Speakers Make Human Rights Case for Adequate Housing, Greater Public Space in Urban Areas, as High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Continues Session

The High level Political Forum on Sustainable Development turned its attention today to the world's many fast growing cities, with speakers making the human rights case for housing and highlighting the urgent need to conserve and expand public space in the urban environment.

On the third day of its third annual meeting, the Forum � tasked with monitoring global progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals � also discussed building sustainability and resiliency from the viewpoint of small island developing States, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and middle income countries.

Taking the floor during the afternoon review on implementation of Goal 11 on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, said that Goal will not be met unless each State develops and implements human rights based housing strategies. If we do not find housing solutions, no State will be able to meet their other 2030 Agenda commitments, she said, calling for a fundamental shift whereby States recognize housing as a human right � not a mere policy matter, a commodity or something to be left to private sector whims.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), said cities are expanding rapidly, with the rate of land consumption overtaking the rate of population growth. She called for greater attention to be paid to compact, mixed use, walkable urban expansion. She added that data from more than 300 cities suggests that public space, including streets, occupies an increasingly smaller proportion of land in expanding cities in Europe, North America and Oceania. Clearly, we still have to make a stronger case for the irreplaceable value of public space, she said.

Wim Dries, Mayor of the City of Genk in Belgium, speaking as a lead discussant, said the 2030 Agenda is still too unknown as well as difficult to translate into political agendas. It is still very much a United Nations agenda that must be localized, he said, calling for local governments to be given a greater voice at the sustainable development table.

In the morning, the Forum held a thematic review on Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies � small island developing States perspective. Among the panellists, Alexander Teabo, Minister for Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development of Kiribati, said that globally, fresh water resources are becoming increasingly scarce and that every effort must be made to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water. Fresh water is connected to our life, our health and our well being, he stressed, adding that small island developing States are highly vulnerable to climate change and degradation.

Adrianus Vlugman, Senior Adviser of Water Sanitation, Environmental Health, of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO), said the nexus between water, energy and food is the key to sustainable development. However, in the Caribbean, water polices are often very short term, and there is also a lack of strong financing structures for water related issues in the region. Integrated water resource management is the best way to plan for water resources by bringing together the most relevant stakeholders. Water is finite, but it is also recyclable, he said.

During a thematic review on Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies � Perspectives of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and middle income countries, Felipe Castro Pachon, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policy of Colombia, said the success of the 2030 Agenda depends on the capacity of the world's 109 middle income countries � home to 75 per cent of the global population and 74 per cent of those living in poverty � to advance progress. Among the challenges they face, he said, are a lack of economic diversification, inequalities, rising labour costs and conflict. They require an international enabling environment to thrive economically and socially.

Fekitamoeloa Katoa 'Utoikamanu, Under Secretary General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said least developed countries and landlocked developing countries still lag behind other developing countries in almost all 2030 Agenda targets and indicators. With 12 years left to achieve the Goals, time is of the essence and action must accelerate, she said, calling for more attention to be paid to the impact of climate change and the need to boost support for countries to be able to proactively manage and mitigate climate- and environmental change related events.

Echoing this view, the representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, called on the Forum to establish a dedicated session for such countries, as lumping them together with other groups of nations provides little time for constructive discussions. Highlighting progress gaps between member nations and developing countries across Goals and indicators, he said, we are deeply worried about the lack of progress.

The High level Political Forum will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 12 July, to continue its work.

Thematic Review

In the morning, the Forum held a thematic review on Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies small island developing States perspective. The discussion was chaired by Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), Vice President of the Economic and Social Council, and moderated by Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, former Minister for Energy and Environment of Barbados. Panellists included Alexander Teabo, Minister for Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development of Kiribati; Tessa Williams-Robertson, Head of Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Unit of the Caribbean Development Bank; Adrianus Vlugman, Senior Adviser of Water Sanitation, Environmental Health, of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO). The lead discussants were Rhonda Robinson, Deputy Director of Water and Sanitation of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Addys Claribel Then Marte, Executive Director of Alianza ONG (Volunteers).

Ms. THOMPSON said that for small island developing States, issues of water and energy are extremely significant, particularly as they relate to climate change, water scarcity and the entire sustainable development trajectory. Energy costs in such States far exceeds those in developed countries. Water and energy are inextricably linked � it is not possible to produce energy without water, and vice versa. Many small island developing States are water stressed and water scarce and are being severely impacted by climate change. Discussions about water and energy need to focus on sustainability and resilience, she said.

