Nicholas Rosellini: Sub Forum on Mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals in China’s Urbanization Process, Welcoming Remarks

Oct 30, 2017

Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator

UNDP Resident Representative


Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UNHABITAT,

Dear Mr. Ma Wentian, Vice Mayor of Guangzhou municipal government,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to meet you in Guangzhou.

On behalf of the United Nations Country Team in China, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you. Thank you for joining us in the Sub Forum on Mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals in China’s urbanization process.

Today the majority of people, an estimated four billion, live in urban areas. By 2050, the number will grow to six billion.

Cities are hubs of promise, jobs, technology and economic development. Over 80% of the global GDP is generated in urban areas.

However, cities are also the epicenter of many of the challenges of sustainability. For example, cities are responsible for over 60% of global energy consumption, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste.

As the United Nations Secretary General said, “It is in cities where the battle for sustainability will be won or lost.”

Cities are the hotbeds of diversity, attracting new talent and migration, in an ever-constant mix of culture and knowledge. They are where most new ideas and collaborations are taking place, especially with our young people.

This is what lays the foundation that will make the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a reality.

The 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is the most ambitious agenda ever set forth for humanity. It is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It will steer the world’s development towards 2030.

The sustainable development of cities is one key component in the Agenda, and has been singled out for inclusion as Goal 11.

Under the 2030 Agenda, the world further adopted the New Urban Agenda in October 2016, which calls for cities to be safer, more resilient and more sustainable.

The New Urban Agenda sealed the new urban paradigm shift from a reactive approach, mainly addressing the failures of urbanization, to a proactive approach, considering urbanization as a tool for development, offering concrete solutions to enhance the urban prosperity mainly through job creation.

The implementation of the New Urban Agenda is a toolbox for achieving the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda.

Given cities’ demographic trends and their central role in the global economy, the way they are planned, financed, developed, governed and managed has a direct impact on sustainability and resilience well beyond urban boundaries, related to the wider efforts in tackling climate change and ending poverty.

By getting urban development on the right track, cities can create jobs and offer better livelihoods; improve social inclusion; protect local ecosystems; and drastically reduce pollution.

On the other hand, mistakes such as unsustainable infrastructure investments and city layouts may lock cities in the carbon-intensive path for the long term.

We are encouraged to see China’s New-type Urbanization Plan has already set out pathways to address many of the problems facing Chinese cities, including guaranteeing basic social services for migrants, improving public participation mechanisms, and supporting innovation to improve the economy. 

Local governments have a very key role to play in achieving these goals. They are often the closest to the community level, where many women and men, and youth and children seek platforms to participate in the governance of cities, where they can express their needs and concerns, where they can access services, and where they look for opportunities to realize their potential.

It is especially meaningful to host this discussion in Guangdong.

Here the provincial GDP accounts for 1/10 of national total and per capita GDP reaches 1.3 times of national average[1]. All these signal Guangdong’s irreplaceable and significant value in the overall development of China.

As Guangdong is graduating from the middle-income category and in transition towards an overall Xiaokang (well-off) society, one of the most pressing tasks is to achieve sustainable urbanization and quality growth.

The UN Country Team in China stands ready to draw on UN expertise to work with Chinese provinces and cities, and to support the mainstreaming of the SDGs in your urbanization process.

We can help connect governments to international best-practices and resources, provide policy inputs, facilitate capacity building, and ensure the generation of positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.

Lastly, I would like to thank our local partners from Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Guangdong Province; Guangzhou Foreign Affairs Office; Guangzhou Housing & Urban-Rural Construction Committee; and Shanghai World Cities Day Coordination Center for supporting this Sub Forum.

I look forward to the discussions, and wish you a productive afternoon.  

Thank you.



[1] Guangdong’s provincial GDP stood at 1.2 trillion USD with per capita GDP at 11,000 USD in 2016, both ranked the first nationwide in the past 28 years.




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