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Utah’s indigenous native American community performs a traditional ceremony at the 68th UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. UN photo

“Well-planned and managed cities can steer us towards inclusive growth and serve as models of harmony among diverse people,” United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres declared in a video message to delegates at the 68th UN Civil Society Conference, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The conference, described by the UN as the organization’s “premier event in the civil society calendar,” ran until 28 August. It brought together representatives of civil society from around the world, and senior UN officials, to discuss a wide range of solutions to the challenges of urban life and the modern world.

The UN chief welcomed the decision to make inclusive and sustainable cities and communities the focus of this year’s conference, noting that cities are well placed to help combat the global climate emergency and point the way towards sustainable, low-emission development.

At a time when civic space is shrinking worldwide and intolerance is on the rise, Guterres said civil society plays a vital role in solving all global challenges.

“We are here to learn from each other, to share ideas and to strengthen a global coalition to transform our cities and communities to be more inclusive and sustainable,” said Alison Smale, the head UN global communications, whose department coorganizes the event.

Smale, speaking at the opening session of the conference, underscored the critical importance of making cities inclusive, sustainable, resilient and safe, if the 2030 Agenda — the UN’s roadmap for tackling global challenges, including how to deal with the complexities of rapid urbanization — is to be achieved by its target date.

The 2019 conference is chaired by Maruxa Cardama, Secretary General of the Partnership for Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport, who described cities and communities as “living laboratories” where “the challenges and opportunities that are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change become tangible.”

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