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80th session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management

Tatiana Valovaya

2 octobre 2019
80e session du Comité du développement urbain, du logement et de l'aménagement du territoire

Remarks by Ms. Tatiana Valovaya
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

80th session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management

Room XII, Palais des Nations
Wednesday 2 October 2019 at 10.00am

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Before presenting my remarks, I have the sad duty to announce that Mr. Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNECE, passed away this morning following a protracted battle for his life. Andrey was a valued colleague, an outstanding expert and a friend to many here. Could you please stand and join me in a minute of silence to honor his life, work and memory. Thank you.

If it were not for this very sad news, I intended to begin by saying that it is my privilege to welcome you to the 80th Session of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management on behalf of myself and Olga Algayerova, UNECE Executive Secretary, who could not be with us today.

Being with you this morning is for me an honour, a pleasure and an important opportunity:

o an honour because of the Committee’s distinguished record of accomplishment, actively supporting cities and human settlements to promote urban sustainability;
o a pleasure because of the energy and excitement with which the 2019 attendees have assembled to consider how we can ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all; and
o an important opportunity because it affords me the chance to make a few remarks.

Development and sustainability are the critical challenges of the 21st Century. In the past we have gotten some important things right but some important things very wrong on both. On development, much has been achieved but for far too few. On sustainability, all that has been accomplished is now at risk because development was rooted in carbon-based energy.

And now, we are entering the Decade of Action to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, aiming to transform our world while leaving no one behind. If we fail to get sustainability right, the consequences will be catastrophic for the planet and humankind. If we fail to get development right, we will preserve past inequality and billions of people will continue to suffer poverty, hunger, sickness, and ignorance, without clean water or other essentials, knowing neither peace nor justice nor security. The fundamentals are just that simple.

Your Committee works at a vital crossroads on the path to sustainable development. Housing is a fundamental human need. Everything we are able to accomplish on Earth begins with getting a roof over our heads. If we are indeed to “leave no one behind,” we need to get roofs over all of our heads. In practice, given the realities of population growth and urbanization, that means “affordable housing and urban infrastructure for all groups in the population.” And, it must be sustainable: it must not rely on carbon-based energy.

How is that to be accomplished? First, the “how to” technical knowledge must be assembled (created, if need be) and disseminated in ways that make it readily useful and adaptable to local circumstances.

Second, the relevant professions need to assume their rightful role as leaders of, and advocates for, a truly sustainable global society.

But third, and perhaps most important, care must be taken to avoid sacrificing either side of the Sustainability-Development equation to the other. Sustainability and development must be integrated. How can such integration work? Take the issue of energy.

It is obvious that the energy of the future must be renewable and used with ultra-efficiency -- renewable because it guarantees escape from carbon within the bounds of known energy science; ultra-efficient because total energy demand must be within the bounds of achievable deployment and effectiveness of renewables, despite a hoped for surge in the number of people with easy access to useable energy.

A fully integrated approach will require collaboration between all United Nations agencies and stakeholders. UNECE organized a successful SDG 11 Day yesterday where activities of and partnerships between different UN agencies were discussed. The global network of United Nations partners is an excellent tool for facilitating dialogue with and between a range of stakeholders at country level, from national ministries, to academia, private sector and civil society, guaranteeing a participatory policy making process.

I am pleased to see that the Committee will discuss the possibility of organizing a Forum of Mayors on the first day of the Committee sessions in 2020 and 2021. Such a Forum can provide a voice to mayors to share practices and engage in focused dialogues with national governments within the United Nations. This year we celebrate 100 years of multilateralism. When we talk about modern multilateralism, we need to involve all actors. Indeed, many cities are bigger than countries. We need this new multilateralism if we want the 3020 Agenda for Sustainable Development to succeed.

Our task, among many, is to prompt and help facilitate the largest grassroots movement the world has ever witnessed. But the task is not to drive a global culture of sustainability, but to elicit one, one that integrates the requisites of sustainability with the development sought by the many communities that compose humanity.

Your Committee and the Sustainable Energy Committee are engaged together in such initiatives, which show great promise. Partnerships - with the UN, the private sector, academia, local authorities and more – are key.

This week you have before you a very wide agenda and many opportunities for progress. You have the chance to intensify and accelerate your contributions to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

You know the urgency of the matter. Your track record tells me you are equipped for the challenge.

Thank you for the opportunity to make my contribution. I look forward to hearing about your discussions, decisions, and actions to build smart and sustainable cities of the future.