Mr. TEABO said that globally, fresh water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Every effort must be made to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water. Fresh water is connected to our life, our health and our well being, he stressed, adding that small island developing States are highly vulnerable to climate change and degradation. Their size and remoteness often resulted in them not being heard or seen in the past. Kiribati is relatively small, with a population of 110,000 people, more than 50 per cent of whom live on the capital island, Tarawa. The quality of underground fresh water is of great concern for people there. Underground fresh water resources are extremely vulnerable to waste and pollution, he said, and in that connection, the country launched a wide scale water and sanitation project, although many water related technologies are expensive, inappropriate and unsustainable.

Ms. WILLIAMS-ROBERTSON highlighted that for many small island developing States, including those in the Caribbean, energy markets are small, isolated and very high cost. Countries are seeking to increase energy security and thanks to renewable energy and energy efficiency, these objectives are within reach. Such States have made commitments to climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and are diversifying their energy supplies, relying more on indigenous renewable sources, while exploring all possible opportunities for energy efficiency. There is a need to identify high level political champions, without which these endeavours will not be prioritized. A minimal risk environment must be created to incentivize private sector involvement, she said, adding that the energy field is highly competitive with many actors, and in some cases, these actors are stepping on each other's toes.

Mr. VLUGMAN said that the nexus between water, energy and food is the key to sustainable development. Water ministries are very fragmented in the Caribbean, while policies are often very short term, and legal and institutional frameworks are outdated. There is a lack of strong financing structures for water related issues in the region. The watersheds that provide fresh water resources in many small island developing States are often low tech, while climate change and extreme weather conditions hinder the refilling of aquifers. The water supply sector is vulnerable to losses and damages from extreme weather, he said, noting that activities in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals led to a larger supply of water, but also increased water waste. Integrated water resource management is the best way to plan for water resources by bringing together the most relevant stakeholders. Water is finite, but it is also recyclable, he said.

FEKITAMOELOA KATOA 'UTOIKAMANU, Under Secretary General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, then delivered a statement from the floor, emphasizing that last year's dramatic climate events in so many small island developing States should be viewed as a wake up call. Developing resilient, strong and adaptable societies hinges on the delivery of essential services, including water and energy. Some progress has been achieved and interesting initiatives are being put in place, she said, drawing attention to a programme by the United Nations system to create sustainable energy sectors in many regions. Small island developing States must be in the driver's seat, she said, stressing that they have much to share about their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. ROBINSON said that countries should not only recognize the need for enabling environments at the national level, but also consider the important role to be played by local communities. The management of issues surrounding drinking water, hygiene and sanitation often takes place at the household, village or settlement level. In many societies, women play a critical role in water resource management, safe water and hygiene. Small island developing States often struggle to maintain their home grown abilities, and in this context, greater efforts must focus on increasing the capacity of water professionals at the Government, utility and community levels. Pacific small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to climate variability and change and are subject to frequent high impact climate events, including cyclones and typhoons.

Ms. MARTE recalled that, in 2012, the Dominican Republic adopted a national development strategy establishing a mandate to generate consensus between the public, private and social sectors when it came to three key issues � education, energy and tax matters. The cost of energy significantly impacts the external debt of small island developing States, which undermines their financial capacity to address other priority development areas, such as education and health care. Citizen participation must be stronger in developing solutions to the challenges of energy production in such States. Civil society continues to advocate for greater commitment to finding sustainable solutions, including investment in less polluting technologies and greater transparency in public investment projects.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Ireland highlighted the difficulties of balancing climate change mitigation and long term energy security.

The representative of the European Union stressed that resilience must be supported by macroeconomic stability, and underpinned by measures promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. Small island developing States are facing extreme challenges regarding climate change and environmental degradation. She underscored the integration of climate change and environmental resilience as an essential component of national development strategies.

The speaker for Norway drew attention to small island developing States' vulnerability due to their reliance on fossil fuels requiring sea transport, adding that accelerating energy transformation will require scaled up investment. He went on to point out that his country and such States have enjoyed long standing cooperation on climate change issues.

A representative of the civil society major group said that small island developing States should prioritize the effective use of rainwater, in cooperation with development partners, also expressing concern that multinational corporations are undermining progress due to their attempt to exploit natural resources.

A representative of the major group of persons with disabilities said that they are among the most marginalized groups in disasters or emergency situations, largely due to poor planning and the limited participation of persons with disabilities in decision making processes.

