World Cities Day, celebrated on October 31 each year since 2014, marks the conclusion of Urban October. This global observance rotates to a different city annually and focuses on a specific theme.

In 2023, the Global Observance of World Cities Day centers around the theme “Financing a sustainable urban future for all.” This theme delves into strategies for unlocking transformative investments in urban planning and achieving fiscal decentralization.

Urbanization is a global trend, with over 50% of the world’s population having already embraced urban living, and projections suggest that nearly 70% will live in cities by 2050.

This rapid urbanization raises questions about how urban areas are adapting to the ever-evolving global landscape and building resilience quickly and at scale.

Cities are economic powerhouses, generating over 80% of the global GDP. Their robust networks and infrastructure drive entrepreneurship and business growth and play a pivotal role in economic recovery during crises.

However, urban areas also face challenges, including overcrowding, pollution, inadequate infrastructure, and social injustices, leading to inequality.

Approximately 1.1 billion people reside in slums and informal settlements within urban areas, perpetuating poverty and limiting opportunities. This challenge is not confined to a specific geographic region, affecting both developed and developing cities.

Beyond the socioeconomic challenges, the climate crisis adds another layer of complexity. Heatwaves are becoming longer, more frequent, and more intense.

The hottest day on record was recorded on July 6, 2023, with temperatures spiking in Europe, the US, and China. July 2023 is expected to be the hottest month on record.

The impact of extreme heat on health is often underestimated. In the most severe cases, extreme heat can be fatal. Spain, for instance, recorded over 4,600 heat-related deaths in the summer of 2022.

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Without global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is projected that 90,000 Europeans could be at risk of dying from heat annually in the coming decades.

Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to heatwaves due to their heat-absorbing buildings and reduced green spaces and bodies of water, leading to the “urban heat island” effect.

Given that around 75% of Europeans live in cities, this poses a significant health threat. Addressing rising temperatures in urban areas requires innovative solutions.

“Nature-based solutions” are one approach, with increasing tree coverage in cities potentially preventing nearly 40% of deaths related to urban heat islands.

The EU is actively supporting such initiatives, including the 3 billion Trees Pledge and local projects that harness the cooling effect of vegetation.

Projects like LIFE LUNGS in Lisbon, Portugal, and LIFE Green Heart in Toulouse, France, are expanding green infrastructure to mitigate heat.

In Rotterdam, the LIFE Urban Roofs project is introducing green roofs, while the LIFE Archi clima project in Poland is greening large buildings to lower temperatures during heatwaves.

Moreover, digital tools are being developed to empower citizens to engage in climate adaptation. Projects like LIFE PACT and LIFE Tree Check encourage individuals to register and compare their “green projects,” allowing cities to monitor green spaces and adapt to rising temperatures.

IT systems like those in the LIFE COOL CITY project assess green infrastructure in cities and identify where natural solutions are most needed.

Lastly, the LIFE ASTI project uses a heat forecasting system to inform citizens in Mediterranean cities of potential health risks due to rising temperatures, promoting adaptation.

On World Cities Day, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has designated 55 new cities to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

These cities have been recognized for their strong commitment to incorporating culture and creativity into their development strategies, as well as for their innovative approaches to human-centered urban planning.

With these additions, the network now encompasses a total of 350 cities from over a hundred countries, representing seven creative fields: crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music.

The newly welcomed members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network include cities like Asaba, Ashgabat, Banja Luka, Battambang, Bissau, Bolzano, and many more, each designated for their unique contributions in creative areas such as film, design, music, gastronomy, literature, and media arts.

Furthermore, the city of Lyon, previously a Creative City of Media Arts since 2008, has been granted the status of a Creative City of Literature, following a change request regarding its creative field.

These newly designated cities will collaborate with existing network members to enhance their resilience in the face of emerging challenges such as climate change, increasing inequality, and rapid urbanization.

It is projected that 68% of the world’s population will reside in urban areas by 2050.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, expressed, “The cities in our Creative Cities Network are leading the way in expanding access to culture and harnessing the power of creativity for urban resilience and development.”

An upcoming policy paper titled “The added value of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network at local, national, and international levels” will highlight the pivotal role played by cities in achieving the 2030 Agenda and demonstrate how UNESCO supports UCCN members through dialogue, peer-to-peer learning, and collaboration.

The newly designated Creative Cities are invited to participate in the 2024 UCCN Annual Conference, which will take place from July 1 to July 5, 2024, in Braga, Portugal, with the theme “Bringing Youth to the Table for the Next Decade.”

This event will serve as a platform for these cities to come together, exchange ideas, and further their collective efforts in harnessing culture and creativity for urban development and resilience.

Designing cities that are inclusive of women is a critical endeavor. Urban areas, in theory, should provide equal opportunities for all, offering diverse, economically rewarding, and culturally enriching lives to anyone who seeks them.

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However, the reality is that most cities are primarily constructed with a male perspective, often neglecting the unique needs, aspirations, and safety concerns of women and girls.

Women living in cities face numerous disadvantages, including violence, poverty, the unequal burdens of unpaid care work, restricted job opportunities, and limited influence in both public and private decision-making processes.

This disregard for half of the population has tangible consequences for millions of individuals, and if unaddressed, these issues will persist and potentially worsen.

Currently, slightly more than half of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and this is projected to increase to 68 percent by 2050.

By 2030, it is expected that there will be 43 megacities with populations exceeding 10 million, most of which will be located in the global south.

The effective functioning of these future cities depends on women having an equitable role in their planning and governance.

Gender equality is a fundamental aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals, yet women and girls encounter substantial structural and social barriers to achieving just, inclusive, and sustainable lives.