Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, opened the sixth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF) Monday with a two-pronged call to world leaders, proposing separate lines of action for national and local governments to help ensure sustainable urban growth in the twenty-first century.
First, he called on national governments to adopt nation-wide urban policies as part of their development strategies, saying that governments need to stop treating cities as if they are isolated from the national agenda. “Cities need the contribution of national and regional governments and all the society. Cities are not in isolation,” Clos said. “Because we want more development, more urbanization is going to be there, so we’d better prepare for our future. There is no development without urbanization. . . . In fact, development and urbanization [are] the same thing. But better urbanization provides better development.”
In order to achieve this, he called on national governments to answer one set of questions through the development of a national urban policy: where is our country’s population today? Where is it going to be in twenty years? And what is the government ready to do about that? (During a press conference after the opening, I asked Clos what he proposed as key elements of such policies, how UN-Habitat would be working with national governments to assist with the development of national urban policies, and whether/how this related to the financial relationship between city and national governments. See his response in the video below.)
As a second strategy, he called on city governments to develop properly planned city extensions in an effort to prevent slum growth in parallel with mass population growth in urban areas. “If, as one mayor told me yesterday, ‘My population of five million is going to double in twelve years,’ you’d better plan a city extension,’” said Clos. “The spontaneous way of growth of a city is the slum. If you don’t have a plan, you can be sure that the next growth is going to take the form of a slum. . . . Slums have been with us through all of history, and now the antidote to slums is planned urbanization.”
The ceremony was lead by Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Republic of Italy, and included remarks from several other heads of state and governments, as well as the official passing of the World Urban Forum gavel from Brazil, where the WUF was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2010, to Italy. You can see the ceremony in its entirety along with other WUF events live on the United Nations Web TV.
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Photos: Christine McLaren