The representative of Singapore highlighted that her country is among the most water stressed in the world due to the lack of available fresh water. In this connection, she emphasized the importance of reusing and recycling wastewater.

A representative of the women's major group said that species of all kinds are affected by climate change and gender injustice. Inclusion of small island developing States' concerns must be given top priority.

The speaker for Maldives underlined that some of the key issues facing small island developing States include mobilizing the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, capacity building and access to technology.

Ms. WILLIAMS-ROBERTSON said that private sector investment in the energy sector of small island developing States is an attractive proposition, given the higher than normal return on such investments.

Mr. VLUGMAN underscored the need for an integrated approach to wastewater management, and a shift away from the flush and forget mentality.

Mr. TEABO said that the Samoa Pathway recognized the role of Governments in small island developing States, but also highlighted that given the unique challenges of these countries, external support from development partners is essential.

Also speaking were the representatives of Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mauritius and Belize.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also delivered a statement.

Other speakers included representatives of the non governmental organizations (NGO) and children and youth major groups.

A discussion was then held on the theme Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies Perspectives of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and middle income countries, chaired by Mr. Pecsteen de Buytswerve and moderated by Karin Fernando, Senior Research Professional at the Center for Poverty Analysis in Sri Lanka. Panellists were: Kaba Urgessa, State Minister for Environmental Sustainability of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources of Ethiopia; Fekitamoeloa Katoa 'Utoikamanu, Under Secretary General and United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Felipe Castro Pachon, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policy of Colombia; and Maruxa Cardama, Senior Policy Specialist of the Cities Alliance of Belgium. Idriss MaA�ga Alzouma, President of the African Disability Forum (Persons with Disabilities) was the lead discussant.

Ms. FERNANDO opened the session, laying out key issues, including how transformations take place to enhance the creation of resilient societies in countries that are home to about 6 billion people.

Mr. URGESSA presented a current snapshot of Ethiopia and challenges it faces. About 80 per cent of the population are rural dwellers and more than 60 per cent of citizens are under age 25. Despite a diverse biophysical environment, land degradation and deforestation continue. Through a climate resilient green economy strategy, large scale land restoration efforts are under way. The first growth and transformation plan has achieved some targets and plans in the future will focus on policy driven efforts to restore 19 million hectares of land and increase forest coverage to 20 from 15 per cent. Such initiatives are guided by governance and resource mobilization activities, including a decentralized restoration system and mass mobilization of communities. Moving forward, he said the Government has, among other things, renewed commitments to improve private sector engagement and is scaling up a piloted index based crop insurance system.

Ms. 'UTOIKAMANU said least developed countries and landlocked developing countries continue to lag behind other developing countries in almost all 2030 Agenda targets and indicators. Factors range from resource and capacity constraints to structural impediments alongside new and emerging challenges at a time when poverty rates among these countries stand at more than 30 per cent. With 12 years left to achieve the Goals, time is of the essence and action must accelerate. More attention must be paid to the impact of climate change and the need to boost support for countries to be able to proactively manage and mitigate climate- and environmental change related events. Landlocked developing countries face special challenges, including the lack of direct territorial access to the sea, preventing isolation from world markets and vulnerability to changed rainfall patterns, the latter having led to a loss of $11.6 billion in lost crop and livestock production between 2005 and 2015. To more speedily build resilience to these and related issues, sustained economic growth and structural transformation are essential. Access to reliable and sustainable energy, connectivity and to technology and innovation is urgent. In addition, women and men, boys and girls must be included and access must be granted to finance and capacity building. We indeed have no time to waste, she said. Least developed countries and landlocked developing countries have to be in the driver's seat, but it will take concerted global, regional, national and local level action and partnerships to turn the promise of the 2030 Agenda for inclusive sustainable and resilient societies into reality.

Mr. CASTRO PACHON, sharing the perspective of middle income countries, said the group comprises 109 countries, representing 75 per cent of the world's population and 74 per cent of those living in poverty. Global success on the 2030 Agenda depends on the capacity of these countries to advance progress. Challenges they face include a lack of economic diversification, inequalities, rising labour costs and conflict. They require an international enabling environment to thrive economically and socially. Turning to Colombia's strategy in a post conflict era, he said measures encompass tax reductions and income tax paid through public works projects, including accelerating the closing of the infrastructure gap in water, sanitation, energy, health, education and transport. Investments are needed through new sources of financing to boost growth in various sectors, and innovative measures are incentivizing the private sector to engage. Royalties from certain industries are channelled into science, technology and innovation. Citing an example of leveraging resources by changing behaviours, he said a programme taxing plastic bags has led to a 71 per cent reduction in household usage, a 30 per cent reduction in bag production and distribution and approximately $3.7 million in tax revenue between July and December 2017.

