United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

H.E. Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury

19 JUNE 2013
In my capacity as the Chairman of the Global Forum on
Human Settlements (GFHS), I have the pleasure to convey
my very warm greetings of welcome to all the participants
who have joined us from various parts of the globe at the
Berlin High Level Dialogue on Implementing Rio+20
Decisions on Sustainable Cities and Transport.
This high level event, being held in the state-of-the-art
conference facilities of EUREF-Campus, is taking place on the
first anniversary of what is popularly known as the Rio+20
summit where the world leaders came together last year to
take advantage of the generational opportunity available 20
years after the 1992 Earth Summit - which I had the
pleasure of attending - “to work together for a prosperous,
secure and sustainable future for our people and our planet”
and to craft “the future we want”.
I extend my special thanks to the large number of policy
makers and leaders, city government and municipal
representatives, UN entities and other international
organizations, public transport organizations and companies,
and various participants from the host country Germany for
their engaged presence contributing to the success of the
I am impressed by the collaborative spirit that has brought
together so many partners in the organization of this event.
UN-DESA deserves our particular thanks for its leadership in
organizing this substantive contribution for follow up of the
Rio+20 decisions. The Dialogue’s other co-organizers
German Federal Agency for Environment (UBA), UNHABITAT,
GFHS, UN Office for Partnerships and the German
Innovation Center for Mobility and Social Change (INNOZ) –
all deserve our appreciation.
I would also recognize Secretary-General of the Global
Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) Lu Haifeng for his
commitment and efforts for the success of the Dialogue.
At the outset, let me assert that the core of the wideranging
objectives in both the Rio summits held twenty
years apart has been the essential concept of
SUSTAINIBILITY. Centrality of sustainability in our entire
endeavour for global development, progress and prosperity
can not be under-estimated. Sustainable development is the
fundamental, intergenerational responsibility of our societies’
efforts which are just, equitable and inclusive for economic
and social stability and growth that benefits all.
Our world is going through a very significant turning point in
relation to human settlements and urbanization. Beginning
in 2008 for the first time, more than half of humanity is now
living in towns and cities. A new urban era is a reality. It is
projected that globally urbanization levels will rise
dramatically in the next 40 years to reach 70 percent by
2050 when the world population is expected to hit 9 billion.
Urban growth is most rapid in the developing world, where
cities gain an average of 5 million residents every month. As
cities grow in size and population, harmony among the
spatial, social and environmental aspects of a city and
between their inhabitants becomes of paramount
Some years ago the annual World Habitat Day chose the
theme Harmonious Cities focusing on the state of the world’s
growing cities and our planet’s rapid and irreversible
urbanization. The Millennium Development Goals set by the
United Nations call for a significant improvement in the lives
of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. At the same
time, it is essential that the growth and expansion of urban
areas do not come at the expense of the natural
The importance of cities as living space needs particular
attention as these are also the places where the ecological
and social challenges of the 21st century are particularly
pronounced. Part of these challenges is also the growing
mobility and the accessibility of our cities.
A transport crisis of major proportions is looming on the
horizon in many of the world's cities. Increasing motorization
and air pollution threaten economic development as well as
the environment. The importance of sustainable
transportation in cities cannot be overstated. It is the
backbone of any successful city and vital to building cities
which are clean, equitable, accessible and economically
The term sustainable transportation came into use as a
logical follow-on from sustainable development, and is used
to describe modes of transport, and systems of transport
planning, which are consistent with wider concerns of
Sustainable transport is fundamentally a broad spectrum
movement. Whereas it started as a movement driven by
environmental concerns, over these last years there has
been increased emphasis on social equity and fairness
issues, and in particular the need to ensure proper access
and services for lower income groups and people with
mobility limitations, including the fast growing population of
older citizens. Many of the people exposed to the most
vehicle noise, pollution and safety risk have been those who
do not own, or cannot drive cars. In short, we can
underscore that making cities and urban transportation
systems more sustainable will be a prerequisite for poverty
eradication, a “greener” economy and sustainable
Developing sustainable modes of transportation should be a
key part of any development objective because
environmental, social, health, and economic challenges are
intertwined with our transit.
