World Cities Day: Youth participation to achieve sustainable cities

Thank you for taking a moment to join Equity for Children in observance of World Cities Day. The UN General Assembly has established October 31st as a forum to join countries in a dialogue that addresses the critical role cities play in world affairs. This day is an opportunity for nations to share successful urban projects and policies and to define the challenges cities pose that demand answers on a global scale. The central theme this year is “Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities”. The urban context of sustainable development is complex and multidimensional, making it critical to give cities ample attention in the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Habitat’s recent report on Goal 11 to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” indicates that by 2030, 60% of the global population will be urban. Even more striking, and particularly relevant to our focus at Equity for Children: the majority of the urban population in 2030 will be under the age of 18.


Cities, as dense sites of heightened interaction between diverse groups, often exhibit in concentrated form the tensions of poverty, inequality, and exclusion. Within the urban context, the SDGs aim to solve issues such as discrimination, unequal public space access, higher risk for the spread of communicable disease, disparities in education access, poverty, and hunger. If scaled-up, successful urban projects and policies have the potential to improve the lives of many, of whom a significant proportion are children and adolescents. Additionally, urban diversity provides a population with a wide range of backgrounds that could provide crucial perspectives in strategizing effective solutions that address the context of lived experience. The power of voice is central to personal agency. Involving youth in the innovation of a new urban design that improves residents’ quality of life is essential not only to holding the urban spatial and social systems accountable for their role in reinforcing disparities of income, safety, health, opportunity, education, and housing, but also to fostering a generation of active participants in building a sustainable future with the resources to pass on an even better future to their own children. As ever, our children are our future, and we must fight to undermine obstacles to their prospects to gain personal fulfillment and to engage with the development of sustainability practices. In our rapidly urbanizing world, the city must be a platform through which to foster inclusion, encourage innovation, and create opportunities for youth participation in determining how best to reframe urban agendas.

If you are interested to read more, you can download UNICEF’s ” Shaping urbanization for children: A handbook on child-responsive urban planning”

Please refer to the following video for more information on the importance of youth participation to build sustainable cities.

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