Urban Conferences of the Past Decade

Barcelona: International Conference on Population and the Urban Future, 1986.

From 19–22 May 1986, UNFPA convened its second major conference on urbanization (the first was in Rome in 1980). Mayors and planners from large cities took part, along with representatives from Governments, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs. Co-sponsors included the Spanish Government, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) and the International Union of Local Authorities.

The conference adopted the Barcelona Declaration on Population and the Urban Future, which emphasized the importance of comprehensive national population policies, balanced development, economic growth and social equity. It recommended: integration of urban planning with social and economic development; redesign of city institutions for more effective planning and resource use; decentralized decision-making to increase local and regional governments' responsibility, and better representation of communities and various groups within cities. It advocated public-private partnerships and urban-rural alliances to improve health services and reduce mortality and fertility.

The Declaration stressed the need to develop cost-effective technologies for housing, transport, communications, health, water supply and sanitation. It urged city administrations to promote family planning and programmes to reduce infant and child mortality, to increase recreational facilities, and provide services to under-served groups. And it called for better data collection, research and training to support policy formulation.

Kobe, Japan: Asia Conference on Population and Development of Medium-Sized Cities

UNFPA, the city of Kobe, and Nihon University Population Research Institute jointly organized an 11–14 August 1987 meeting on medium- sized cities' unique problems and potential. It involved representatives of 11 Asian countries, including mayors and local and regional officials, as well as intergovernmental organizations and NGOs.

Their final declaration noted that national policies, budgets, data collection and development planning tend to neglect medium-sized cities, which often lack adequate resources and effective administrations. Migration often places major demands on public utilities and social services, and environmental degradation takes a heavy toll. At the same time, the declaration pointed out that mid-sized cities provide an important link between larger cities and rural areas. They can relieve overcrowding in bigger cities, and have the potential for more efficient use of resources and more equitable distribution of social services.

Participants recommended that such cities: strengthen their capacities for administration and fundraising; consider the impact of planned industrial development on urban services; consult with the people whose lives are affected by development policies; ensure that development plans provide for adequate urban infrastructure; attend to the health and family planning needs of the poor, to employment opportunities and working conditions for women, and to social service needs of children; and give priority to low-cost housing and public utility facilities for the poor.

New York: International Colloquium of Mayors on Social Development

The United Nations Development Programme, in cooperation with HABITAT and The Group of Four Cities' Associations, organized this gathering on 18–19 August 1994 as a preparatory activity for the HABITAT II conference. More than 100 mayors took part. The focus of discussion was on the role of social integration in the development and management of sustainable cities, and the need to expand employment opportunities as part of an overall poverty alleviation strategy.

Participants issued a Mayors' Declaration on Social Development and Sustainable Human Settlements. They noted their concern about poverty, social disintegration, pollution and other urban conditions and made a number of commitments: to promote social development in partnership with communities, civil society, the private sector and government agencies; to work to achieve education, health and shelter for all by 2000; to empower the poor to help themselves to improve their living conditions, by providing infrastructure, shelter and services in their communities; involving local communities in the planning process; promoting harmony among different social groups by recognizing their ethnic, cultural and racial diversity and democratically involving minorities in city governance; ensuring women full access to education, training, health, credit, employment and decision- making; and coordinating various social services more effectively to support families at risk.