The International Union of Economists (IUE) last week held its Annual Meeting at the UN complex at Nairobi, with a special focus on housing and finance issues, as well as the situation of slums in the Russian Federation.
The meeting, whose theme was “Housing and Urban Development Financing Issue”, discussed the problem of slums and the challenges such settlements posed. In his welcome address, UN-HABITAT Deputy Executive Director Mr. Daniel Biau noted that the meeting was discussing a topic of great concern to the agency. He said that dilapidated housing estates in countries with economies in transition fall under UN-HABITAT’s definition of slums and that a 2001 estimation showed that more than 18 million people in these countries lived in slum conditions, which is approximately 10 per cent of the urban population.
“UN-HABITAT’s key mission during the last 20 years has been to provide technical assistance for the development and management of human settlements. UN-HABITAT is not only providing policy guidelines on housing and municipal finance, we are also trying to facilitate very concretely the mobilization of domestic capital for housing development and urban upgrading, including municipal infrastructure,” Mr. Biau said.
The speakers, including leading Russian economist and academician Victor Ivanter, noted that lack of or slow progress in improved housing and municipal infrastructure were due to institutional obstacles and poor management rather than financial constraints, and that housing and urban development issues should not be isolated from the general macro economic and social context. Many participants reiterated the fact that market mechanisms alone could not solve the housing crises facing our urbanizing world, and that governmental action in addressing shelter issues is vital.
The meeting attracted about 95 participants, including a senator, (member of the top chamber of the Russian Parliament) and two members of the State Duma (second chamber of the Russian Parliament), one of them being a Chairman of the Committee for Local Authorities.Also present were representatives of the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation, representatives of the regional governments, several mayors of Russian cities and municipalities (Budenovsk, Mirny, Orenburg, Ulan-Ude), heads of the administrative districts of Moscow, academics and representatives of business and financial circles.