Ms. CARDAMA, noting that her organization addresses urban poverty and gender equality related issues, outlined several projects that were making inroads. The Future Cities Africa initiative is examining a range of sectors in several countries to create a systemic approach to resilience. Pointing at Paraguay's progress, she said trilateral cooperation with Chile and Germany is addressing poverty related challenges. To foster more progress, national urban policy frameworks are needed to rally stakeholders to create a vision for transformation, with much attention paid to the ever growing needs of secondary cities. Highlighting Ghana's national urban policy and action plan, launched in 2013, she said an investment scheme and monitoring framework are guiding efforts. Policies that work address concerns of and reach all citizens in full respect of their rights, including to land, she said, citing projects targeting slums that have empowered citizens to engage with Governments. In this vein, local leaders and actors must be supported, including by broadening opportunities to overcome existing skills shortages. Financing must also be mobilized to address the needs of secondary cities, particularly in an era of declining official development assistance (ODA).

Mr. ALZOUMA said the 1 billion people in the world living with disabilities are more significantly burdened than others amid challenges such as climate change, debt sustainability, economic growth, sustainable transport and access to markets. Approaching the 2020 deadline of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 2020, he recommended a number of ways to address key challenges. Among them is to develop and adopt a strong human rights approach on mobilizing resources for 2030 Agenda implementation and to support the empowerment of persons with disabilities to publicly lead and promote universally accessible response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches to disaster risk reduction. He also suggested investing in high quality disaggregated data for reporting on the Goals. We must include everyone, especially the most left behind, to address the challenges of all countries, he said.

Following the presentations, delegates raised several concerns and shared national challenges and progress on measures that are working. Countries speaking to their special needs suggested ways forward.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, called on the Forum to establish a dedicated session for such countries, as lumping them together with other groups of nations provided little time for constructive discussions. Highlighting progress gaps between member nations and developing countries across Goals and indicators, he said, we are deeply worried about the lack of progress, particularly in Goal 17 (partnerships for the Goals). Reiterating a call for support for bridging the technology gaps and achieving development objectives, he also called for sustained support for countries graduating out of the group.

The representative of El Salvador said opportunities for middle income countries must be tapped, including their informal economies to generate taxes to pay for development initiatives. He hoped a forthcoming General Assembly meeting on this group of countries would further advance discussions on constructive ways forward.

The representative of Nepal, highlighting the paralysing vulnerabilities of landlocked States, said that while his country has been able to create favourable conditions for progress in some areas, challenges remain and these special needs must be addressed in targeted ways.

The representative of the indigenous peoples major group said its members lag farthest behind in many countries, many of which have failed to recognize indigenous peoples' rights. Climate change, destruction of livelihoods and violence further threatens indigenous peoples, she said, demanding that nations recognize them and their rights and provide special measures to address these and other myriad challenges, such as a lack of access to education, energy markets and financial services.

The representative of the non-governmental organizations major group said challenges for many countries include energy access, but there are robust opportunities that must be used. Key to success in rising to such development challenges is establishing multi stakeholder partnerships, mobilizing domestic finance and additional ODA, and ensuring no one is left behind in a manner that targets rural and remote communities and other underserved citizens.

The representative of Sierra Leone outlined dire challenges faced by cities due to climate change. As a least developed country that produces little greenhouse gases, Sierra Leone faces extreme consequences of climate change, including hundreds of deaths from flooding as weather patterns are changing. For its part, Sierra Leone is working towards making its cities resilient, including drafting solutions to housing concerns.

The representative of the Philippines said a one size fits all approach rarely works, and efforts must be tailored to fit each country, with the key being to study patterns and follow each or several as far as they can go. As his country is set to become a middle income nation, his delegation remains open to new ideas in the expectation that the unexpected will happen.

Also speaking were representatives of Indonesia, Qatar, Belarus, Oman, Liberia and Paraguay (on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries), as well as the European Union. Representatives of non governmental organizations and the major group for women also participated.

