7 June 2001


NEW YORK, 6 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at 'Local Government Day' in New York on 5 June, which included the presentation of the Declaration of the Second World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities:

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to join you today, on the eve of the special session of the General Assembly. Thank you all for coming. I have also been very happy to have had the opportunity to listen to you and to hear your messages. Not only were the messages pertinent and important, but you also proved something else to me this afternoon, that not only are you politicians, but you are also managers. You, almost all of you, stuck to the one minute that they gave you. That is very tough for politicians and diplomats. So, I want to say thank you very much.

I would also want to thank all of you for sharing your Declaration with me. I can see you believe in it very much, and I am confident that it will help us find new ways to make cities more hospitable, prosperous and governable places.

This is an historic occasion. Never before, as we heard earlier, have so many cities come together at the United Nations to support the cause of shelter and sustainable human settlements.

As an increasingly cohesive group, you are among the United Nations newest constituencies. I hope you will find our doors increasingly open to you. Indeed I count you among the most indispensable allies -- such as non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians and the private sector -- without whom the United Nations could not hope to accomplish its goals. After all, it is mayors and local authorities such as yourselves who are most closely in touch with the daily lives and aspirations of the world's peoples. You know the urban spaces that more and more of the world's people now call home.

I see many areas where we can work together. One is technical cooperation. Cities have the means, the experience, the knowledge and the political will to take centre stage in North-South and South-South cooperation. Mayor Clos, you told the conference on the Least Developed Countries in Brussels last month that "knowledge, not money" -- I repeat, "knowledge not money" -- is the most vital commodity that cities can exchange. I agree. Cities, and especially the slums within them, are potential sources of ideas and great entrepreneurial energies. Our challenge is to mobilize this knowledge, and disseminate it as widely as possible.

Cities also have ample experience in mobilizing financing for development, including official development assistance, and I hope you will contribute this expertise to next year's United Nations conference on this subject. In addition, your efforts to reform institutions and improve the delivery of services are also applicable across a wide range of countries.

Cooperation in these areas has a better chance of succeeding today than in the past, because important changes are occurring in the overall environment for urban development. Central governments are recognizing the need to give local authorities greater responsibility and resources, because countries will not develop unless their cities develop. The "twinning" of cities, especially northern and southern cities, is becoming more popular as such contacts move beyond the symbolic.

But, of course, there is a great deal more to do. AIDS is having a devastating impact. Globalization offers both opportunities and pitfalls. On these and other challenges, I hope you will continue your good work in implementing the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Declaration. As you know, issues of primary concern to cities, including shelter, figured prominently in that document.

I also hope you will continue to be as forceful an advocate for Habitat, as Habitat has been for local authorities. You have a good advocate here. A stronger Habitat means a stronger voice for cities. For my part, let me assure you that the entire United Nations system and I will remain your close partners as we move ahead.

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