Secretary-General António Guterres declared that “from climate chaos and conflicts to COVID-19”, the most vulnerable were being hit the hardest.

Amplifying this year’s theme, Mind the Gap. Leave No One and No Place Behind, spotlighting widening inequalities in living conditions across the world, he said that rapid and unplanned development of towns and cities, was making conditions worse.

“We need more urgent action and greater investment to provide affordable housing to all – alongside access to electricity, water, sanitation, transport, and other basic services. To leave no one behind is the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), he added.

Cities that work

“This means making cities work for women and children and closing existing gaps: between the haves and the have-nots; within and between urban and rural areas; and within and between developed and developing regions.”

He said taking local action was key, and innovative solutions were important to pursue people centred policies, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption.

Inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements are crucial.

Action on the ground: UN-Habitat’s Sharif

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN’s urban settlements agency UN-Habitat, is a speech in Istanbul ahead of the day, said that to be sustainable, towns and cities need to be well integrated, well-planned, and transformed into inclusive, creative and innovative places.

“We can do this if we ensure policies are translated into practice and action on the ground.”

Tackling urban poverty and inequality has become a global priority, amidst the compounding crises, with cities and local governments playing a key role in responding.

“We want to support governments and cities in addressing growing urban problems”, she said.

Residents living in a slum in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Urban October

World Habitat Day also sees the start of UN-Habitat’s Urban October month – 31 days to promote a sustainable urban future. 

Last year, UN-Habitat and partners held more than 300 different events on urban topics throughout the world. More than 10,000 people participated in key events throughout the month.

“On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to live up to our shared responsibility to one another”, said Ms. Sharif.

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