Review of Sustainable Development Goal Implementation

In the afternoon, the Forum held a discussion on Goal 11 � Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, chaired by Mr. Pecsteen de Buytswerve and moderated by Rohit T. Aggarwala, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, with presentations by Benjamin Rae, Sustainable Development Goal Monitoring Section of the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. Panellists included Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner in the Mayor's Office for International Affairs of the City of New York; Jean Todt, Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Road Safety; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat); and Meera AlShaikh, Project Manager and member of the SDG 11 Global Council, Smart Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The lead discussants were Wim Dries, Mayor of the City of Genk and President of the Flemish Association of Local Councils, Belgium, and Shaila Shahid, International Centre for Climate Change and Development as Coordinator of Gender and Climate Change, on behalf of the Women's Major Group.

Mr. RAE provided some key findings on Goal 11 drawn from the 2018 Sustainable Development Goals report prepared by the Statistics Division. Urban population is outpacing improvements in slum conditions, as the number of people living in slums has increased between 2000 and 2014, he said. Ninety one per cent of the global urban population is breathing unclean air and, in 2016, 4.2 million people died from ambient air pollution. Managing solid waste remains a major urban environmental challenge in several regions, while damage to housing due to natural disasters has risen significantly between 1990 and 2013. More than half of built up areas in cities worldwide are public open spaces, which promote cleaner air and increased walkability.

Ms. FARHA, participating in the Forum for the first time since her appointment as Special Rapporteur, said housing is the most significant issue facing cities today. However, Goal 11 and Target 11.1 [on access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums] will not be met unless each State develops and implements human rights based housing strategies. Half of humanity � 3.5 billion people � live in cities today, but an estimated 1.6 billion are inadequately housed and close to 900 million are living in informal settlements. While there are no statistics on homelessness worldwide, she assured the Forum that it is an acute problem that does not get the priority it deserves. If we do not find housing solutions, no State will be able to meet their other 2030 Agenda commitments, she said, calling for a fundamental shift whereby States recognize housing as a human right, not a mere policy matter, a commodity or something to be left to the whims of the unregulated private development sector.

Mr. AGGARWALA said the inclusion of Goal 11 was a landmark in the global awareness of how important cities are to the future of humanity. We live in an urban world that is getting more and more urban, he said, recalling the outcome of the Rio Summit as well as the impressive work of civil society on urban issues. The condition of cities now is firmly on the agenda of all levels of Government, he said, describing this afternoon's session as an opportunity to appreciate the task ahead and the level of coordination that will be required.

Ms. ABEYWARDENA, noting that the Mayor of New York City declared today Global Goals Day, said her city was thrilled to be the first in the world to submit a Voluntary Local Review � modelled on the voluntary national reviews submitted to the Economic and Social Council by Member States � to the United Nations. It was part of New York City's ongoing efforts to highlight synergies between the Goals and its OneNYC local sustainable development strategy. The principle of leaving no one behind is central to OneNYC, she said, adding that the city's efforts are focused on inter agency coordination and inclusion as well as accountability. While the 2030 Agenda is ambitious, OneNYC has demonstrated that progress is possible, she said, noting that in April the Mayor announced improvements to the city's air and water in addition to record job and wage growth and a threefold increase in the number of children in early education, among other accomplishments. She went on to say that New York City welcomes engagement with other cities and stakeholders to strengthen reporting mechanisms and work together to achieve all the Goals by 2030.

Mr. TODT said that an estimated half of the world's 1.3 million annual road fatalities occur in urban areas, with most of those deaths in low- and middle income countries. Road crashes put a heavy burden on national economies as well as households, causing economic losses of up to 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in low- and middle-income countries. Governments should consider road safety as part and parcel of sustainable mobility and transport, as well as a basic condition for liveable cities, but safety is frequently absent during the planning and evaluation of urban transport projects and policies around the world. Achieving Target 11.2 on safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all would be a beautiful reality for sustainable mobility and transport, he said, adding that that will require making road safety a key consideration in urban planning and infrastructure design in well planned cities that reduce the negative environmental impact of transport. Only by making road safety an important consideration will it be possible to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, he stated.

