Honourable Mayors, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, and thank you for joining us today.
It’s my honour to welcome distinguished mayors from the cities of Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City; Khulna in Bangladesh; Douala in Cameroon; and Tunis in Tunisia.
Thank you all for your continued collaboration with WHO.
I know that many of you are also key partners in other WHO initiatives, such as the Bloomberg Healthy Cities Partnership, BreatheLife, and the Healthy Cities network.
I would also like to thank the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency for their support for healthy cities, and particularly for this project on urban governance for health and well-being.
By 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. The fastest urban growth will occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The leadership of mayors has a profound effect on the health and well-being of their citizens.
However, unplanned and rapid urbanization can exacerbate social disparities and inequities in accessing health services, and expose people to environmental risks.
Mayors are at the forefront of these challenges.
Global networks of city leaders such as this are a powerful tool for exchanging ideas and lessons learned as we all work to keep populations safe and healthy.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for cities and their populations, not only from the virus itself but in terms of major disruptions to lives and livelihoods.
We have witnessed the incredible leadership of mayors in responding to the emergency itself and in coping with this evolving crisis.
We have seen extraordinary acts of courage from health workers and communities around the world, especially acts of solidarity and support for the most vulnerable population groups.
In city after city, civic leaders and communities have worked in concert to address this shared threat.
As we work to build forward better we have to learn the lessons of this crisis.
Creating sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities and preventing future health emergencies means that we have to put equity, health and well-being at the centre of our efforts.
WHO supports your efforts with technical and policy advice to national and city leaders to strengthen urban health and environments.
I thank you for your commitment to solidarity, working together, and to health for all and look forward to our discussion today.