Across the globe, ever since 2014, every year on the 31st of October, World Cities Day is celebrated. To mark this event, UN-Habitat has released its World Cities Report 2020 on the value of sustainable urbanization, focusing on the most up-to-date and pressing topics. Analyzing the intrinsic value of cities in generating economic prosperity, mitigating environmental degradation, reducing social inequality, and building stronger institutions, the report highlights how together these can drive transformative change.
Cities, at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak with 95 percent of cases found in urban areas particularly in unplanned and informal settlements, are critical for the global recovery, according to the UN-Habitat flagship report. In fact, this pandemic has drawn “the world’s attention to the urgent need to prioritize sustainable urban planning and development of our cities and towns”. The World Cities Report 2020 “affirms that well-planned, managed, and financed cities and towns create economic, social, environmental, and other unquantifiable value that can vastly improve the quality of life of all”, according to Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in his foreword states that “with appropriate policies and supportive frameworks, resilient cities with improved housing and infrastructure can bounce back from the devastating impacts of disasters, including pandemics”. Providing the latest thinking and findings, conditions, and ideas around urbanization and city issues, informing policies and launching global and regional debates, the previous World Cities Report was published in 2016. The World Cities Report 2020 emphasizes the role of the New Urban Agenda, the UN’s 20-year plan for sustainable urbanization, as a local road map to achieving the United Nations’ sustainability agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
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Urbanization can be leveraged for the fight against poverty, inequality, unemployment, climate change, and other pressing global challenges. -- Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director.
Once various planning, finance, and governance conditions are in place, the value of sustainable urbanization can be unlocked. Analyzing the value of urbanization from an economic, social, and environmental perspective, the first finding of the report suggests that:
1- Cities generate economic value when they function efficiently.
2- Environmental value is generated by compact cities with walkable urban centers that employ nature-based solutions that can reduce their overall carbon footprint.
3- Urban areas can reduce social inequalities when they provide affordable housing for low-income residents and create safe spaces for marginalized groups such as migrants and LGBTQ+ individuals.
4- When cities are well-planned and managed, they also create intangible value by instilling civic pride in urban. identity and serving as centers of cultural traditions.
5- Calling on national governments to empower local entities to raise revenue, regulate land use, plan for urban growth, limit urban sprawl, and relieve overcrowded housing, the report encourages the collection of revenue to improve municipal services and public spaces.
On another hand, World Cities Day Global Observance hosted every year in a different country, was celebrated in Africa for the first time. Organized in Kenya, it was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the general theme Better City, Better Life, with a sub-theme focused on Valuing our Communities and Cities.
Read more on ArchDaily's coverage of UN-Habitat's work.
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