Urbanization is one of the most important global trends of the twenty-first century. It is a transformative force that can be harnessed to enhance economic growth, productivity and development. However, today’s most common urbanization patterns are often not environmentally, socially, politically and economically sustainable. Against this background, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) adopted the “United Nations system-wide strategy on sustainable urban development” in May 2019, fulfilling a request by the General Assembly conveyed in resolution 72/226.
The strategy, prepared by the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), is the outcome of a six-month consultative inter-agency process, led by UN-Habitat. The strategy aims to advance UN system-wide coherence and coordination in assisting Member States to boost sustainable urban development as a key step to realizing the 2030 Agenda through enhanced collaborative implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the outcome document of the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016.
UN-Habitat has since continued to play a role in facilitating and encouraging collaboration and coordination to realize the strategy’s implementation framework. UN-Habitat has been promoting the operationalization of the UN system-wide strategy on sustainable urban development through the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework processes, including through the guidance developed for the Common Country Assessments (CCAs). Existing inter-agency structures (including under the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG); thematic inter-agency platforms like the UN Network on Migration, Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian coordination, and the Joint Steering Committee to Advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration; and regional inter-agency platforms) provide opportunities to promote the integration of relevant elements of the United Nations system-wide strategy on sustainable urban development into broader United Nations coordination mechanisms and reform processes.
Going forward, HLCP will, as appropriate, review the implementation of the United Nations system-wide strategy on sustainable urban development and the United Nations system’s collective impact at the global policy level.
As an antecedent to the strategy, in April 2016, CEB had endorsed a policy paper on “Urbanization and Sustainable Development: A United Nations System Input to A New Urban Agenda” as substantive input to the Habitat III conference. The paper outlines ten guiding principles on how urbanization can contribute to sustainable development and ten levers of change by which the UN system can turn the principles into action. As such, the paper had proposed a vision for sustainable urbanization and concrete steps for its implementation. The paper had been the outcome of a two-year inter-agency consultation process, undertaken within the context of HLCP and under the leadership of UN-Habitat, and represented the joint thinking of the UN system on the issue of sustainable urbanization. It was accompanied by an annex that included detailed information on individual and collective initiatives on the topic. At the same time, the Board had also adopted a joint statement to Habitat III in which the Board’s members committed to promoting and supporting policies for achieving sustainable and equitable urban development in order to strengthen the contribution of urbanization to economic growth and employment creation, and pledged their collective support to Member States in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
United Nations system-wide strategy on sustainable urban development
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Urbanization and Sustainable Development: A United Nations System Input to a New Urban Agenda
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CEB Joint Statement to the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III)
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