Urbanization is an instrument for the development and productivity of countries, which should implement national strategies to provide a decent life to their citizens, said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), during a keynote lecture at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
The most senior representative of UN-Habitat was welcomed by Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations regional organization, and gave a presentation entitled “Habitat III: The New Urban Agenda,” which will be the main theme of the United Nations Third Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, due to be held in October in Quito, Ecuador.
In her welcoming remarks, Bárcena recalled that more than 80% of the Latin American and Caribbean population lives in cities, which makes the region the most urbanized in the world.
“Latin America and the Caribbean has the characteristics of a consolidated urbanization, where the main challenge is no longer to resolve the problems of a rapid rural-urban transition but rather to improve quality of life, close inequality gaps and achieve sustainability in their cities,” she stressed.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary added that “A sustainable future for Latin America and the Caribbean is closely bound to sustainable urbanization,” and underlined that “the city should be seen as a priority objective for a strategy of progressive structural change.”
In his keynote lecture, Joan Clos highlighted that urbanization is accelerating in a surprising way: 3.6 billion people currently live in urban areas and this figure will increase to 7 billion in 50 years.
“All that was achieved in 12,000 years of human history will double in 50 years,” he warned.
Clos affirmed that the increase in urbanization is spontaneous but that national governments are responsible for taking charge of its regulation.
He stressed that this is “a structural phenomenon that has to do with, among other things, improvements in access to information,” and he applauded that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes in its Goal 11 the establishment of sustainable cities and communities.
“The goal of urbanization is to provide a decent life to citizens that includes decent employment, among other elements,” he said.
The objective of the Habitat III Conference will be to ensure countries’ political commitment to the promotion of a new urban development model, capable of integrating all the facets of sustainable development and promoting equality, well-being and shared prosperity.
This goal is in line with what ECLAC proposes in its document Horizons 2030: Equality at the Centre of Sustainable Development, in which it sets forth a new development pattern for Latin America and the Caribbean, the most urbanized region in the world, with equality at the center.