The new budget represents an increase of close to 60 percent on the previous US$ 50.5 million budget for 2004-2005 approved two years earlier at the 19th session of the Governing Council, which itself was double the budget approved by the 17th Session.
More than 800 delegates from 92 member countries of the United Nations, including 48 Member States of the agency’s Governing Council, attended the conference which meets every two years to set UN-HABITAT’s budget and work programme for the next biennium. The meeting also drew 39 representatives of Local Governments and their organizations, officials of 92 Non-Governmental Organizations, as well attendance from the private sector and other UN and international organizations.
The council last week was held just prior to this week’s thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13) and in the run up to the five-year UN General Assembly review in September of progress made in the fulfilment of the commitments contained in the Millennium Declaration. Both events drew much attention at the Nairobi meeting.
In her closing statement, the Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, again reaffirmed that the plight of the world’s urban poor should be among the irrevocable priorities of the world development agenda. Many delegations agreed that stronger foundations were laid in terms of mainstreaming the urban dimension and strengthening the role of UN-HABITAT in the CSD process, and generally continuing the revitalization of UN-HABITAT, thanks to the approved budget and programme of work.
“The decisions of this council have reaffirmed the vision of UN-HABITAT and its role in meeting the Millennium Development targets and the implementation of the Habitat Agenda,” she told a packed closing plenary on Friday evening.
“I thank you for the support of proposals to further strengthen UN-HABITAT and to equip us better for our significant role in improving the lives of millions of slum dwellers around the world,” she added. “Let me also once again thank all of you who have continued to support UN-HABITAT financially. I often say, and repeat again, that this organization cannot serve you well as long as it remains under-funded. I appeal to you to support us with the resources for the budget you have approved so that we can stick to the priorities you have set.”
Mrs. Tibaijuka, who departed immediately for the CSD-13 conference in New York, also thanked Germany and Sweden, each of which announced financial contributions to the agency during the conference.
In a series of resolutions, the council reaffirmed the strategic role of UN-HABITAT. It agreed on the importance of the World Urban Forum as crucial to broadening the human settlements agenda, and it asked for financial support for the next forum, which will be held next year in the Canadian city of Vancouver – the birthplace of UN-HABITAT 30 years ago.
It also acknowledged the importance of civic values as components of urban governance and the need to begin a process of reflection on these values at meetings such as the World Urban Forum. The council asked the Executive Director to develop toolkits and recommendations, in collaboration with governments and other Habitat Agenda partners, for local authorities and civil society so that information flows and civic and democratic values can be improved.
It affirmed the importance of sustainable relief interventions in post conflict, natural and human-made disasters. Other positive outcomes included gender mainstreaming and youth involvement, as demonstrated by the UN-HABITAT Youth Forum and Women’s Caucus in Nairobi, and the adopted resolutions on gender equality and youth in human settlements development. It also agreed to a European Union proposal on developing a medium-term strategic and institutional plan that will also contribute to both the strengthening and visibility of UN-HABITAT.
The plan will take into account the evaluation of the Habitat Programme Managers, and show evidence of their impact on further enhancing the performance of UN-HABITAT.
But after governments argued overnight on Thursday and until the last possible minute on Friday, the Governing Council’s President, Mr. Petr Kopriva, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to UN-HABITAT, deferred a decision on a resolution calling for a more focused revision of Target 11 of Millennium Development Goal 7 – “to improve significantly the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020”. In her opening speech at the beginning of the week, Mrs. Tibaijuka had asked governments to reach consensus on “halving, between 1990 and 2020, the proportion of slum dwellers in the urban population”, thus enabling countries to set national and local targets.
Slum dwellers organizations monitoring the proceedings in Nairobi observed a deadlock between developing and developed countries on this with great disappointment, and African diplomats said they would now push the proposal forward this week at CSD-13.
Asked at a news conference afterwards to comment on the proceedings in Nairobi, Mr. Kopriva said: “Although this was my first UN-HABITAT Governing Council, I must say the meeting was very successful because we discussed and agreed on various matters affecting the agency and its work.”