UN Resident Coordinator statement at the Ghana Urban Forum held in Accra
The 2022 GUF was held to kick start a national discourse on sustainable urban development and how to broaden stakeholder's participation.
It is a special honor for me to join you at this year’s National Urban Forum, a time when the pandemic has raised the profile of well-planned cities even further as being key to building more resilient and inclusive societies.
And today being World Cities Day, let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the immense work of our partners and stakeholders for enhancing local action towards creating greener, more equitable and sustainable cities.
Today’s national urban population is estimated at 57.3%. This imposes a reality check on the system in order to take advantage of the opportunities urbanisation present and gain the much-needed developmental benefits.
The pandemic has revealed and amplified long-standing weaknesses in the social structure of cities, resulting in disproportionate impacts on specific segments of the population, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups including people living with disability. Key lessons emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic are that urban areas must invest in preparedness, which requires developing the economic, social, environmental and institutional resilience to respond to a wide range of shocks, including having contingency plans for the most vulnerable group
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our cities and communities ought to be transformed along certain priority areas. These priorities include ensuring access to clean water supply, functional sanitation systems, and appropriate sewage and waste disposal; providing sustainable and efficient mobility; promoting more compact, safe and healthy settlements; and enhancing resilience against climate change, extreme weather events and disease transmission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ghana’s urban growth rate is recorded as 3.2%. This relatively high growth rate means the future of cities agenda in Ghana should assume a greater level of importance. Furthermore, we need to urgently pay attention to the disruptive impacts of COVID-19 and its implications for urban areas. Recently, the world, and Ghana in particular, has witnessed a sudden spike in inflation and cost of living, alongside supply chain disruptions, which is likely to affect the recovery of urban economies.
Building economic, social and environmental resilience, including appropriate governance and institutional structures, must be at the heart of the future of cities. Economic resilience with new fiscal sustainability frameworks, societal resilience with universal social protection schemes, climate resilience with greener investments and stronger multilevel collaboration must be the main building blocks of a resilient future.
The success of cities, towns and urban areas, to a large extent, will depend on policies that protect and sustain all, leaving no one behind. We need green investment for sustainable patterns of consumption and production; responsive and inclusive urban planning; the prioritization of public health; and innovation and technology for all. Our cities and towns must mainstream the commitments of the New Urban Agenda; which encourages the integration of all facets of sustainable development to promote equality, welfare and shared prosperity in their local development plans with a deliberate focus on tackling inequality, poverty, and climate change, among other challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is against this backdrop that I am optimistic about the on-going review of the National Urban Policy to ensure a more coordinated approach and clear policy directions to harness urbanisation, mitigate its negative externalities and promote an urban paradigm shift. We thank the World Bank for the support and UN-Habitat for their technical expertise to drive the sustainable urban development agenda.
Focus should also be placed on small and intermediate cities and towns. Despite their demographic importance, secondary cities have not received the needed attention. Planning and policy initiatives in the past have focused mainly on large metropolitan areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that secondary cities are vulnerable to these external shocks because of deficits in infrastructure and services. With adequate planning, management and governance, secondary cities will foster better urban-rural linkages and relieve some of the quality-of-life strain, such as slums and informal settlements, environmental degradation and long commutes, that can be endemic to megacities.
Furthermore, Ghana is characterized by a significant increase in the youth living in urban areas especially in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area according to the 2020 census. A youth bulge can represent a potential opportunity to spur social and economic development if harnessed. The youth bulge can also increase the risk of domestic conflict in an urban context of weak governance, poor economic performance and high levels of inequalities. A youthful population requires investment in education including sexual reproductive health, gender-based violence, employment training with importance focused on digital, creatives, recreational and community facilities. Ghana will need to integrate various aspects of demographic picture in their urban development policy and ensure effective implementation of the Youth Policy (2022-2032).
We must also note that the effects of climate change can exacerbate existing urban challenges and make it more difficult to tackle the persistent issues that cities already face, such as poverty, inequality, infrastructure deficits and housing, among others which could make it difficult to achieve related SDGs, e.g. those relating to poverty, hunger, health, water, sanitation and ecosystems.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to mention that urbanisation is an important element of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) for 2022-2025 and a main focus of UN-Habitat’s work as the focal UN agency for urban development. UN-Habitat is committed to the adoption of a Smart SDGs Cities approach partnering with UNCDF for the implementation of the cooperation framework. This comprehensive approach will also serve as a basis upon which other UN Agencies can further collaborate to build resilience and maximize the competencies of the UN in Ghana and improve impact to accelerate Ghana’s SDGs achievement.
In conclusion, I would like to assure you of the continued UN support and urge all stakeholders to join forces to address the challenges of urbanisation while taking advantage of the benefits, share solutions and support cities meet the triple objective of being economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
The time to act is now to create a better urban future for all Ghanaians. In reference to World Cities Day theme, together, “Let us Act local to go global”.