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UN survey urges new strategies to address rapid urbanization

 A UN survey released on Tuesday in Geneva, says without fresh ideas to address rapid urbanization, the number of people living in slums lacking access to basic infrastructure and services such as sanitation, electricity and health care may skyrocket from one billion at present to three billion by 2050.

The PANA reported that the warning was contained in the UN World Economic and Social Survey 2013, which focuses this year on sustainable development and the challenges facing its economic, social and environmental dimensions.

According to the survey, the vision of promoting economic and social well-being while protecting the environment had not been achieved due to rising inequality, gaps and shortfalls in development partnerships, rapid population growth, climate change and environmental degradation.

It stated that rising inequalities, the food, fuel and financial crises, and the breaching of planetary boundaries had made clear that a mere continuation of current strategies would not suffice to achieve sustainable development after 2015.

It noted that current efforts were insufficient to meet the eight anti-poverty targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by their 2015 deadline.

The survey, produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), examined three key challenges to sustainable development – sustainable cities, food and nutrition security and energy transformation.

These were also among the main focuses of the historic UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Brazil last year and known as Rio+20.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the foreword to the survey, stated that Rio+20 reaffirmed commitment to sustainable development and adopted a framework for action and comprehensive follow-up.

Ban described the survey as “a valuable resource” towards translating the outcome of Rio+20 into concrete actions.

The survey stated that sustainable development of urban areas required integration and coordination, and investment to tackle land-use issues, food security, employment creation, transportation infrastructure development and biodiversity conservation.

Others are water conservation, renewable energy sourcing, waste and recycling management, and the provision of education, health care and housing.

Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said innovative strategies and investments were needed to promote sustainable development, including in the world’s cities.

“We have to take actions now that will enhance the benefits of cities, while reducing the threats to sustainable development,” he noted.

“Among these (are) changes to prices of goods and services to more closely reflect scarcity now and in the future, and to encourage consumers and producers to switch to less resource-intensive renewable products,” he added.

The survey said that food production and consumption would have to change to conserve the estimated 32 per cent wasted globally, and to increase by 70 per cent to feed an additional 2.3 billion people who were estimated to boost the world population by 2050.

“The main challenge, however, is to increase food production while minimizing the environmental impact and increasing natural resource use efficiency,” it said.

Along with food and nutrition security, the survey further highlighted the critical need to find creative mechanisms to promote forward-looking energy efforts, such as the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The initiative aims at achieving three linked global targets by 2030, namely universal access to modern energy services, the doubling of energy efficiency and the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix.

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