Honourable Mayors of Davao City and of General Santos City, honourable members of Davao City Council, dear citizens of Davao City, General Santos City, Payatas, Muntinlupa, and other cities of the Philippines and the world, Representatives of the Government, Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations and People’s Organisations,
Let me first acknowledge the role of the mayor of Davao City who has been instrumental in this event.
This event is a unique opportunity for me to meet directly with those who are among our most important partners and those for whom UN-HABITAT is dedicating most of its effort. They are the urban poor who live in precarious situations, in unhealthy slums and also unfortunately, very often, in areas that are prone to risks. They are also the local authorities who struggle to provide to their citizen a decent and safe shelter.
All of us remember the fate of your fellow citizens in the Payatas, a neighborhood of Manila, where tens and maybe hundreds of slum dwellers who lived nearby that huge dump site perished two years ago under the rubble of the dump after a night of dreadful rains. It was July 2002. In memory of those who lost their lives, please join me in a minute of silence.
The demise of these urban poor did not go in vain since it has tragically raised consciousness about the plight of all those across the country, in different cities, who live daily at risk, in flood prone areas, along railroad tracks or on shore lines.
Against this background, world leaders who met in New York in September 2000 committed themselves to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. This is Target 11 of the Millennium Development Goal, a blueprint for international cooperation.
Our meeting today is the result of a long, patient and passionate endeavor of many actors, first among them the urban poor themselves. Indeed your capacity to organize has enabled you to become a respected partner of city managers, a partner that is consulted on matters related to your city as a whole. Most importantly, by joining hands, you have demonstrated your capacity to negotiate, your capacity to propose innovative solutions and your capacity to create wealth through the savings of your modest and dearly won income. You have proven that urban poor are not recipients of charity, they are proud actors in charge of the improvement of their living condition.
I wish to take this opportunity to especially commend the farsighted managers of the city of Davao, who together with those of General Santos City, Iloilo and others, where quick to understand the needs of the slum dwellers and their potential to contribute in the development of their city.
By making land available for the relocation of those who are living in unhealthy conditions and in dangerous areas, not only you will contribute in the resolution of the housing plight of hundreds of your citizens, but you are also contributing in creating the most adequate conditions for a sustained development and a harmonious growth in you cities, where all citizen, regardless of their income, religion, gender or health condition, will be able to actively contribute. By given them this political space you are confirming your commitment to the principles of good urban governance and your desire to give total transparency to the actions of the municipal council.
The arrangements made by several cities in the Philippines to secure land for those who live in squalid and dangerous situations clearly confirm that UN-HABITAT was right in supporting the launch of the Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance campaigns in this country. Not only did you adopt the principles of these campaigns, but you are also translating them into reality with a remarkable determination.
Yesterday an action agenda was adopted to implement these campaigns and here we are, just one day later, witnessing an effective implementation of this agenda. You are sending a vibrant message both here and abroad.
Along with the local authorities, I wish also to take this opportunity to commend the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines for this huge accomplishment. They have patiently and relentlessly worked with urban poor community to build a powerful and active network. Working together you have learned how to mobilize your savings, peso by peso, so that you can engage in small businesses and improve your homes. Indeed, the impressive and rapid growth of the membership of the Homeless People’s Federation is attesting to the enormous need among poor community for land, security of tenure and mobilization of savings.
I know that this achievement is the result of the will and the proper capacities of the urban poor organizations in the cities of the Philippines. I know also that you have opened your hearts and your minds to other international partners that are struggling for the same cause and that you have engaged in a fruitful exchange of experiences and mutual support. You have learned from them and they are learning from you.
In this respect, SDI networks, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Misereor and others deserve a particular mention. I am happy to see that they are here today to join all of us in this memorable day. It is always a source of pleasure for me and my UN-HABITAT colleagues to meet with Jockin, Celine and all our wonderful slum dwellers team from India, Cambodia, Thailand as well as from South Africa and Namibia.
Once again let me recall that UN-HABITAT is more than ever committed to encourage and support partnership among national partners as well as international networks. We believe in joint efforts and the success of launch of the Secure Tenure and Good Urban Governance campaigns and today’s event have proven that we are right to do so.
We all know that what is achieved today is a tremendous accomplishment. Yet this is not and should not be considered as the end of your efforts. Rather, I see it as the beginning of a long process.
In addition to accessing land, which in itself is a huge step forward, the urban poor need to acquire the financial means and the tools to build their shelter. UN-HABITAT is contributing in the documentation of your experience in this domain, here as well as in other countries. Let us engage in a partnership to devise the best practices and create the most enabling environment for successful, inclusive and sustained cities in the Philippines. Let us see that this initiative is expanded and reach all those who are living in slums. The Executive Order signed this week by Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to expropriate public lands for re- allocation to the urban poor is a significant move toward this goal.
I am looking forward to many more successes and I hope I will have the opportunity to come back soon in your wonderful country and in your beautiful and hospitable city of Davao to witness the fruition of your efforts.
I will end by simply thanking all of you, Honorable City Mayors, city managers, people of Davao, General Santos and other cities, urban poor organizations from the Philippines and abroad, for making this happen.
Daghang Salamat !