African leaders have asked UN-HABITAT to work more closely with them in the fight against the urbanization of poverty.
In a major policy break-through by the pan-African body, they adopted draft decision to turn the tide against a situation that leaves most urban dwellers in Africa condemned to unemployment, food insecurity and a host of problems generated by the squalid conditions of slum life.
The appeal to UN-HABITAT was made last week in Maputo, Mozambique, at the summit meeting of the leaders of the African Union. The occasion also marked the first time an executive director of UN-HABITAT had attended the annual gathering of African leaders.
In their decision stating their awareness of increasing urbanization in the continent, the leaders cited the Declaration on Cities and other Human Settlements in the New Millennium adopted by the 25th session of the UN General Assembly in New York two years ago, and similar commitments endorsed in Johannesburg last year during the World Summit on Sustainable Development. They affirmed their determination to tackle the problem.
The draft resolution called on UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, “to continue rendering support” to the African Union’s executive commission to help Africa address the situation.
“This really is a break-through,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka. “The adoption of this decision opens the door for a more serious engagement with the continental body on an issue that has never before featured on its agenda.”
During the Maputo summit, Mrs. Tibaijuka, who was accompanied by Mr. Alioune Badiane, Director of UN-HABITAT’s Regional Office for Africa and the Arab States, and other UN-HABITAT representatives, held bi-lateral meetings with Mozambique’s minister of works and housing, the deputy environmental coordination minister and some of the leaders. She also visited the sprawling Mafalala slum neighbourhood, which has some 22,000 inhabitants. She said UN-HABITAT would extend its technical cooperation activities in Mozambique to include access roads and drainage for Mafalala.
Badiane attended a meeting of the AU ministerial Executive Council, a special meeting of the steering committee of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and joined Mrs. Tibaijuka at two formal meetings of heads of state. He also presented a new NEPAD city partnership programme that is expected to involve seven cities initially – Bamako, Douala, Durban, Lagos, Lusaka, Nairobi and Rabat.