Over 400 delegates from all over the world converged at Kazan city this week for a global event of local authorities devoted to the theme of “cultural heritage conservation and improving of urban social housing”.
The four day event, a collaboration venture involving the municipality of Kazan, Congress of Russian municipalities and the State Government of Tatarstan was attended by people of diverse backgrounds including local leaders from Eastern European Countries and their partners from all over the world.
UN-HABITAT as the main partner of local authorities within the United Nations co-sponsored this conference of global reach and organized a substantive seminar to provide participants with a first hand update on the United Nations achievements on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In his speech, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov elaborated on a consolidated city development strategy undertaken in the under his leadership, which included a comprehensive partnership programme with the State of Tartarstan and the private sector called: “Conservation and development of the Historical Centre of Kazan city”. A progressive restoration of several historical building complexes and monuments of great architectural value has been achieved under this programme, he disclosed.
Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation and has more than 1.2 million inhabitants. It is considered the oldest cultural, industrial and trading center of Russia.
The Kazan urban renaissance has focused on a result-based reconstruction of 33,000 dilapidated housing units and concerted resettlement activities of the urban poor. Since 1996, the city has provided a best practice in improving the living conditions of more than 100,000 slum-dwellers at a price of US$760 million.
Several representatives of Russian cities and their international partners including representatives of the Council of Europe commended the State of Tatarstan and in particular, the municipality of Kazan on their vision and innovative urban recovery activities.
In an opening statement, Mr. Daniel Biau, the UN-HABITAT Deputy Executive Director, highlighted the agency’s efforts, in collaboration with local authorities and their associations, to create a unified global voice for cities at both the national and international levels. This, he said, was done with the conviction that the challenges of a rapidly globalizing and urbanizing world need to be addressed by the sphere of government closest to the citizens.
This commitment, as Mr. Biau elaborated, was made at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements – HABITAT II, in 1996, which adopted the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda and underlined the importance of developing strategic partnerships between national governments and local authorities.
“It has now been widely recognized that local authorities are the main partners of Governments in promoting sustainable urban development. UN-HABITAT has been therefore advocating for the last decade for strengthening the role of local authorities and carrying out extensive activities at the operational, political, normative, institutional, monitoring and implementing levels,” Mr. Biau said.
During a specific workshop organized by UN-HABITAT and moderated by Mayor Iskhakov, Mr. Alain Kanyinda, Coordinator for local governments at UN-HABITAT and, Mrs. Tatiana Roskoshnaya, Regional Advisor for Eastern European and Countries in Transition, provided important information on the activities of the agency. Information on the on-going monitoring activities of UN-HABITAT in Russia was also shared while a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Mr. Biau and Mr. Iskhakov for the creation of a Local Urban Observatory in Kazan.