Celebrating ‘World Cities Day‘, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that about 1.4 million people move to cities every week around the world. Mr. Guterres, however, has warned that such a large rate of migration can contribute to increased risks of natural and human-made disasters.
Speaking on the ‘World Cities Day’, celebrated annually on October 31, Guterres stressed that “hazards do not need to become disasters”.
On 27 December 2013, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/68/239, decided to designate 31 October as ‘World Cities Day’.
“Every week, 1.4 million people move to cities. Such rapid urbanisation can strain local capacities, contributing to increased risk from natural and human-made disasters. But hazards do not need to become disasters. The answer is to build resilience — to storms, floods, earthquakes, fires, pandemics and economic crises”, UN chief said.
Praising Thailand, Mr. Guterres said Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods. He also admired the local government of Quito, the national capital of Ecuador, has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city’s freshwater supply and biodiversity, he said.
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The UN chief said that Johannesburg “is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care”.
The ‘World Cities Day’ was established by the UN to promote the international community’s interest in global urbanisation, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanisation and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), flagged the importance of investing in resilience or face growing “economic, social, political and human” risks.
“It has been estimated that without action on climate change which accounts for just one facet of resilience some 77 million urban residents risk falling into poverty,” Sharif said. “Investing in resilience is a wise investment,” added the UN-Habitat chief.
The theme of this year’s commemoration ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities’ focuses on the need to preserve human life and limit damage and destruction while continuing to provide infrastructure and services after a crisis.