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Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My warm thanks to the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Sam Kutesa, for his welcoming remarks and for being here with us today. And we greatly appreciate the participation of H.E. Ambassador Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia and Vice President of the Economic and Social Council.

I also wish to thank our partners, the People’s Republic of China, with whom Italy shares historic ties and a special interest in a sustainable future, UN Habitat, and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – thank you, High Representative Nassir al-Nasser.

I, too, welcome all the participants in this event, especially our distinguished panelists. Our meeting happens to fall on the first World Cities Day, an especially opportune moment to consider the issues we are about to address.

We are pleased to draw the attention of the United Nations and of the public to one of the most significant challenges raised by the future: namely, how to assure social inclusion in cities and make urbanization more people-centered?

The city has always been the place of diversity and social change. Yet globalization has triggered unprecedented mobility, and with more mobility comes more diversity. The challenge of managing diversity increases by the day for local authorities. This is one of the reasons why the city today is also a place of mounting tensions and of growing social, cultural and economic exclusion. In such a context, migration is perceived more as a threat than a resource.

Since 2009, together with the Alliance of Civilizations, we have been leading a conversation on how to make the city more inclusive. What are the lessons we have learned so far? I will focus on three aspects I consider particularly important.

First, we have to redesign the city’s resources for a society in transformation. Major projects must be based on the peaceful coexistence of peoples and cultures.

Second, since globalization is a relatively new phenomenon, national and local authorities should be trained in diversity management for the sake of inclusion, and they should share their know-how and “best practices.” UN agencies and grass-root organizations can play a crucial role in this regard.

Third, we need to increase efforts to place the issue of integration at the center of the debate on the city. When we address the environmental, economic and demographic sustainability of cities, we should not forget that the cultural and ethnic dimensions are also an important part of the equation.

Italy believes that the time is ripe to start talking about a “Right to the City.” As you may know, we have been advocating for a UN declaration or resolution on this. We believe that the Post-2015 Development Agenda would be a powerful tool for our efforts to achieve the goal of people-centered urbanization. I understand that this aspect will be tackled by the representative of the “Aldo Della Rocca” Foundation, which has done extensive studies on this perspective.

In a nutshell, cities are more than ever a test case of our capacity to tackle present challenges and build a better future. I am sure your contributions will provide new insights into the theme. Thank you.

I wish to conclude by thanking all participants for their very stimulating contributions. This discussion has given us a better multifaceted picture of the challenges the cities are facing and – most of all – possible ways to address them.

We have heard stories and learnt about research, language, experiences of social inclusion, migration, people-centered urbanization, and the challenges we are called on to tackle. These challenges are at the crossroads of human and sustainable development, and affect everyday life for our own and future generations.

These different perspectives all enrich the discussion on how to empower migrants, offer equal opportunities, and protect social integration. The lessons we shared today for an inclusive city, centered on people, are of paramount importance in the way forward.

I wish to confirm that Italy will remain committed to helping advance this issue, especially by focusing on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. We need to continue along the same track. I thank you again and wish a great week-end to everyone.