The executive commission of the European Union and UN-HABITAT this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the research relationship between the two organisations with the aim of promoting sustainable cities as urban populations around the world grow at unprecedented rates.
Officials said the new agreement is intended to help researchers address urban planning and governance, housing, water management, sanitation and land use. The results of these joint research efforts will be made available to experts and policy-makers working in related fields.
“There is strong potential for research to help resolve urban challenges. It can help find innovative and durable solutions,” said the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Mr. Janez Potoènik. “With this Memorandum of Understanding, the EU and UN-HABITAT will be able to expand on past achievements while addressing future opportunities and challenges.”
By 2050, six billion people will be living in cities around the world. Currently, almost 80 percent of the EU’s population lives in cities, and sustainable development is considered as one of the major challenges. The EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy signals the need for local authorities to reconcile the economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects of the urban environment.
The Millennium Declaration of the United Nations has also recognised the need to combat social deprivation and assist the world’s urban poor through the Millennium Development Goals. UN-HABITAT is tasked with helping achieve Target 11 of the MDGs – to achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020, and Target 10 – to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
“By 2007, for the first time in the world history, the majority of the world’s population will be living in cities. In this regard, urban development becomes the major challenge for development, in particular in developing countries,” said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.
From mid-2006 onwards, policy-makers and scientists will be able to access research results and implement policy recommendations on urban sustainability through a database of more than 250 projects financed by the EU’s Research Framework Programme and UN-HABITAT. Cooperation between the two organisations will start with a project that will provide new knowledge in the area of urban environmental research and the identification of best practices.