World Bank President, Mr. James Wolfensohn, and UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, have agreed to prepare cooperation framework for country collaboration between the two organizations.
During talks with Mrs. Tibaijuka in Washington on 26 October, Mr. Wolfensohn said UN-HABITAT and the World Bank should establish a cooperation framework by identifying some countries where a special effort could be made to agree on urban investment priorities ahead of the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) process.
Mrs. Tibaijuka suggested the countries around Africa’s Lake Victoria, and the Mekong river in Asia as pilots. These were seen as good choices, given their level of development, rapid urbanization, and the combined social, economic and environmental impact of urbanization, including the impact on international waterways. The World Bank’s Urban anchor is preparing a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The objective of this initiative is to ensure that before the Third World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006, specific outputs are achieved in pilot countries that could demonstrate tangible progress towards reaching Targets 10 and 11 of Millennium Development Goal No 7. UN-HABITAT is tasked with leading the way on halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (Target 10), and to achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers (Target 11).
Mrs. Tibaijuka noted that reaching the Millennium Development Goals is first and foremost a matter of leadership and commitment.
In September, the Bank’s Vice President Praful Patel led a delegation of 22 officials to the Second World Urban Forum in Barcelona at which over 4,000 participants discussed solutions for dealing with the urban poverty.
The two institutions have collaborated on a number of initiatives over the past 10 years, including the Cities Alliance, co-chaired by UN-HABITAT and the World Bank. Cities Alliance is a global partnership created to foster new tools and practical approaches to promote local economic development and a direct attack on urban poverty. In Tanzania, through Cities Alliance, the Bank and UN-HABITAT are collaborating to help local government authorities in Dar-es-Salaam develop a comprehensive strategy to expand infrastructure improvements across the city.
In Afghanistan, one of the first Bank grant operations focused on the emergency reconstruction of urban infrastructure including water supply, solid waste management and power. This program, implemented by UN-HABITAT, provided $2.5 million in grants for small scale, labor intensive municipal public works in the five major cities of Afghanistan.
In East Asia, UN-HABITAT and the Bank have also leveraged each other’s presence well. Both organizations jointly sponsored city development strategies in the Philippines, and are currently working together to develop the next phase of the strategy, this time with the participation of the Asian Development Bank. All three— UN-HABITAT, the ADB and the World Bank—are jointly sponsoring a new initiative in slum improvement to be financed by Cities Alliance.
There has been similar collaboration in Egypt, as well as in Yemen and Latvia. In Yemen, the Bank and UN-HABITAT have been helping local authorities set up an urban indicators database for the port city of Aden.
Mr. Wolfensohn and Mrs. Tibaijuka agreed that despite the progress made in promoting the urban agenda, a lot still remained to be done to “lift the game” and ensure that decision makers give adequate attention to urban management and development issues. They recognized the merging of local government associations across the world into one group, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), as a significant step towards creating more effective dialogue, and an excellent means for clients to speak with one united voice.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said the credibility of UN agencies depended not only on their ability to provide a policy and strategy framework and institutional development support, but also to provide access to investment funding, without the discontinuity and long delays customarily associated with governments having to find the funding separately. She said there was a need for more predictable funding at the country level for projects emerging from and identified through the work of UN-HABITAT and others.