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The United Nation's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) presented a regional report during the UN's Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador outlining the biggest urbanization trends in the region and expressed its commitment to supporting the region's countries in implementing the New Urban Agenda.
The report, presented by Eclac executive secretary Alicia Bárcena during an event organized by the UN's five regional commissions, underlines that 79.5% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean lives in urban areas and thus the challenge no longer lies in the need to address problems associated with the rural-urban transition, but rather in improving the quality of life in cities, "closing the gaps generated by inequality and achieving sustainable outcomes," it states.
The region also has a double urban-demographic transition, due to decreasing rates of rural-urban migration and population growth, and the process of population ageing.
The New Urban Agenda therefore involves tackling the "massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety and natural resources, among others, according to the Eclac document.
Eclac points out that the proportion of the regional population living in slums dropped from 25.5% in 2005 to 21.2% in 2014. Nevertheless, socioeconomic residential segregation and public safety remain a challenge, and the region remains highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and urban growth has exerted pressure on production patterns, distribution and private consumption.
"One of the central themes is urban financing and the full participation of mayors in an agenda that has, until now, been the domain of central governments," she said, indicating that institutional weakness persist in the management of public services and urban financing.
Bárcena added that, for the purpose of implementing global agreements, the region has established a new Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which will hold its first meeting in April 2017 in Mexico.
"The regional commissions are committed to supporting member states and other regional actors in the implementation and follow-up of global agreements," said Bárcena.
The Habitat III conference was also attended by Chile's transport and telecommunications minister, Andrés Gómez-Lobo, Argentina's interior, public works and housing minister, Rogelio Frigelio, among others.