Ms. SHARIF highlighted three key challenges to the implementation of Goal 11 � housing affordability, urban sprawl and access to public spaces. While the proportion of the world's population living in slums has fallen to 23 per cent, the absolute number of slum dwellers grew from 800 million in 2000 to more than 880 million in 2015. Cities are expanding rapidly, with the rate of land consumption overtaking the rate of population growth, she said, calling for more attention to be given to compact, mixed use, walkable urban expansion. Meanwhile, data from more than 300 cities indicates that public space, including streets, occupies an increasingly smaller proportion of land in expanding cities in Europe, North America and Oceania. Clearly, we still have to make a stronger case for the irreplaceable value of public space, she said. Despite mixed progress on Goal 11 implementation, there have been success stories, she said, citing the Spatial Development Framework of Johannesburg and the Future Saudi Cities programme as examples, in addition to Member State recognition of the local dimension of development. She went on to make recommendations focusing on monitoring systems for Goal 11, starting with an agreed definition of the words urban and city as units for analysis, thus helping to standardize values and harmonize results to avoid inconsistencies. The National Sample of Cities approach developed by UN Habitat, if adopted, would give Member States a low cost option for monitoring fewer representative sets of cities over time while seamlessly reporting national urban performance.

Ms. ALSHAIKH, emphasizing that shared developmental challenges create enormous opportunities, said each city has its own particular characteristics and challenges. It is therefore important for cities to identify their current status with respect to Goal 11, given the massive potential for innovation. Governments, the private sector, academia, civil society and � most importantly � urban inhabitants themselves can work together to close gaps, she said, adding that science, technology and innovation can be useful tools for targeted action. She shared several examples from the United Arab Emirates, including construction of what will be the world's biggest single site solar part in Dubai and a water security strategy that aims to reduce demand for water resources by 21 per cent by 2036 while increasing the reuse of treated water to 95 per cent. She credited Dubai's achievements to strong leadership support and empowerment with a view to becoming the happiest city on Earth. New technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and data science have been embraced, while $1.2 billion in operational efficiencies have been achieved through public sector partnerships to implement shared information and communication technology services and infrastructure. Going forward, cities have a unique opportunity to create a framework for identifying gaps and exchanging knowledge, she said, emphasizing that city administration should assume high level leadership and ownership for implementing Goal 11, working closely with all stakeholders and constituents.

Mr. DRIES, who is both Mayor of Genk and President of the VVSG association of Flemish local governments, said the 2030 Agenda is still too unknown as well as difficult to translate into political agendas. It is still very much a United Nations agenda that must be localized. The tricky part is that, while everyone talks about localizing the Agenda, no one really knows how to do it. Local governments should have a seat at the 2030 Agenda table, he said, emphasizing that Goal 11 can only be accomplished through cooperation and multilevel governance, combining the international dimension with domestic agendas.

Ms. SHAHID said a gender perspective must be incorporated across all city planning and development projects. Barriers to accessing such basic services as shelter, safe water and sanitation by women and other vulnerable groups must be addressed, she said, calling also for the empowerment of women through regulatory and financial means in the aftermath of disasters.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers reviewed the challenges faced by their respective countries � particularly with regard to housing � and the ways in which they were tackling them.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI, Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs of India and President of the Governing Council of UN Habitat, said his country is implementing an ambitious � and, arguably, the world's biggest � planned urbanization programme that involved building the equivalent of a new Chicago every year in order to accommodate an expected urban population of 600 million by 2030. He added that new homes are being sanctioned in India at a rate of 300,000 to 500,000 per year, meaning the goal of a dwelling for every Indian citizen could be attained in 2019.

The representative of Brazil said his country is addressing a deficit of 6.2 million housing units through one of the world's biggest housing programmes. Quality of life � including easy access to schools, banks and basic utilities � is a key part of that framework, as well as housing units for persons with disabilities. About a quarter of new rural housing units are being aimed at indigenous communities, he added.

Ms. ABEYWARDENA thanked participants for their valuable contributions and expressed interest in forging partnerships regarding data collection.

Ms. SHARIF said efforts to achieve Goal 11 must be accelerated, with financing being a central issue.

Ms. ALSHAIKH said city administrators should assume a leadership role in galvanizing efforts to reach Goal 11. Options should include traditional and innovative mechanisms and efforts should be made to share best practices.

Also speaking were representatives of Mexico, Thailand, Austria, Turkey, Guatemala, South Africa, Israel, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Switzerland, Kenya, Romania, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Bahrain, Norway, Estonia, Algeria, Indonesia, Czechia, Morocco, Finland, Jamaica, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mauritania, as well as the European Union and the State of Palestine.

Representatives of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the major groups for science and technology; children and youth; volunteers; indigenous peoples; persons with disabilities; and workers and trade unions also participated.

Source: United Nations

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