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Ready for Habitat III: The New Urban Agenda, the U.S. 20/20 Habitat III Report, and the Road to Quito and Beyond

Image of Salin Geevarghese, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Philanthropic Innovation.
Salin Geevarghese, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Philanthropic Innovation.

After a series of (sometimes lengthy) negotiations from New York to Nairobi to Surabaya, Indonesia, I am excited to announce that the member states of the United Nations have reached consensus on the New Urban Agenda, the guiding outcome document for the Habitat III conference.

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat) is held every 20 years; the third meeting, Habitat III, will take place October 17–21 in Quito, Ecuador. The conference is a moment for civil society, government, and the private sector to join in a global dialogue about how to solve the pressing challenges and opportunities of urbanization. The New Urban Agenda focuses on ways in which countries, cities, and all levels of government should tackle the serious challenges facing our communities, ranging from globalization to climate change, laying groundwork for policies and approaches that will extend, and have an impact, far into the future.

With the help of our civil society partners and government partners through the U.S. National Preparatory Committee for Habitat III, we have engaged in dialogue over the past year with thousands across the country about the pressing issues facing communities, conducted international comparisons to seek innovative solutions to our common challenges, and forged new partnerships to ensure that we collectively move in the right direction.

In Chicago, participants used evidence-based policymaking to ensure that we effectively dissect the root causes of the challenges facing today’s cities; in Philadelphia, our partners furthered the case for aligning social mobility and community development with economic development to develop meaningful pathways to quality jobs and neighborhoods for urban areas everywhere; in Denver, housing was central to the conversation of achieving inclusive and sustainable cities for the future; in Miami, the critical issues of building resilient communities in the face of climate change and both natural and manmade shocks and stresses were surfaced before the next generation of students and practitioners; and in El Paso, we heard the voices of those who live in oftentimes disadvantaged border communities speaking about how we can surface models to provide people in all types of communities with the services and opportunities they need to be successful in our increasingly global world.

Our partners also joined us in a series of impressive dialogues to inform and elevate the discussion on sustainable urban development within the international affairs community. Topics included the effects of urbanization on U.S. foreign policy, the need for resilient and sustainable cities, the implications of urbanization on public security, implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and finding actionable ways to set the course ahead on the New Urban Agenda. Through this series, our partners, in particular the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, brought these critical issues to light, stressing the need to better integrate urbanization issues within the way we view foreign policy.

As part of our ongoing efforts, we’re proud to also introduce the U.S. 20/20 Habitat III Report. It captures HUD’s experiences over the past 20 years, prepares the U.S. National Committee for the upcoming Habitat III conference, and sets forth our vision for the next 20 years.

The report concentrates on three themes. The first outlines our mission to promote upward mobility for underserved Americans by strengthening local economies, expanding employment and educational resources, and investing in community institutions. The second theme addresses our efforts to create greater housing opportunity, including our work to end homelessness in the United States and to promote affordable homeownership. The third discusses our goal of building neighborhoods that are more resilient in the face of challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, and economic downturns.

At Habitat III, representatives from throughout the U.S. government, mayors, and members of the U.S. National Preparatory Committee will join international leaders in sharing the lessons we have learned and the strategies we have developed. I am also proud to announce that HUD Secretary Julián Castro will serve as the official head of the U.S. delegation, providing visibility and high-level leadership in Quito. Secretary Castro’s participation highlights how critically important the issues of urbanization are to the U.S. government while providing a unique opportunity to elevate the conversation and learn from the best advice, examples, and lessons the world has to offer.

Through partnership and perseverance, we will seize this moment to maintain our global journey down a path of progress. Together, the goals set forth before, during, and after Habitat III can help ensure that this path is paved with opportunity for all living in this Century of Cities. We encourage more to get involved and join us as we forge ahead after Quito on actionable steps to shape a better urban future.