Countries around the world gathered for the Rio +20 conference this week formally recognised the "important role" cities play in sustainable development citing the need to strengthen the Habitat Agenda and ensure "adequate and predictable" funding for UN-Habitat.
The renewed commitment comes in key elements of the so-called Rio +20 outcome document entitled, The future we want.
Paragraph 137 of the document states: "We recognise that partnerships among cities and communities play an important role in promoting sustainable development. In this regard, we stress the need to strengthen existing cooperation mechanisms or platforms, partnership arrangements and other implementation tools to advance the coordinated implementation of the UN Habitat Agenda with active involvement of all relevant UN entities and with the overall aim of achieving sustainable urban development. We further recognise the continuing need for adequate and predictable financial contributions to the UN Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation so as to ensure timely, effective and concrete global implementation of the Habitat Agenda."
It also said cities could promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies if well planned and developed, including through integrated planning and management approaches, cities can promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies.
"In this regard, we recognize the need for a holistic approach to urban development and human settlements that provides for affordable housing and infrastructure and prioritizes slum upgrading and urban regeneration," the document says. "We commit to work towards improving the quality of human settlements, including the living and working conditions of both urban and rural dwellers in the context of poverty eradication so that all people have access to basic services, housing and mobility. We also recognize the need for conservation as appropriate of the natural and cultural heritage of human settlements, the revitalization of historic districts, and the rehabilitation of city centers."
World leaders further committed themselves to promote an integrated approach to planning and building sustainable cities and urban settlements, including through supporting local authorities, increasing public awareness and enhancing participation of urban residents, including the poor, in decision making. They further committed to promote sustainable development policies which support inclusive housing and social services; a safe and healthy living environment for all, particularly children, youth, women, elderly and disabled; affordable and sustainable transport and energy; promotion, protection and restoration of safe and green urban spaces; safe and clean drinking water and sanitation; healthy air quality; job creation; improved urban planning and slum upgrading; and better waste management.
The outcome document further cites transportation and mobility as central to sustainable development. "Sustainable transportation can enhance economic growth as well as improving accessibility. Sustainable transport achieves better integration of the economy while respecting the environment. We recognize the importance of the efficient movement of people and goods, and access to environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation as a means to improve social equity, health, resilience of cities, urban-rural linkages and productivity of rural areas."
They stressed the importance "of considering disaster risk reduction, resilience and climate risks in urban planning. We recognize the efforts of cities to balance development with rural regions."
They also cited the importance of increasing the number of metropolitan regions, cities and towns that are implementing policies for sustainable urban planning and design in order to respond effectively to the expected growth of urban populations in coming decades. Read the Future we want.