India has signed a landmark agreement with UN-HABITAT to host the inaugural meeting of a new housing development forum for the rapidly urbanising Asia-Pacific region, which is home to the world’s largest number of slum dwellers.
Mr. Ranjit Issar, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation of the Government of India, last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, to hold the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Human Settlements (APMCHHS) in the capital, New Delhi, at a date to be confirmed in November 2006.
Mr. Issar said the regional Ministerial conference would provide an opportunity to place global issues and concerns related to housing and human settlements in a specific regional context and build partnerships among Asian countries to work together to meet the challenges of rapid urban growth.
“By 2025 more than 50 percent of the population of Asia and the Pacific will be living in urban areas,” the memorandum said in a preamble which explained that 11 of the world’s 20 mega cities with populations of more than 10 million people are located in Asia. It said that if no action was taken to manage urbanisation in the region better, by 2020 when the global urban slum population is forecast to reach 1.4 billion, one out of two slum dwellers in the world would be from Asia.
“The major task of this conference is to address these issues,” it said.
The new Asia-Pacific ministerial housing forum is being established in conformity with resolutions of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT comprising UN member states that oversee the agency’s work. The year 2005 saw the creation of a similar body for Africa called the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD). The African inaugural meeting was held in Duban, South Africa in 2005.
In its quest to promote and exchange of experiences and best practices between countries and regions, UN-HABITAT has backed countries in Africa and Asia seeking to emulate the example set by the High-level Authorities of Housing and Urban Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) and establish such conferences to meet on a regular basis.
The three regional bodies will contribute in a significant manner to the implementation of paragraph 30 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome on South-South cooperation.
The memorandum said the idea is, “to provide a platform for developing common understanding among Asia and Pacific countries, on issues of housing and human settlements, to enable Asia-Pacific countries to speak with one voice at regional and international meetings, specifically, the World Urban Forum, UN-HABITAT Governing Councils and also the Commission on Sustainable Development and UN General Assembly Sessions.”
They agreed that participants and the four-day inaugural meeting in New Delhi will include ministers of housing and development from the region, mayors and local authority officials, and representatives of Asia-Pacific intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, donor agencies and financial institutions, and relevant UN bodies.