Placing people at the centre of our sustainable urban future.

Author:Hidalgo, Anne

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development--Habitat III--to be held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016, will be a historic event.

I say historic because we are at a turning point in history. The gravity of the challenges facing our cities can no longer be denied, not by elected office-holders, experts or citizens. Mayors of cities are entrusted with a great responsibility towards their fellow residents, a responsibility that we are taking on in networks such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), which unites 85 of the world's most influential cities to collaborate, share knowledge and drive action on climate change.

The question of the future of cities cannot be separated from that of responsibility; this shared awareness of shared problems must unite us in Quito. It is imperative that we enter into a dialogue leading to a common agenda that will, in turn, enable us to confront, both together and in our respective cities, the difficulties faced by the world's urban populations. In showing that we are capable of sharing this responsibility we endow ourselves with the means to collectively design smarter cities against a backdrop of an increasing scarcity of resources, urban growth and climate change.


Two decades have passed since the 1996 Habitat II Conference in Istanbul, twenty years in which urban growth has escalated, global inequalities have widened and environmental problems have multiplied. These acute, modern-day challenges have become a part of our daily lives.

The urban growth and climate change that have been observed around the world lead to major issues relating to energy, waste management, greening, resource supply, mobility and logistics. Natural resources are dwindling, forcing us to become more sparing in their use. This unprecedented pressure should drive us to find ways of reducing and improving consumption, and of limiting our impact on the environment.

In addition, the scale of international migration is unprecedented. The number of poorly housed and homeless people is continuing to rise, and the living environment for people residing in cities is worsening. The most recent estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that in 2012, 3.7 million deaths across the world were caused by outdoor air pollution.


It is not tomorrow and elsewhere, it is here and now, and the situation is serious. We must therefore act here and now. In order to face the urgency of the situation, I want to accelerate the...

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