UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, joined the President of Germany, Mr. Horst Köhler, the Berlin Mayor Mr. Klaus Wowereit, Mr. Gérald Tremblay, the Mayor of Montreal, UNEP Executive Director Mr. Klaus Topfer, and Mr. Joan Clos, President of Metropolis and Mayor of Barcelona, to discuss the future of cities at the 8th World Congress of Metropolis in Berlin last week.
“Today in Berlin we are opening the eighth Metropolis and also celebrating the 20th anniversary of our association,” said Mr. Clos. In opening remarks, Mr. Clos, who is Chairman of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA), said the membership of Metropolis had grown to nearly 90 cities equally represented across Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Asia Pacific region and Europe.
“Parallel to the rise of Metropolis, the number of large cities has grown relentlessly. Today, more than 430 cities have over one million inhabitants and their total population exceeds 1.2 billion people across the world. This means that one in every five people lives in one of these cities,” he said.
The theme of the conference 10-13 May was “Tradition and Transformation - The Future of the City”. Experts and city government representatives discussed results of six standing commissions established at the Metropolis Seoul congress in 2002. The commissions cover metropolitan governance, the relationship between poverty and the environment, urban waste management, mobility, performance indicators and water management. Other highlights during the week included a meeting of the Metropolis Women’s Network, and a meeting of young people born the year the association was established in 1985.
Mr. Erich Stather, of the German Ministry of Development Cooperation, said slums and poverty could only be tacked successfully if cities were more able to provide direct assistance to their citizens, including better shelter delivery systems, easy access to basic education and improved socio-economic infrastructure. He said Germany would advocate strongly at the Millennium Summit Review, in New York, in September this year for a new international regulation in favour of local actions in fighting of poverty at the city level.
Mrs. Tibaijuka told delegates that approximately 1 billion people currently live in urban slums around the world. She added: “not only must existing slums be upgraded, but new ones must be prevented from emerging. This can only happen through the adoption of forward-looking inclusive policies and strategies.”
She called for better cooperation among international development agencies to support governments and cities devising new strategies to meet the needs of the urban poor. UN-HABITAT had long advocated this through its two campaigns on good urban governance and secure tenure. It had also done so through the Cities Alliance, with its co-chair, the World Bank, and other multilateral agencies like UNEP, and the Asian Development Bank, as well as with the support of both Metropolis and UCLG.
Future efforts had to focus in supporting slum upgrading, and city development strategies. It was for this reason, among others that the Executive Director decided that UN-HABITAT’s Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF) had to be undertaken in partnership with the Cities Alliance and other major bilateral agencies.
She also said she was pleased at the support the SUF had received from the Commission for Africa established by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair. Mrs Tibaijuka is a member of the commission.
“We need strong bilateral agencies, like the German Development Cooperation, to strengthen our work in the urban areas of the world’s poorest developing nations, and bring their enormous skills and resources to bear in cities of all sizes. The German Development Cooperation has become increasingly active within the Cities Alliance, as it has been supporting UN-HABITAT’ s work, and we can but hope that this positive sign will translate into ever more-decisive German urban involvement and leadership.
“Together we can promote the critical role of cities in implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and in realizing the positive impacts of urbanization. Too many cities continue to suffer from weak national policy frameworks, and an irrational fear of the consequences of the real decentralization of authority and resources. Yet, unleashing the potential of cities arguably offers many countries their best opportunity to move into a long-term development cycle in which Cities without Slums can become a reality.”