Remarks at the High-Level Meeting on the New Urban Agenda

Nicholas M. Hill
Deputy U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
April 28, 2022


Secretary General Guterres, Executive Director Sharif, and distinguished representatives:

With less than eight years to go until 2030, we must recognize that the world is off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our progress towards SDG 11 – sustainable cities and communities where two-thirds of the world’s population are forecasted to live by 2050—faces dire threats from the climate crisis, pollution, and conflict. Only concerted joint action will help our cities persevere.

Cities consume most of the world’s energy and generate the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The path towards successfully combatting the climate crisis runs straight through urban communities. Cities are vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather, exacerbated by pollution. We must make a meaningful shift towards renewables.

How we design, finance, and build cities –and how we encourage the public use of space – represent an opportunity to curb air pollution and global warming and to direct more public and private finance to local governments, communities, and businesses for locally-led climate action.

Cities are meant to benefit their inhabitants. Various elements of urban design, such as public transportation routes and placement of lighting, have a direct impact on people’s lifestyles and security, in particular that of women and girls. I encourage all of us to think expansively, with equity as an underlining principle, when building next generation cities.

In the past year millions of people, particularly women and children, have been displaced by conflict, many forced to move from city to city for safety, shelter, and sustenance. We meet today against the backdrop of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine, which has decimated urban infrastructure in many Ukrainian cities. Russian forces have wiped out centuries of Ukraine’s cultural and architectural treasures, destroyed nature and biodiversity, and created toxic military waste that is poisoning air, soil, and water resources.

The U.S. and our international partners will continue to support the government and people of Ukraine in their heroic effort to defend their homeland from Russian aggression. And when this war ends, we must work together to help Ukraine rebuild stronger, healthier, and greener. As we look beyond today’s challenges to the nearing horizon of the 2030 Agenda, the United States is committed to support a more inclusive and sustainable urban environment worldwide.

Last week on Earth Day, the United States Agency for International Development released a comprehensive Climate Strategy to guide U.S. mitigation and adaptation efforts in our foreign assistance programs, including in cities. Our Department of Housing and Urban Development is working to increase funding for public housing, targeting more resources to historically underserved people. HUD is helping remove dangerous health hazards from homes and is committed to advancing equity for all communities– across races and ethnicities; for individuals and families; young and old; male, female, transgender, and gender non-conforming– across the nation.

Only through collaborative, global action can we meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The New Urban Agenda provides the normative guidelines and a blueprint for constructing more sustainable, more inclusive human settlements. We must work together now to make a positive difference and build our cities back better.