69th Session of the UN General Assembly Agenda Item 20: Implementation of the Outcome of the UN Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT III) and Strenghtening of UN-Habitat

Published Date: 
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Speaker: 
Michele Klein Solomon, Permanent Observer to the United Nations

Madame Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, our partners in UN Habitat, Ladies and Gentlemen,

With over 50% of the global population now residing in cities, urbanization is without doubt one of the most significant issues currently on the international agenda.

It is of particular interest to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) because of its close, and in many ways inseparable relationship with migration and displacement.

In the context of cities, we most commonly discuss migration in terms of rural to urban migration as a key driver of the urbanization process. However, there are many other links that we should consider as well.

First, migrants from overseas typically also settle in urban centers. This raises questions about how to deliver essential services to increasingly diverse societies, and how to maintain social cohesion and stability in cities while protecting the rights of minorities, including migrants.

Second, newcomers to fast growing cities – whether they are from overseas or otherwise – often have to settle in hazard-prone, poorly planned areas where they have limited access to basic services. When disasters strike, they are among the worst affected.

Third, when included in urban development policies and disaster risk reduction strategies, migration can be both an important preventative measure and a response measure to disaster situations.

Migration can help communities be better prepared, expedite recovery after disasters, reduce the human and economic costs of displacement and provide essential avenues to safety for populations at risk.

Migration and urbanization are therefore linked in a multitude of ways: migration is a driver of urbanization; there are important interplays between the human development outcomes of migrants in cities and the maintenance of social cohesion; and migration can be an important means to save lives, enhance resilience and reduce disaster risk.

I raise these issues now to create a place holder in our discussions moving forward. Integrating these issues in the urbanization discourse is a priority for IOM, and it will be important also to consider how these issues might be reflected in the ongoing post-2015 discussions on urbanization as well as in the preparations for Habitat III.

IOM looks forward to working with our close partner UN Habitat – which will become an observer in IOM’s governing bodies next month in recognition of this partnership – and working with you the Member States in these important collective endeavors in the years ahead to promote sustainable development for all.

Thank you.