Un Escap Sustainable Urban Development Section

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With Asia experiencing nothing short of an unprecedented demographic transformation, much of the world’s future will depend on how well Asia’s cities function. Currently, 1.6 billion people or 40 percent of Asians live in urban areas. By 2030, a majority or 2.7 billion people will live in cities and towns. This is equivalent to adding a new town of 137,000 people every day for the next 21 years!

Asian cities and towns are engines of economic growth, centres of social development, culture, creativity and innovation, producing over 80 percent of the region’s GDP. At the same time they are also places where poverty and disparities are most concentrated and visible. Over 40 percent of Asia-Pacific’s urban residents live in slums, without adequate shelter and basic services. As centres of production and consumption, cities also have enormous ecological footprints, accounting for 75 percent of all energy use and for 80 percent of all greenhouse gases emissions.

Asian cities and towns are at a crossroads in their development and there is a fast closing window of opportunity to make them inclusive and sustainable. This will require considerable innovative thinking, action, and most importantly political commitment. Inaction is not an option as it would lead to a massive urbanization of poverty causing


To help countries meet these challenges, the Executive Secretary of ESCAP established the Sustainable Urban Development Section (SUDS) in the Environment and Development Division. The section aims to serve as the regional hub of rich and diverse ideas, policy options, practices and south-south cooperation to achieve inclusive and sustainable development of urban areas in Asia and the Pacific.

SUDS initiatives follow a multi-year programmatic approach that build upon the inter-disciplinary strengths of ESCAP and seek to strengthen partnerships in the region, within and outside the UN System.


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The substantive focus of SUDS work is on the nexus between environment and poverty in urban areas of Asia and the Pacific. While all projects and initiatives integrate both aspects, some have a stronger focus on poverty reduction and others on improving the urban environment and dealing with the effects of climate change. Much of SUDS work is geared towards secondary cities and small towns (populations of less than 1 million) as they mostly lack the human, institutional, political and financial resources and are therefore the least prepared to cope with the dual challenge of poverty and climate change.

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