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UN Conference Adopts New Urban Development Agenda At Habitat III

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Habitat III, a major conference on the future of the world’s cities and towns, held every 20 years wrapped up in Quito Ecuador on October 20. The conference marked adoption of ‘New Urban Development Agenda’, a framework aimed to set world on a course towards sustainable urban development by rethinking how cities are planned, managed and inhabited.

The agenda was adopted at the end of the four-day from (Oct 17-20) conference that saw participation of 36,000 people from 167 different countries to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. “We have analysed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told the closing plenary of the conference.

The 175-paragrah New Urban Agenda was initially agreed upon in September after two years of negotiations and global debate and was formally adopted at Habitat III.

This was the third edition of the global conference held every 20 years. Habitat I was held in Vancouver in 1976 and Habitat II was organised in Istanbul in 1996.

He said that the action-oriented outcome document, known as the New Urban Agenda, enshrined now in the ‘Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,’ should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 Member States of the UN in September 2015.

This century is expected to see a substantial majority of the world’s population living in urban centres.  Cities and towns will constitute up to 70% of the world population by 2050, to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future.

Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, and urban planners. “We know that without the involvement of cities and local governments, the world will not be able to address the global challenges of our times,” said Dennis Codere, Mayor of Montreal.

“The New Urban Agenda is an ambitious agenda which aims at paving the way towards making cities and human settlements more inclusive,” said Clos, who also served as the Secretary-General of the Conference, adding that it would ensure “everyone can benefit from urbanisation, paying particular attention to those in vulnerable situations.”

The Agenda stresses that tackling air pollution in cities is good both for people’s health and for the planet and through it, leaders have committed to increase their use of renewable energy, provide better and greener public transport, and sustainably manage their natural resources. The Agenda’s ‘shared vision’ aims to create conditions for communities and policy makers to create that are engines of sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection.

Among the key provisions are a call for equal opportunities for all; an end to discrimination; cleaner cities; strengthening resilience and reducing carbon emissions; fully respecting the rights of migrants and refugees regardless of their status; improving connectivity and green initiatives, and promoting safe accessible and green public spaces.

Above all, he said, it was a “commitment that we will all together take the responsibility of one another and the direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.”

The agenda does not bind Member States or city governments to specific targets or goals, but is rather a “shared vision” that set standards for transforming urban areas into safer, resilient and more sustainable places, based on better planning and development.

In signing onto the declaration, UN Member States are committing to action over the next 20 years, to improve all areas of urban life through the Quito Implementation Plan, in support of the outcomes of Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda.

Clos reminded the world gathering of national leaders, “We will have to act for these commitments.” He also stressed on the need of acting immediately on the measures decided or else the efforts will go in vain.

The Quito Declaration lays out steps for action, and for government accountability to try and ensure that the New Urban Agenda becomes a reality.

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The CSR Journal Team