In his remarks to an event marking the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, Guterres stressed that sustainable development and climate change will increasingly depend on the successful management of urban growth.
Population growth is a sign of human achievement, since it means people are living longer and healthier lives, Guterres said, adding that it also has contributed to an increase in global production and consumption.
"This is one more reason to adjust our production and consumption habits to avert even more serious consequences for lives and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable," the UN chief said.
Over the past 25 years, there has been significant progress, said Guterres. "Advances in gender equality and the promotion of women's rights have contributed to reducing poverty and hunger, and improving education and health."
"Child and maternal mortality have been cut by nearly half," he added.
However, many women and girls still face enormous challenges to their health, well-being and human rights, the UN chief said, adding that violence against women and girls affects one in three women worldwide. "In parts of the world, and during conflict and emergencies, this figure is even higher."
Guterres called on the international community to complete the unfinished business of the Cairo Conference, saying that "will put us on course to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to ensure lives of peace, prosperity and dignity for all."
According to the UN website, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) articulated a bold new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well-being.
At the ICPD in Cairo, 179 countries adopted a forward-looking, 20-year Programme of Action (extended in 2010) that continues to serve as a comprehensive guide to people-centred development progress.