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New York, 24 Apr 12

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon © UN Photos/Mark Garten

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday told a high-level delegation of mayors, local and regional authorities that he would ensure rapid urbanisation around the world takes high priority on the Rio +20 agenda because the battle for sustainability would be won or lost in cities.

In his most important message on the world's rapidly growing cities of the year so far, he said: "In the spirit of UN-Habitat's I'm a City Changer campaign, I encourage you all to advocate the importance of sound national urban strategies, balanced regional development policies, and strengthened urban economic and legal frameworks.

"Sustainable cities are crucial to our future well-being," the Secretary-General said.

"Your contributions can not only ensure a successful outcome from Rio+20, but will also provide a cornerstone towards the realisation of a New Urban Agenda at Habitat III. I will count on you to ensure that the voices of cities are heard," he said referring to the two major summit conferences held only every 20 years at Rio de Janeiro in June this year, and Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development scheduled in Istanbul in 2016.

Those hearing his message included the representatives of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the Cities Alliance, the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA), ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), Metropolis, the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership group, UN-Habitat's Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos, and others.

"Let there be no doubt: we live in an urbanized world. Moreover, the greatest urban population growth is expected to take place in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And mega-cities are growing fastest of all," the Secretary-General said. "Today, seven of every ten urban residents in the world live in developing countries. The implications of this change are clear. Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities."

As mayors and associations of local and regional authorities, he said their support had never been more crucial to delivering practical results to defeat poverty, protect the natural environment and improve disaster risk reduction.

By prioritising sustainable urbanisation within a broader development framework, many critical development challenges could be addressed in tandem, he said. Energy, water, food, biodiversity, climate change adaptation, exposure to natural hazards, consumption and production patterns, social protection floors and jobs, especially for young people —were all closely linked.

"Our challenge is to connect the dots, so that advances on one can generate progress on others. It is vitally important that this approach be recognised and endorsed at Rio+20," he said saying he would press Member States to maintain a high level of ambition for the conference.

The mayors, local authorities, UN-Habitat and regional representatives called the meeting to present the Secretary-General the Joint Messages of Local and Sub-National Governments carrying eight recommendations outlining the key urban matters for Rio +20.

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