World Habitat Day Focuses on Urban Mobility, Resilient Cities

UN-HABITAT7 October 2013: World Habitat Day 2013, celebrated under the theme 'urban mobility,' recognized the essential role of mobility and access to goods and services in the efficient functioning of expanding cities and towns.

The UN Human Settlements Progamme (UN-HABITAT) underscores that urbanization is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and poses challenges to economic and environmental sustainability. Conversely, good urban design can contribute to mobile, resilient cities that have less environmental impact.

In his message delivered to mark the Day, Joan Clos, Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, stated that mobility contributes to the livability of a city, through reduced congestion and pollution, as well as to its economic potential, by facilitating the movement of people and goods. He identified the costs of “automobility,” including climate change, air and noise pollution, separation of people by class and race, road traffic accidents and urban sprawl. He recommended urban planning and design to bring people and places together.

At a World Habitat Day event titled ‘Resilient Design for Sustainable Urbanization,' held in New York, US, on 4 October 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed urban resilience as a sustainable development priority. He proposed supporting urban resilience by rejuvenating city centers with more dense development and reversing urban sprawl, noting such solutions can reduce GHG emissions and decrease air pollution. Ban also highlighted transport poverty, noting that millions cannot afford transport, the disabled and elderly are often excluded from transport, and women, youth and minorities face safety concerns. He emphasized that “mobility is not a question of building wider or longer roads. It is about providing appropriate and efficient systems that serve the most people in the best, most equitable manner.”

UN General Assembly President John Ashe noted the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) recognized attention to climate risks, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience in urban planning. He recommended recognizing the interconnectedness of these dimensions, including sustainable transport, to build resilient, sustainable cities.

World Habitat Day is observed annually on the first Monday of October to reflect on the state of cities and towns and the basic right of all to adequate shelter.[Ashe's Statement] [Ban's Statement] [Clos' Statement] [UN-HABITAT Press Release] [UN Press Release, 7 October 13] [UN Press Release, 4 October 13]