UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sought more urgent action and greater investment to provide affordable housing to all – alongside access to electricity, water, sanitation, transport, and other basic services.
"A cascade of challenges – from climate chaos and conflicts to Covid-19 – is hitting the most vulnerable populations the hardest," he said, adding that rapid and unplanned urbanisation is exacerbating many of these challenges.
In a message marking the World Habitat Day on Monday, the UN chief said over one billion people live in overcrowded settlements with inadequate housing – and that number is rising every day.
Each year, World Habitat Day focuses attention on the state of human settlements.
This year's theme – 'Mind the Gap. Leave No One and No Place Behind' – puts the spotlight on widening inequalities in living conditions across the world.
"To leave no one behind is the core pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," Guterres said.
This means making cities work for women and children and closing existing gaps: between the haves and the have-nots; within and between urban and rural areas; and within and between developed and developing regions, he added.
"On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to live up to our shared responsibility to one another," Guterres said.
Inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and human settlements are crucial – and local action is key, he mentioned.
Cities, towns, and communities can spearhead innovative solutions to address inequalities, ensure adequate shelter for all, tackle the climate crisis and drive a green and inclusive pandemic recovery, he said.
This includes, Guterres said, pursuing people-centered policies, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and prioritising green and resilient infrastructure.