“We have plans for progress,” he said, referring to the New Urban Agenda, a 2016 framework that promotes sustainable urbanization; the ongoing Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Local Coalition 2030, a partnership between the UN and government leaders to advance the SDGs.
“Let’s harness the transformative potential of urbanization and build a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive future for all.
The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 and is convened every two years by UN-Habitat, officially the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, which works for a better urban future.
With only eight years left to make cities safer, more resilient and more inclusive, the goal of SDG 11, urban areas around the world are already under pressure.
“Triple C Crisis”
The pressure will only mount as each region is expected to become more urbanized, some at an incredibly rapid rate.
The global urban population is expected to increase from 56% last year to nearly 70% by mid-century, representing an additional 2.2 billion people, mostly in Africa and the Middle East.
“Although the current reality is undoubtedly very difficult, we must maintain our focus and redouble our efforts on sustainable development,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
“We urgently need innovative solutions for urban areas to respond to this triple C crisis of COVID, climate and conflict, which are having a devastating impact on cities, leaving people and places behind,” said- she added.
Special focus on Ukraine
The United Nations Forum is the world’s leading conference on sustainable urbanization, and it is the first time it has been held in Eastern Europe. Poland is proud to host.
“This is a region that has come a long way – from communist rule, which cared little about human life, let alone its quality, to democratic governments working for the common good,” said Grzegorz Puda, minister of funds development and regional policy. .
More than 800 government officials and representatives, including more than 50 ministers and deputy ministers, will participate in the Forum, which is co-hosted by the Polish government and the city of Katowice.
The program has been significantly modified to reflect the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, UN-Habitat said. More than three million Ukrainians have taken refuge in Poland since the start of the war four months ago. In his address, the UN Secretary General expressed his gratitude for the country’s “extraordinary solidarity” with Ukrainian refugees.
The Polish government will lead a special session dedicated to the post-crisis and post-disaster reconstruction of urban spaces and the return of the population.
“We must also remember all those who are currently facing crises in countries affected by war and disasters, such as Ukraine. In this context, we have decided to include the theme of reconstruction of cities after crises in the program of WUF11,” said Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedyna, State Secretary at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy.
Ditch Coal, Embrace Technology
Katowice, which hosted the United Nations COP24 climate conference four years ago, was chosen largely because of its successful transition from a center of coal and steel industries to a city based on technology, culture and events.
The Forum will be the first major international meeting to be held there since the start of the pandemic. More than 16,000 people are expected at the city’s International Convention Center, built on the site of a former coal mine.
“Our city has undergone huge changes over the past two decades,” said Marcin Krupa, Mayor of Katowice. “I believe cities are drivers of change towards creating a better world – a safer, more sustainable and inclusive world.”
The Forum will end on Friday and the expected outcome is the Katowice Declared Actions, which will outline commitments and plans to support sustainable urbanization. — UN News