Youth Stepping Up: A New Chapter for Sustainable Urban Future at the UN-Habitat Assembly

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June 5, 2023 – Nairobi, Kenya

The stage is set for the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, an event that brings together global leaders, experts, and representatives from all walks of life to shape the future of sustainable urbanization and human settlements. Held every four years, this year’s assembly promises to be particularly significant as it focuses on forging a sustainable urban future through inclusive and effective multilateralism, while tackling the challenges posed by global crises.

As the highest global decision-making body on sustainable urbanization, the UN-Habitat Assembly provides a platform for UN Member States to guide the work of the agency. However, it’s not just about the official representatives. The assembly also welcomes non-Member States, other UN bodies and specialized agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia, research institutions, women, youth, children, and grassroots organizations. This inclusive approach ensures that all voices are heard and taken into account when designing strategies for a better urban future.

Under the overarching theme of “A sustainable urban future through inclusive and effective multilateralism: achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in times of global crises,” the assembly will engage in thought-provoking debates and discussions on several crucial topics.

One of the pressing issues on the agenda is universal access to affordable housing. Member States are urged to explore mechanisms to realize the universal right to adequate housing and break down existing barriers to affordable housing. The goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and decent place to call home, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Another critical topic that will be at the forefront of discussions is urban climate action. To fulfill the global commitment of limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5˚C by 2030, Member States are encouraged to identify practical pathways for climate action within urban areas. Recognizing the significant role cities play in climate change mitigation, it is crucial to develop sustainable strategies that will pave the way for a greener and more resilient future.

Addressing urban crises recovery will also be a key focus during the assembly. With cities often acting as primary destinations for displaced people, Member States will explore ways to empower urban centers to respond effectively to crises and support national recovery efforts. It is imperative to build cities that can withstand and recover from the challenges posed by natural disasters, conflicts, and other emergencies.

Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is another critical aspect of the assembly. The discussions will revolve around local actions required to advance the implementation of the SDGs and achieve the targets set in the 2030 Development Agenda. Member States will be called upon to explore financial mechanisms that ensure resources are directed towards urban development, benefiting local communities directly.

Lastly, the assembly will delve into the vital topic of prosperity and local finance. Recognizing that policies and fiscal resources are essential for accelerating the achievement of the SDGs, responding to urban crises, addressing climate change, and ensuring adequate and affordable housing for all, Member States will explore various policies and market mechanisms. The objective is to guarantee that financial flows are directed towards urban development and reach local levels where they can make a tangible impact.

Amidst the discussions and deliberations, a key element of the assembly stands out—the involvement of youth. Recognizing the importance of the younger generation in shaping the future, the Assembly provides a platform for young people to contribute their ideas, perspectives, and solutions. Youth participation is vital to foster innovation, intergenerational dialogue, and inclusivity in decision-making processes. The voices of young leaders from around the world will play a crucial role in guiding the discussions and inspiring actions that can lead to a sustainable and equitable urban future.

As the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly commences today, June 5, 2023, the world looks towards Nairobi with hope and anticipation. It is a gathering that symbolizes unity, collaboration, and a shared commitment to building a better future for all. With youth at the forefront, this assembly promises to be a turning point in our collective efforts towards a sustainable urban future, one that leaves no one behind and ensures that cities thrive as engines of progress, resilience, and inclusivity.

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