About 1.4 million people move to cities every week around the world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said on the 'World Cities Day', warning that such a large rate of migration can contribute to increased risks from natural and human made disasters. In his message for the 'World Cities Day', celebrated annually on October 31, Guterres stressed that "hazards do not need to become disasters". Guterres explained that cities around the world are doing just that, forging new ways to increase resilience and sustainability. Bangkok has built vast underground water storage facilities to cope with increased flood risk and save water for drier periods, he said. The local government in Quito has reclaimed or protected more than 200,000 hectares of land to boost flood protection, reduce erosion and safeguard the city's freshwater supply and biodiversity, he said. The UN chief indicated that Johannesburg "is involving residents in efforts to improve public spaces so they can be safely used for recreation, sports, community events and services such as free medical care".
The 'World Cities Day' was established by the UN to promote the international community's interest in global urbanisation, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanisation and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), flagged the importance of investing in resilience or face growing "economic, social, political and human" risks. "It has been estimated that without action on climate change which accounts for just one facet of resilience some 77 million urban residents risk falling into poverty," she said, elaborating that human-made and environmental threats ranged from drought, floods and fires to economic shocks, disease outbreaks, war and migration. The theme of this year's commemoration 'Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities' focuses on the need to preserve human life and limit damage and destruction while continuing to provide infrastructure and services after a crisis.
A range of UN-backed international agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the New Urban Agenda provide "a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world," according to the UN Secretary-General.