Closing Session Summary
Speakers at the closing session were Mr. John Pombe Magufuli, Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, Co‑Chair of the Third Session of the World Urban Forum; Mr. Pierre Sané, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Mr. John Kaputin, Secretary‑General, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group Secretariat, Belgium; Ms. Mariéme Sow, ENDA Tiers Monde, Dakar; Ms. Ana Lucy Bengochea, Coordinator, Garifuna Emergency Committee of Honduras; Ms. Kim Jawanda, Terra Housing Consultants, South Africa; Ms. Mernosh Tajhizadeh, ENJEU (ENvironnement JEUnesse), Quebec, Canada; Mr. Wang Guangtao, Minister of Construction, People’s Republic of China; Mr. Lu Bing, Deputy Mayor of Nanjing, People’s Republic of China; Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director, UN-Habitat; Ms. Lois Jackson, Chair, Greater Vancouver Regional District, Canada; and Mr. James Moore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works; Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, Government of Canada.
Co-Chair Magafuli said the Third Session of the World Urban Forum had shown that it was a conference that had truly come of age because it had not merely involved the adoption of another report, but rather because it symbolised the sharing of a vision, the forging of new relationships, and the charting of a new way forward. It was wonderful testimony to what had changed in the past 30 years since the Habitat I Conference in Vancouver. He thanked the Government of Canada, UN-Habitat and the participants for making the conference a success.
Mr. Sané said that, unlike other United Nations conferences, the World Urban Forum was not an event where declarations and plans of action were drafted or negotiated, but rather one which allowed people from various sectors of society to meet and exchange ideas. People leaving the Forum should commit themselves to turning the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights into a reality, an objective to which UNESCO was dedicated.
Mr. Kaputin congratulated UN-Habitat and the Government of Canada for hosting the Session. The Forum was important to the 48 African, 16 Caribbean, and 15 Pacific States in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, the largest organized entity representing the developing world. The Forum had underlined the importance of exchanging experiences and best practices among cities, local authorities and development partners.
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group was committed to fighting against inadequate living conditions in slums and their adverse impact on achieving several of the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and unemployment. The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group had agreed to contribute funding to slum upgrading projects in its member countries which would be implemented by UN-Habitat. Slums were the result of policy failure and lack of appropriate planning, and the project on slum upgrading funded by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group would address those challenges, and would be implemented with the active participation of the beneficiaries. He noted that the African Caribbean and Pacific Group had commemorated its thirtieth anniversary on 6 June 2006, coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of the Habitat I Conference, which had led to the creation of UN-Habitat.
Ms. Sow said that it was paradoxical that 30 years after the Habitat I Conference in Vancouver, and better global awareness of urban problems, the challenges confronting cities had become even more acute. Cities today were factories of social, economic, and political exclusion. There were greater numbers of poor people in cities than ever before, and their access to basic services remained very limited, even for the most basic needs. With all the means at the disposal of UN-Habitat, governments, local authorities, non-governmental and community organizations, she wondered what the measuring stick should be for lasting improvement in cities of developing countries, and whether the world had succeeded in bringing about large-scale change, and whether it had found workable, replicable standards for change. The Millennium Development Goals were often presented as a miracle solution. Yet, in most cases, the problems of handicapped groups, indigenous people, excluded castes, AIDS victims, refugees, displaced people and victims of forced evictions were not really taken into account. In addition, bureaucracy and corruption were major roadblocks to progress. The Habitat Jam internet discussion, backed up by her organization ENDA Tiers Monde and the Nairobi-based non‑governmental organization the Mazingira Institute, exemplified how people around the world could participate directly in policy making.
Ms. Bengochea said that if the world paid more attention to women as equals in society, the Millennium Development Goals and much more would be achieved. She outlined a six-point framework for progress:
- Support small and medium-sized businesses and home-based enterprises of women;
- Support indigenous, aboriginal and third-world women and promote and respect their traditional knowledge;
- Recognize and consult grassroots women as experts;
- Establish new funds for grassroots women’s peer exchanges, public spaces and organizing;
- Promote dialogue between the international aid agencies, grassroots women’s leaders and local authorities to redirect funding and programmes;
- Support local authority collaboration and local-to-local dialogues to sustain the participation of women in local decision-making.