Rio+20 outcome noted that “transportation and mobility are
central to sustainable development”, and recognized “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”.
Rio+20 also “recognized that partnerships among cities and
communities play an important role in promoting sustainable
development”. It is crucially important that in the decision
making processes for a sustainable transportation policy, we
need to ensure that public and private sector stakeholders
coordinate their transportation planning, development and
delivery activities. These transportation decisions should also
be integrated with environment, health, energy and urban
land-use decisions. It is equally important to make
transportation-related decisions in an open and inclusive
process. Sustainable transportation policies have their
greatest impact at the city level. It not only makes streets
safer, cleaner, and less congested, it makes residents
happier, healthier, and more productive.
As the global population and globalization process expand,
we need to make sure that those do not happen at the cost
of our environment, our health, and city dwellers’ quality of
life. In practice, we need to weigh the overall sustainability
of green transport option. However, we should not forget
that green vehicles are more fuel-efficient, but only in
comparison with standard vehicles, and they still contribute
to traffic congestion and road accidents.
The concept of “electric mobility” or simply “E-mobility” has
been gaining every day more importance in a world facing
the environmental catastrophe and the limitations of fossilbased
From electric rapid transit systems to individual electric
vehicles, there is an increasing realization that the future of
mobility could lie in electric transport. Electric mobility is
certainly not a “silver bullet” that could solve all of our
transport problems, but it offers many new opportunities to
improve mobility in a sustainable way.
It is therefore significant that since its establishment, the
Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS) has been
focusing on such challenges of sustainability at each of its
annual conferences and other events. This Dialogue is
another timely, relevant and much-needed initiative on its
part. So far, the annual sessions of GFHS has been
successfully held in China, the United States and Brazil for
seven consecutive times. During Rio+20 summit, GFHS held
very successful events focusing on the topic “Green Mobility
and Sustainable Human Settlements”. It has become a highlevel
dialogue platform for local governments, NGOs,
business sectors and academic circles, and has made great
contributions to deliberations on sustainable human
settlements advancing the UN-Habitat Agenda and
realization of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
especially at local levels.
In cooperation with the United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) and other UN agencies, GFHS actively
explores the new ways of combining urbanization and green
economy. In April 2011 at the headquarters of the United
Nations, GFHS launched the initiative of International Green
Model City (IGMC) which is a creative exploration of new
urbanization. GFHS engaged international experts to develop
high-quality IGMC Standards and relevant indicators and
benchmarks, so as to stimulate the government, private
sector and all other social sectors in developing a new kind
of partnership model. The IGMC pilot projects are scheduled
to be implemented, to begin with, in a few developing
countries including China.
During Rio+20, The IGMC principles and standards were
shared with participating representatives. Those attracted
attention of local government officials and experts from
various parts of the world.
The Berlin High-level Dialogue will also coincide with the
2013 Global Forum on Human Settlements and Awards
Ceremony. “Global Human Settlements Award” is a
worldwide prize annually presented by GFHS. The awarded
cities, scenic spots, enterprises, projects and individuals
represent various parts of the world. The Award is especially
supported by the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) and the United Nations Department of Economic and
Social Affairs (UN-DESA)
In his Five Year Action Plan launched last year by United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, transport was
identified as one of the six main building blocks for achieving
sustainable development and announced his intention to
“convene aviation, marine, ferry, rail, road and urban public
transport providers, along with Governments and investors,
to develop and take action on recommendations for more
sustainable transport systems that can address rising
congestion and pollution worldwide, particularly in urban
areas.” The Berlin High-level Dialogue will provide an
important contribution to this process.
Let me reiterate that GFHS would like to work together with
local governments, UN and international organizations and
private sectors to implement Rio+20 decisions and to
advance sustainable urbanization. GFHS also would like to
join hands with other partners to contribute to the
articulation of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals by
the United Nations.