Launch of the National Urban Policy Programme


Remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

Quito, Ecuador, 17 October 2016

(As prepared for delivery) 



Excellency, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great pleasure to join you here today. I want to begin by thanking the co-organisers of this event, UN-Habitat and Cities Alliance.

We gather in Quito to chart the road ahead for our cities and societies. Today, more than 50% of the world’s population live in cities, and by 2100 that proportion will have surpassed 85%.

This translates into great promise for reinvigorating growth, addressing our social and environmental challenges and ultimately enhancing people’s well-being. But it also bestows great responsibility upon our shoulders to ensure that we get urbanisation right!

The New Urban Agenda, which will be adopted in the coming days, will be a cornerstone of this endeavour. It will guide urban development for the next 20 years – 20 crucial years for the future of humankind. I am proud that the OECD has contributed to the development of this critical global agenda.


An urgent need for action  

Cities are on the frontlines of many of the most pressing global challenges of our time – globalisation, climate change, migration and inequalities. For instance, our OECD report, Making Cities Work for All, launched in Bogota last week, shows that cities display higher levels of inequality than their respective nations’ averages.


At the same time, cities drive national economic growth, and generate the wealth and the innovative ideas that are indispensable in tackling these challenges. It is thus no surprise that local leaders are taking action!


But if we are to deliver on the promise of the New Urban Agenda, we cannot rely on local policies alone! We must also take a harder look at how national policies in every sector of the economy shape our cities. 

National policies shape cities and urban development


OECD analysis has found that, too often, governments fail to apply an “urban lens” to national sectoral policies. In fact, sectoral policies often achieve results that are diametrically opposed to stated aims for cities.


Consider the example of climate change: fossil fuel subsidies negotiated at national and international level clearly undermine city-led efforts to develop more environmentally sustainable public transport!


If we want more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable cities, we need a truly whole-of-government approach to urban development.

The National Urban Policy Programme – a new joint initiative


An explicit National Urban Policy – with jointly defined and transparent responsibilities across levels of government and with other stakeholders – is essential to guiding sustainable urban development.

The OECD has been supporting the development of National Urban Policies in countries like Poland, Chile, Korea, Mexico and China. In Mexico, for instance, national housing policies drove the country’s urban development, resulting in the third-highest rate of urban sprawl across the OECD. With our support, Mexico has begun to develop a more comprehensive National Urban Policy that aims to build cities, not just houses.


Today, we are happy to take this work one step further, by launching the National Urban Policy Programme – a new tool that will support governments in the post-Quito implementation of the New Urban Agenda.


This programme will build upon our policy experience - and on our excellent partnership with UN-Habitat and Cities Alliance - to engage all levels of government and civil society to produce better results for cities.


This new programme will:

  • Produce the tools and data to help governments identify key urban challenges, set priorities and implement policy actions.
  • Provide technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of public authorities in charge of developing, implementing and monitoring National Urban Policies.
  • Build a platform for policy makers to exchange best practices and foster better coordination across sectors and levels of government. 


Next steps


Together with UN-Habitat, we have begun to set the next steps in motion with a national urban policy review in Vietnam. And in May of next year, together we will host the Second International Conference on National Urban Policy. This will be the first opportunity post-Quito to consider the role of National Urban Policy in the global urban agenda.


Ladies and gentlemen, we are here in Quito because we are ready to shoulder our shared responsibility to get urbanisation right. Consider the National Urban Policy Programme as your tool to chart the path towards more sustainable, inclusive cities.


Thank you