"Sustainable urbanization is the key to the wellbeing of our citizens" Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.
"Cities and other urban areas should be taken into account when setting future development goals" Angelino Garzon, Vice-president of Colombia.
"Urbanization cannot be seen as a demographic phenomenon, but as a transformative force shaping societies" Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN Habitat.
The conviction that sustainable urbanization must be at the core of the development agenda has been the general trend at the three-day UN ECOSOC Integration Segment in New York.
The call for new partnerships with civil society and the need to utilise the transformative potential of cities in order to bridge inequalities and ensure the rural-urban continuum, have been some of the key messages from the academics, elected officials and NGOs participating in the event.
A delegation of local and regional leaders of the Global Taskforce, facilitated by UCLG, attended the 2014 UN ECOSOC Integration Segment, including: Kadir Topbaş, President of UCLG and Mayor of Istanbul, Turkey; Anne Hidalgo, Co-President of UCLG and Mayor of Paris, France; Jacqueline Moustache-Belle, Co-President of UCLG and Mayor of Victoria, Seychelles; Paul Carrasco, Vice-President of UCLG and Prefect of Azuay, Ecuador; Cllr Philip McPhee, President of Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities, Bahamas; and Angela Brown-Burke, Mayor of Kingston, Jamaica.
Some of the key topics addressed by the multidisciplinary panels in New York were urbanisation policies, urban inequalities, cities as drivers of sustainable development, and effective governance and partnerships for sustainable urbanisation. The UN Secretary General, the Vice-President of ECOSOC, and the President of the UN General Assembly also participated in the meetings, which featured keynote speakers including Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat; Akwasi Opong-Fosu, Minister for Local Government of Ghana; Mohand Laenser, Minister for Planning and Development of Morocco; and Michael Bloomberg, UN Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, among others. Civil society and private sector representatives were also present.
During the Opening of the Segment, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed that urban areas are at the heart of many great challenges, opportunities and promise. "People move to cities for jobs and other opportunities; but too many cities face challenges, including weak infrastructure, unemployment and pollution. This means that the capacity of governments should be strengthened to plan, construct and manage urban areas", he noted.
The President of UCLG congratulated ECOSOC for the bold steps undertaken, as well as their visionary approach. He communicated that urbanisation will take place in intermediary cities in the coming years, and also made it clear that true local governance could only be created, and trust and commitment gained from citizens, if the responsibilities between the different levels are clearly defined, and if adequate resources are available. The President of UCLG also pointed out that many local governments have succeeded in reducing inequalities, as well as in implementing innovative forms of participatory democracy and policies that ensure universal access to basic services. Kadir Topbaş reminded officials that a clear urban goal within the Post-2015 Development Agenda would help to ensure a multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach that also takes into account regional and rural-urban linkages and efficient and effective institutions. "It is now crucial to start working on the localization of the new Agenda, in order to give relevance to the Habitat III Conference and to the role of local governments", he concluded.
Decentralised cooperation, localizing the Post-2015 Agenda, engendered local governance and partnerships between civil society have been the focus areas of the side events organised by NGOs and Global Taskforce partners, including: UCLG European and African Sections (CEMR & UCLGA); CLGF; Platforma; ORU-FOGAR; NRG4SD; UN-Habitat; UN-Women; the European Union; Cities Alliance; and Slum Dwellers International.