Later this month, Governments and their partners will meet in Quito, Ecuador, for the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). Held every 20 years, the Habitat conference is designed to reflect on the state of human settlements and on what we want the towns and cities of the future to look like.
With the world embarking this year on implementing the historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Habitat III has particular resonance. The 2030 Agenda is a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive blueprint for peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet. Achieving its 17 Sustainable Development Goals will depend, in large part, on whether we can make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Achieving that objective is the aim of the New Urban Agenda, which Governments will adopt in Quito. The New Urban Agenda is an action-oriented document that will set global standards for sustainable urban development, and help us to rethink how we plan, manage and live in cities. Its drafting has been the result of an inclusive and participatory process among Governments and all urban actors.
More than half the global population already lives in urban areas. Approximately a quarter of these urban dwellers live in slums or informal settlements. The unplanned rapid expansion of towns and cities means an increasing number of poor and vulnerable people are living in precarious conditions, without adequate living space or access to basic services, such as water, sanitation, electricity and health care. They are often isolated from opportunities for decent work and vulnerable to forced evictions and homelessness. Providing access to adequate housing for all is high among the priorities of the New Urban Agenda.
On this World Habitat Day, I urge national and local governments, city planners and communities everywhere to keep “Housing at the Centre”. Guaranteeing dignity and opportunity for all depends on people having access to affordable and adequate housing. I look forward to a successful Habitat III Conference that will help us advance our sustainable development agenda for the benefit of all humankind.