Ladies and Gentlemen,
As-Salaam-Alaikum, Yadra Vinaka, and good morning.
It is a pleasure to lend Fiji’s voice to this dialogue on how the New Urban Agenda can harness cities as solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges. Faced with unprecedented waves of urban migration and a warming world, the world’s cities sit at a crossroads.
If we fail to meet the challenges ahead, we’ll see gaps in inequality ripped open wide and cities spiral into patterns of devastating vulnerability. But that future is hardly set in stone. Through our thoughtful and courageous pursuit of the New Urban Agenda, we can deliver cities of opportunity, cultural significance, and awe-inspiring development – cities that uplift people today while sustaining and safeguarding future generations.
Climate action and sustainable urbanisation are – in many ways – working to the same end. People can’t lift themselves out of poverty if their homes are constantly inundated by floodwaters, washing away any progress they’ve made since the last storm. Nations can’t achieve gender equity when rising seas and super-storms force citizens to forgo work to care for their children and manage their households. We cannot live healthy lives if our air is choked with pollution, our rivers and reservoirs are parched by drought and our food security is threatened by changing weather patterns.
These worsening climate impacts entrench inequality – and it is the most vulnerable among us who will endure the greatest suffering.
Climate change also fuels urbanisation, as rural farmers, ranchers, and fishers are defencelessly driven to the perceived safety of cities. This new influx of refuge-seeking climate migrants needs food to eat, water to drink and adequate housing. And they will need to be protected from record-breaking waves of climate-induced heat – a phenomena that strikes cities hardest.
By acting on the New Urban Agenda’s high aspiration of sustainable, resilient cities, we avert a great many of these consequences.
In the Pacific, we’ve tailored the New Urban Agenda’s aspirations to our realties – including challenges of scale and geography – through the Pacific Urban Agenda.
But while our region may not be home to any of the world’s largest metropolises, we are proving that no city is too small to serve as a beacon of sustainable progress. We know that every solution, forged at every level, can be a difference-maker in advancing the 2030 Agenda. Driven by that resolute recognition, we are confidently building strong, sustainable and inclusive Fijian cities of the future.
We’re making outsized investments in durable all-weather infrastructure, stronger roads, crossings and water plants, underground electric cabling and seawalls. We’re pursuing a Pacific-wide network of blue shipping, and we’re working to foster a stronger culture of communal transportation. We’re implementing nature-based solutions – like the planting of millions of trees and mangroves – to protect and beautify communities. We’re regularising informal settlers on state land, granting them the peace of mind, security, and financial benefits of owning their homes.
And we are determined to become fully carbon-neutral by 2050 –– a commitment that we will soon lock into law through world-leading climate change legislation.
Fiji will continue to listen, lead and lend our perspective in implementing the New Urban Agenda. We will continue to prove that adapting to climate impacts and slashing emissions are the surest pathway to vibrant urban economies. With every Fijian we lift from poverty; with every woman leader we empower; with every young person we elevate; with every effort we make to strengthen our resilience; and with every innovation we pioneer, we make ourselves stronger. And through this show of strength, we hope to inform and inspire the rest of the world’s work in building sustainable and resilient communities, cities, countries –– and most vitally –– a sustainable and resilient world.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.