UN-HABITAT and UNESCO on March 18 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at enhancing collaboration between the two agencies on cities and urban issues.
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, and Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, signed the agreement in Paris at a public debate on “The Right to the City” attended by some 150 mayors, researchers, urban professionals and NGOs. The meeting was hosted jointly by UNESCO, UN-HABITAT and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).
The memorandum commits both agencies to develop common approaches on the role of cities in the reduction of urban poverty. It also provides a framework for new instruments and strategies in the field of urban development and social and environmental sustainability. Both agencies will share methodologies and best practices so as to develop and implement sustainable urban development practices and urban public policies.
Key fields of mutual interest include the social function of the built environment as cultural heritage, observatories on the concept of “The Right to the City”, and strengthening the urban governance dimension of the World Heritage Cities initiative. These topics will be supported through targeted capacity building programmes.
Addressing the meeting, Mrs. Tibaijuka said instead of being centers of employment, innovation, entrepreneurship and cultural development, many cities – especially in the developing world – today represented the most alarming concentrations of poverty.
In 2000, she said, it was estimated that some 900 million urban dwellers lived in life-threatening conditions of deprivation and environmental degradation. However, according to the Executive Director, this number is expected to double by 2025.
“Thus, the global trend in urbanization implies nothing less than the urbanization of poverty and deprivation. Unemployment with weak social services, lack of adequate shelter and basic infrastructure combined with increasing disparities are resulting in a high degree of social exclusion within cities,” she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said the commitment of policy makers to ‘localize’ the Millennium Development Goals down to country, city, town or village level was crucial. The goals may be global in character, but they must be implemented locally, at city and community levels, where people live and shelter and services are required, she said.
“Attainment of the avowed Goals that we have set will remain a distant dream if we do not focus on the slums of Nairobi, the bustees of Kolkata and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro,” she said.