La Ronda Street, Quito, Ecuador                                                                                                                      ©Diego Delso 

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world. By 2050, it is expected that 66 per cent of the global population will reside in cities and towns. The growth of cities exacerbates problems related to the provision of affordable housing, clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, particularly in the developing world. At the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), to be held in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 to 20 October 2016, world leaders will discuss and agree on ways to address the pressing issues faced by cities today and in the years to come.

Building on progress made at Habitat I in Vancouver in 1976, and at Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996, Member States meeting in Quito will adopt the New Urban Agenda, an action-oriented document that will set global standards for sustainable urban development. The Agenda will shape a new paradigm for building, managing and living in cities, relying on cooperation between partners, stakeholders and urban actors at all levels of government, as well as the private sector.

This issue of the UN Chronicle, under the theme “Human Habits, Human Habitats”, provides a variety of perspectives on sustainable urbanization and the future of human settlements. It emphazises the vital role of urban citizens, especially women, in participatory planning and development programmes, as well as the contribution of local, traditional knowledge in the construction of resilient housing and infrastructure in villages, towns and cities.

Contributors to this issue include Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and Secretary-General of Habitat III; Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and newly elected Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; and Sarah Nandudu, Vice Chairperson of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda.

We hope that this issue of the Chronicle will help inform the long-term objectives of Habitat III and reinvigorate the global conversation on sustainable urban development.