UN-Habitat hosted a high-level Segment Ministerial Breakfast Roundtable last week on “Harnessing the Dual Global Trends of Urbanization and Demographic Youth Bulge” during the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. The roundtable was chaired by UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos and participants included ECOSOC member states, Vice President of ECOSOC ambassador Martin Sajdik, representatives of United Nations agencies, high level business officials and representative from international organizations.
Co-Chairs of Meeting: Ambassador Martin Sajdik (Austria), Vice President of ECOSOC with Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos
The discussion focused on finding creative solutions to improve urban policies to reflect the advantages offered by the large global youth population and a large urban population globally as well as to harness the potential of youth in urban areas to continue the efforts towards achieving the MDGs and inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Dr. Clos stated there are more people under the age of 25 today totaling nearly three billion or almost half of the total global population. The majority of these youthful populations are living in cities and towns in the developing world where nearly 90% of the world’s urban growth is taking place. Unfortunately the current model of urbanization in most of these countries hasn’t been very successful.
“We therefore need to change the current model of urbanization to create more productive cities by focusing on more strategic issues including urban legislation, land tenure, urban planning and designing, urban economy and municipal finance to prepare the cities to be places that generate jobs for its ever increasing population”, concluded Dr. Clos adding “Youth issues should be at the center stage of this urban transformation.”
Mr. Lorenzo Casullo, the UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board representative for Europe called on ECOSOC to address the youth wave and harness its positive power, before it becomes an uncontrollable tsunami. He emphasized the need for a sustainable development with better planned and functional megacities where the growth of young people is organic to the growth of the cities, and in turn contributes to its making and planning.
Most participants at the meeting spoke of a need to prioritize youth issues and engagement in urban development, developing programmes targeting both rural and urban youth to reduce youth unemployment, strengthening of youth education and city governance through the collective collaboration. Ambassador Sajdik highlighted the importance of involving other actors such as the media to publicize issues discussed during ECOSOC High Level meetings and conferences so that the issues discussed at the meetings are known to the public.
In a related session, the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization (IESCO) hosted the Special Session on Ecological Safety and Technological Innovation. In attendance at the meeting were UN-Habitat staff, ECOSOC representatives, and high level representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations. Speaking at the meeting, Prof. Oyebanji Oyeyinka of UN-Habitat stated that cities are a key arena in determining the rate and direction of human ecology whose central tenet is that environmental sustainability and economic growth can develop harmoniously. He concluded following on Dr. Clos’ statement, that the economic growth will almost certainly be driven by cities.