Urban October 2021

During Urban October this year around 520 online, hybrid and physical events focused on improving life in our cities and towns took place around the world.

The month began with World Habitat Day 2021 on Monday 4 October focused on Accelerating urban action for a carbon free future.  Over 55 events took place including in the USA, Korea, Cambodia, Philippines, Spain, Ghana, Mexico, Somaliland, Kenya, Peru and Nepal.

The Global Observance in Yaounde Cameroon was attended or watched by around 1,200 people. The high level hybrid ceremony at the Town Hall in the morning included a mix of video messages, online and in person speeches from dignitaries including the First Lady of Turkey, the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UNEP, the Secretary General of UCLG, Cameroon’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus, Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, Poland’s Secretary of State, Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy and a representative from the African Union. It was co-moderated by UN-Habitat.

UN-Habitat presented the Scroll of Honour Awards  to this year’s five winners  with Egypt’s Vice Minister for Housing Khaled Mahmoud Abbas receiving the award for his country’s New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA). Representatives from Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), Kenya, Let’s do it World Estonia and Ciudad Emergente, Chile attended the ceremony in Yaoundé while Baoji City, China sent a video.

Urban October closed with the eighth celebration of World Cities Day 2021 on 31 October under the theme Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience and coincided with the opening of the UN Climate Conference - COP 26. There were nearly 50 events including in China, Mexico, India, USA, Benin, Netherlands, Brazil, Kenya, Ecuador, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Chile.

The Global Observance was in Luxor, Egypt and was attended by the Egyptian Prime Minister, the Minister of Local Development and the Governor of Luxor, There were videos, messages and speeches from the UN Secretary-General, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, the Director General of the World Health Organization, the President of the UN-Habitat Assembly, UN-Habitat’s Goodwill Ambassador for Arab States, China’s Minister for Housing and Urban Rural Development, the Shanghai Mayor, the President of the United Cities and Local Governments network, the Mayor of Ekaterinburg, Russia (a former World Cities Day host) and the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy and his Envoy on Road Safety. There was a live link up to the World Cities Day at Expo2020Dubai and a field trip to UN-Habitat’s River Bank Filtration technology. Around 1500 people joined in person or online.

During Urban October in total around 520 events took place including 174 as part of the Urban Circuit in Brazil. The events also included the Innovate for Cities Conference, launch of the Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh and the SDG Conference in Shanghai. The Americas held the most events (330), followed by Europe (81), Asia (58) and Africa (37). In terms of individual countries, Brazil hosted the most events (182), followed by Mexico (52), Spain (30), Bolivia (28) and Ecuador, Kenya and USA (20).

This year’s Urban October focused on the climate crisis which is also the theme of UN-Habitat’s campaign on ClimateAction4Cities but events could be on any aspect of sustainable urbanization. Today 55 per cent of the world’s population live in cities and towns and the number is growing every day. The United Nation’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 “to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” puts sustainable urbanization at the centre of the global agendas for development. The adoption of the New Urban Agenda in 2016 has seen national and local governments embark on a transformative path towards making SDG11 a reality.