Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the World Urban Forum Press Conference

National Press Club Foreign Press Center
Washington, D.C.
Monday, March 15th, 2010

Thank you. As the head of the U.S. Delegation to the World Urban Forum next week, I am honored to join with the State Department, and the White House Office of Urban Affairs this afternoon to share our goals for the Forum -- and discuss our nation's leadership on urban policy and sustainability.

This is an important moment. As our delegation prepares to join world leaders and policymakers in Brazil next week, for the first time in the history of our civilization, more than half of the world's population lives in cities.

Here in America, this trend has been underway for more than two centuries -- as people have moved closer to cities and their suburbs in search of the opportunities and the amenities--from housing, to transportation, to jobs--that metropolitan areas offer.

Today, our nation's metropolitan areas generate 90 percent of our economic output and house 83 percent of our people.

The pace of American urbanization is only expected to increase over the next several decades, as our population is expected to grow by another 50 percent -- another 120 million people requiring another 200 billion square feet of homes, office buildings and other construction.

As fast as that seems, it doesn't compare to the huge demographic shift we're seeing across the globe right now. A century ago only one in ten people lived in cities -- the rest in small villages and on farms.

But by 2050 it is predicted that almost three-quarters of the world's population will call urban and metropolitan areas home. Especially in the so-called "megacities" of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, what the U.S. experienced over a period of centuries is occurring around the rest of the world in a matter of years.

As a result, millions of people are increasingly vulnerable to the deprivations associated with overburdened infrastructure, inadequate housing, and outmoded health systems. In fact, UN-HABITAT projects that within three decades, one of three people will live in near total despair -- lacking sanitation and clean water, exposed to the imminent effects of climate change, fueling the spread of disease and possible pandemics.

But with sustainable planning and development practices in these metropolitan areas, we can ensure that families, both at home and abroad, have access to unprecedented opportunities for economic and social progress.

That's why this week, we will join leaders from around the world in Brazil at the fifth World Urban Forum -- to find opportunities for partnership that will lift the standard of living for billions of people, promote democracy and human rights, and enhance global health, food security, energy efficiency, clean construction and green jobs.

To be sure, the United States is already pursuing a robust domestic sustainable development agenda that bolsters America's metro areas.

Under President Obama's leadership, we are tying the quality and location of housing to broader opportunities like access to good jobs, quality schools, and safe streets. Across the Federal government, we're working together to create green jobs and products, build affordable, energy efficient homes and promote more sustainable development patterns -- all so we can meet the needs of the present and ensure the futures of our children and grandchildren.

From making critical investments in public and affordable housing through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to launching HUD's Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities that will foster sustainable innovation on the local level, to forming unprecedented Federal partnerships on transportation, land use, and environmental planning -- the United States is committed to leading the world when it comes to creating the strong, sustainable communities we all need to succeed in the 21st century.

But the Obama Administration also understands that the United States has a stake in ensuring that countries across the globe usher in this new era of sustainable economic growth and development as well -- opening new markets for green technology and American products, reversing the effects of global warming, and perhaps most importantly, ensuring that billions of families live not in despair, but in communities of choice, opportunity, and hope.

That's why, for the first time last year, we hosted World Habitat Day.

If we fail to live up to this responsibility, the impact is clear for America's economy and security alike.

I believe we can--as does President Obama--but we all recognize that we can't do it alone.

That's why the U.S. is not only leading by example--creating strong, sustainable communities at home--but we're also engaging partners around the world and supporting their efforts.

Indeed, the U.S. delegation to the World Urban Forum, which I'm honored to head, relishes this chance to listen, learn, and share our own lessons from the "laboratories for change" that are our metropolitan areas.

And I encourage you to visit our new website at -- to learn more about what we hope to accomplish later this month.

Together, we can seize the historic opportunity before us to shape the forces of urbanization, creating a healthier, more inclusive future for our cities and metropolitan regions, and charting a more sustainable global future for generations to come.

Thank you. Now, let me hand this over to Secretary Otero.


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