"With half of the world's population living in cities, there can be no sustainable development without sustainable urbanisation," said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. In a statement on Monday ahead of the the 16th Session of the Commission for Sustainable Development, she said the meeting "is an excellent opportunity to re-examine how we manage and plan our cities. It is an opportunity to re-think many policies that have made cities the single biggest source of green house gas emissions in the North, while at the same time, excluding up to two thirds of the urban population from decent living standards in the South.
Mrs. Tibaijuka concluded by emphasising that urbanisation, urban poverty, and climate change are all linked, and cities and towns represent the nexus of the equation.
Urban growth and urbanisation has to be fully incorporated into the sustainable development debate and agenda.
Cities are already responsible for 75 percent of global energy consumption and 80 percent of green house gas emissions. Roughly half of these emissions are caused by the burning of fossil fuels for urban transport; the other half comes from heating, cooling and running our buildings and homes.
The urbanisation of poverty is also one of the most daunting challenges of the 21st century. An estimated 1 billion people are currently living in slums in cities throughout most of the developing world. This figure could easily reach 2 billion by 2030 unless urgent action is taken to improve the living conditions of existing slum dwellers and to prevent the formation of new slums.
Recent UN-HABITAT studies show that the combined impact of high-density occupation and the lack of predictable income and access to decent shelter and water and sanitation render the urban poor as vulnerable as their rural counterparts to poor health, disease and malnutrition. In many cases, the urban poor are also more vulnerable as they depend on monetary income to access shelter, food, energy, water, health and education.
Policy makers, planners, environmental specialists and citizens now have an opportunity to join forces and place cities and urban issues at the forefront of the sustainable development agenda and indeed of our respective national development agendas. ï¿½For slum policies to be successful, the kind of apathy and lack of political will that has characterized both national and local levels of government in many countries in recent decades needs to be reversed,ï¿½ Mrs. Tibaijuka said. ï¿½Much more political will is needed at all levels of government to confront the huge scale of slum problems that many cities face today, and will no doubt face in the foreseeable future.ï¿½
In order to highlight the urgent need to address the problems and possibilities of urbanisation, at CSD16, UN-HABITAT, the Global Land Tool Network and other partners are holding a number of key events.