Experts meeting at the ongoing African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD) joined the African Union and UN-HABITAT with passionate calls for Africa to speak with one voice at a series of forthcoming international meetings.
The experts, representing African governments in two separate working groups on the second day of the week-long conference, expressed concern that if rapid urbanization continues unchecked, further poverty will ensure and condemn countless millions to lives of misery. The cost of improving slums and alleviating poverty, several speakers said, would not be as great, despite massive debt burdens, as the cost of leaving the challenge of urban poverty unchecked. Their deliberations are aimed at helping ministers meeting later in the week to formulate enhanced policy recommendations on tackling the rapid urbanization of poverty in Africa. Delegates at the conference underscored the need for Africa to speak with one voice at forthcoming international gatherings, such as the preparatory meeting next month of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD13), the 20 th Governing Council of UN-HABITAT at which governments will set the agency's work programme and priorities for the next two years, and the review meeting of the United Nations Millennium Declaration that five years ago set the eight Millennium Development Goals. The same applied to the Commission for Africa advising the Group of Eight industrialized nations currently chaired by the United Kingdom .
Discussing the background to an enhanced Framework of Implementation and Organization of the Working Groups, UN-HABITAT said the framework should aim to identify and suggest the way forward to implement urban strategies and policies within Africa 's respective countries. Mr. Donatus Okpala, Director of UN-HABITAT's Research and Monitoring Division, said that the framework “aims to promote equitable and sustainable development between urban and rural areas, recognizing and encouraging the role of cities as engines of economic growth, development and cultural diversity and integration.” It also aims at improving basic services, especially sanitation, and urban housing in Africa , while ensuring that vulnerable population groups have better access to credit. Mr. Okpala also suggested that the working groups examine the role of external assistance from bodies such as the African Development Bank, Shelter Afrique and UN-HABITAT itself.
Mr. Kemal Essaighairi of the African Union said that the framework would explain the dilemma of African cities and propose a way forward and a programme to monitor and evaluate key elements. “It must provide the basis of ongoing policy, taking into account existing policy,” he added.