World Cities Day from the Urban Youth Perspective: A Glimpse into the Future of Sustainable Cities

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Sustainable policies and urban planning create green jobs and opportunities for the youth, enable digital connectivity and advance gender equality.
António Guterres
UN Secretary-General

Read the full statement of the Youth Advisory Board on the occasion of the World Cities Day 2023 here.

Revisiting Urban Agenda in Istanbul

World Cities Day 2023, held in Üsküdar, – one of the neighborhoods in Istanbul’s Asian side, was dedicated to the theme “Financing sustainable urban future for all”. It is not the first time the city hosts a global event focused on sustainable urbanization. Twenty years after Habitat I, the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) took place from 3-14 June 1996, in Istanbul, Türkiye (nicknamed “City and Town Summit”). In 2016, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul discussed the importance of municipal level of governance in addressing humanitarian crises, especially for young people. 

This year, WCD brought together over 1,000 participants from 221 countries, both in-person and online. The event highlighted the crucial role of cities in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the urgent need for affordable financing and local action. It is estimated that as many as 60 per cent of all urban dwellers will be under the age of 18 by 2030, making youth a critical demographic if the world is to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. 

Urbanization and Youth

The urban landscape is evolving rapidly, and as it does, so are the perspectives of young people living in cities around the world. Naturally, urbanization brings with it both opportunities and challenges. As the world becomes more interconnected, and the stakes are getting high, young people in cities are more aware of, and concerned about, global issues, such as climate change and social inequalities. They understand that the solutions to these problems often start in their own communities, and are often best placed to reach out to the most vulnerable.

Empowerment through Sustainable Urbanization

As usual, the World Cities Day event highlighted the power of local authorities in shaping the growth and development of urban environments. Young people are increasingly engaged in local initiatives, whether through community organizations, grassroots movements, or entrepreneurship. They recognize that their involvement can have a direct impact on the future of their cities.

Emine Erdoğan, the First Lady of Türkiye, emphasized the importance of turning commitments into actions. Urban youth are taking her message to heart, pushing for change in their cities and advocating for sustainability. They are passionate about addressing challenges like climate change, as they understand that their generation will bear the brunt of the consequences if no action is taken.

The Role of Cities in Achieving SDGs

Cities are the engines of economic growth and innovation and play a pivotal role in advancing the SDGs. According to estimates, two-thirds of the SDGs can only be achieved through local and regional action. Young people are well aware of this fact and are eager to be part of the solution.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, stressed the importance of affordable financing and local action. Urban youth are advocating for greater investment in infrastructure, affordable housing, efficient transport, and social services. They understand that these are key components of creating sustainable, inclusive cities where everyone can thrive.

The Call to Action

Urban youth are responding to the call to action made by the Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif. They are determined to ensure that no one and no place is left behind in the journey toward sustainable urban development.

The Global Observance of World Cities Day featured discussions on financing sustainable urban development and using waste to create wealth. Young entrepreneurs and innovators are taking an active interest in these topics, exploring new ways to bridge the urban investment gap and contribute to a circular economy. They see potential in turning waste into resources, creating jobs, and reducing the environmental impact of their cities.


World Cities Day 2023 served as a powerful reminder of the importance of sustainable urbanization. The perspectives of urban youth are crucial in driving this movement forward. They are not just the future of our cities; they are actively shaping their present. Their passion, ideas, and commitment to sustainable development are inspiring, and they offer hope for a more inclusive, eco-friendly, and prosperous urban future for all. As we reflect on the discussions and initiatives presented at the event, it is clear that urban youth are an essential force in creating the change we need.

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