About the Authors: María Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Esther Brimmer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, and Reta Jo Lewis serves as Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs.
As we arrived at the site of the UN Habitat-organized World Urban Forum V, we were immediately struck by the energy and enthusiasm in the air. At the nearly mile-long stretch of once dilapidated warehouses that now anchor Rio de Janeiro's downtown redevelopment, nearly 15,000 of the world's elected officials, municipal leaders, NGO activists, and urban thinkers came together to address the complex challenges and opportunities shared by rapidly growing cities and urban corridors. With more than half the world's population now living in cities, we know that the management of urbanization connects with many of our foreign policy goals, including our response to climate change and improving global public health.
Given these connections, this year the State Department sent to the World Urban Forum our most senior delegation to date -- signaling the United States' recognition that urban growth and development affects millions of citizens at home and abroad. We clearly sensed the appreciation from our U.S. and global partners for our increased engagement in this biennial gathering.
The diversity of our discussions and presentations at the World Urban Forum reflect the range of issues within urbanization: We addressed the unique aspects of governance, participation and civil society; the important role of the United Nations and international organizations working on urbanization; lessons learned from Haiti's earthquake and a call to action for continued efforts; and the special significance of municipal and sub-national leadership in coming together to respond to this global reality.
We look forward to working together in new ways and with partners to build cities of opportunity for all.
We would like to continue our engagement on this topic through online communities. To start the conversation, what elements of city life do you think could be most improved as the number of people in your city increases? What impact do you think urbanization is having on foreign policy issues?