Ms. Jawanda said that the international community had only scratched the surface of public‑private partnerships in a world where it was the private sector that provided jobs. There must be more public-private-people-sector partnerships for slum upgrading. She urged participants to involve the private sector more in planning and in addressing sustainability issues.
Ms. Tajhizadeh, speaking on behalf of the World Youth Forum which had met in Vancouver on the eve of the Third Session of the World Urban Forum, said that although young people might be considered the leaders of tomorrow, the challenges existed today, and that young people could be the leaders of today. Presenting the Declaration of the World Youth Forum, she said UN-Habitat had recognized young people as key partners in solving urbanization problems. The question was no longer about whether but rather how ideas for action could incorporate youth. Further memorandums of understanding were being prepared by youth groups for the 2007 session of the UN-Habitat Governing Council, and in that connection she asked UN-Habitat to broaden its engagement with young people. The Youth Forum had felt it important, both for UN-Habitat and the broader international community, to improve field research and reporting on the social and economic impact of young people in their societies.
Mr. Wang said that the City of Vancouver had close ties with China and that he was happy that his country would be hosting the Fourth Session of the Forum. The City of Nanjing, host for the next session of the Forum, had a rich and ancient history and was a showcase of the future of Chinese cities. He invited all participants to the next session of the Forum in China.
Mr. Lu said that the City of Nanjing was nearly 2,500 years old and was one of the four most historical Chinese cities. In addition to its rich cultural heritage, the city was a transportation hub that had experienced high levels of economic growth in the past few years and was seeking to harmonize economic development with environmental sustainability.
Mrs. Tibaijuka expressed her thanks to Prime Minister Harper, Mayor Sullivan, Ms. Jackson, and also to Mr. Campbell, Premier of the Province of British Columbia, and the people of Vancouver for hosting the Third Session of the World Urban Forum. Like all participants, she had had high expectations for the Forum, and Vancouver had ably demonstrated that it was a model of sustainability and inclusiveness for the world. She also thanked the Canadian secretariat, Global Staff and the hundreds of volunteers who had given their time and energy to ensuring that the Forum was a success. Under the able leadership of the Forum Chair, Ms. Finley of Canada, and the Co-Chair, Mr. Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Forum had greatly benefited from members of the Advisory Group led by Chair Finley and by the Acting Chair, Mr. Munir Sheikh. She also thanked those donor countries which had enabled participants from all over the world to take part in the Forum.
The Fourth Session of the Forum had provided all participants with a wide range of practical and innovative solutions which had been informed by collective past failures. UN-Habitat would constantly strive to make the biennial event a continuing success. She said that she was leaving Vancouver inspired not only by the substantive discussions, but also by the richness and variety of the various events.
Mr. Moore said that since Vancouver had been voted the world’s most liveable city, it had grown in the right direction, and it was fitting that it should hold the Fourth Session of the World Urban Forum, 30 years after the first Habitat Conference had been held in the same city. He had been pleased to learn that the work which the Canadian International Development Agency was doing in cooperation with UN-Habitat to foster clean water and proper sanitation in Africa had been highlighted at the Forum. It was true that sustainable cities required cooperation between different people from a broad range of disciplines and the Forum had provided participants with new potential partners who could work with them in making communities better places to live.
Canadians were proud of the success of the Forum, in which nearly 10,000 people had participated, twice as many as at the Second Session of the World Urban Forum in 2004. Canada would assist in handing over the torch to China, which would host the Fourth Session of the Forum in Nanjing in 2008.
Ms. Jackson closed the Forum, stating that as cities sought to accommodate ever-growing populations, sustainability would become a growing challenge. Achieving a sustainable future would not only require concerted effort, but also concerted action. She thanked participants for visiting Greater Vancouver, and expressed the hope that they would take good memories back home with them.