Addressing Urban Issues: An Important Element of International Engagement

Posted by Esther Brimmer
March 23, 2010
Rio de Janeiro

About the Author: Dr. Esther Brimmer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. She is currently in Rio de Janeiro participating in the 5th World Urban Forum, organized by UN Habitat.

I am so pleased to be part of the U.S. delegation to the 5th World Urban Forum (WUF) here in Rio de Janeiro, where the United States welcomes the opportunity to co-chair this important forum with the government of Brazil.

By 2050, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities, most of them in the developing world. We understand now more than ever the crucial importance of addressing urban issues not just in a domestic context, but as an important element of America's international engagement. In fact, urban issues truly underscore how global challenges are becoming more complex and inter-related.

We know that urbanization is not a challenge unique to cities in the United States, or Brazil. As the United States addresses the domestic phenomenon of growing urbanization -- with issues as varied as affordable housing, water and sanitation, and mass transportation -- we must concurrently seek means of addressing similar phenomena across the globe. Developing effective country-led strategies and marshaling the resources necessary to address these challenges will be immensely difficult.

Rapidly growing cities have a growing impact on a number of global issues that the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which I lead at the Department of State, works on day in, day out -- from food and water security to climate change to human rights, including women and children's rights. The United States is committed to working with the United Nations, Brazil, and our international partners to help more families find a safe and secure place to live -- from Rio de Janeiro to Port-Au-Prince to New York. I personally look forward to engaging with other WUF participants on these issues.

In particular, I will be participating in a discussion of international efforts to re-build Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake on January 12, the United States has been working closely with the United Nations and other governments, including Brazil's, to assist Haitians in re-building their country, and specifically the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The United States is proud to co-host, along with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, the Haiti Donors' Conference next week in New York City. Later this week, I also look forward to standing alongside Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive at a Special Session on Haiti called “Building Back Better,” hosted by the Brazilian government.

I applaud UN Habitat for organizing this conference and for all the work it does on urban and settlements issues, showing us how effective a small but focused UN agency can be -- and how it can succeed on making progress on one of the most challenging and expansive issues of our time.

Related Content:Read more about the 5th World Urban Forum from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and UN Habitat.



Tennessee, USA
March 23, 2010

Joe in Tennessee writes:

I believe the major problem which comes with the exodus of people in the surrounding urban areas results in development not premised on the over all needs of the country.

People move to the urban areas for security, work and services, including education. They may better service the National interest by moving those services to the countryside where farming, logging, and mining, etc can be developed by the citizens rather than outside non vested interest.

Brazil offers all it citizens health care and at no cost….which is one reason why the Urban centers there are growing.


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