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And Now, Habitat III, the Olympics of Urbanization

The UN summit, coming in October, happens only every 20 years and aims to chart the path of global cities in the 21st Century.
An aerial view of a slum in Caracas, Venezuela.
An aerial view of a slum in Caracas, Venezuela.Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

The summer Olympics in Rio are fading into memory, but the world’s attention did focus, however fleetingly, on urban conditions in the Brazilian city—the challenges of life in the favelas, the specter of crime both real and imagined, and the future uses of new infrastructure that made the games possible.

Now comes another international event that most people aren’t aware of, also in a South American city, that has an even greater mandate: to set an agenda for the world’s rapidly urbanizing metropolitan areas. There won’t be any medals awarded at Habitat III, the United Nations-led global cities summit set for Quito, Ecuador, in October. But organizers are hoping for a similar zeitgeist: calling attention to the urgent need to better plan the planet’s cities, particularly in the developing world.